By OA Member, Sep 14 2013 07:23AM
My earliest memory of food was when I was nine years old. I was playing a game in school that required one to run through the hands of the opposite team. I was a broad strong girl so this was no real challenge for me. A boy on the opposite team taunted me with remarks like 'how many dinners do you eat'. Today even as I write this memory the pain of that remark as I felt it then hits me. That evening I resolved within myself that I would loose weight and told my mother that I wanted to prepare my own lunches from now on. This decision to control my weight through controlling my food was to shape my life and my experience of it for the next twenty odd years.
By the time I had left primary school my physical appearance had changed. I was a much slimmer girl though I could never escape the bum that God had given me. I remember for my Confirmation being in tears over trying to buy a pants that didn't highlight it too much. The final choice was not even good enough as again I received those insensitive remarks over the size of my bum that young boys so readily throw out. Even the slimmed down athletic me was not good enough. I totally relied on the opinion of others when it came to my body image and in particular could never let go of negative feedback.
In secondary school my food practices became more extreme, cutting out all sweets, then cutting out particular foods and food groups as a result of doing food allergy tests. The result was my weight loss became more extreme with each new venture so much so that I would not have the energy or strength to play group sports. I inevitably always put on the weight again after a few weeks or months as these crash diets were impossible to keep up. The reality was I loved food and I loved eating food. In the end I would always eat again.
During these years the obsession with my body worsened. If you had asked me what I thought was the ideal figure I would have told you a strong athletic body but for some reason I could not apply this to myself. Now I realise that just as eating was addictive to me so was dieting and loosing weight. I loved the feeling of my clothes getting looser to the point that I could swim in them. This pattern of eating and being a normal weight but not being normal with food, and dieting and loosing weight was my second job to being a student for the remainder of my academic career.
During this long eating career of mine two more features were to be added to the pattern the first of which was bingeing. My god what a phenomenon and what a reality to find oneself in. I remember the first episode so well. It scared the life out of me and shocked me to the core. It was my Junior Cert year and I had been diagnosed with Depression which was getting progressively harder to manage. One evening I just needed a release. At the time I wasn't eating sweets or dairy so I binged on cornflakes with water and rice cakes with ground seeds. I ate and ate until I looked physically pregnant. I then had to try and sleep with my belly facing up because I couldn't turn on my side. As shocking as this behaviour was to me it was only the first of many episodes to follow.
Another feature of my eating career was the absolute obsession with health foods and healthy eating. My diets became more and more extreme to the point where I was eating only a few food items and of course eating them constantly and in excess. These diets always resulted in dramatic weight loss and inevitably were always impossible for me to sustain both because they were impossible and because in the end I loved and increasingly needed to eat in order to cope with life.
Now in OA my relationship with both food and my body is very different. I follow a food plan that gives me huge freedom from food. Like many recovering food addicts it took a bit of time to find out what really works for me. What is most important for me is learning about portion sizes as this protects me from both the undereater and overeater in me. I have a couple of mini weighing scales in my cupboard which ironically serve me better than the body weighing scales I previously had before OA.
As for my body there is much more peace, acceptance and love there too. I now can look in the mirror and say this is me. More and more I am embracing the body that God gave me and making the most of it to the point of actually enjoying it. I am sincerely grateful that through my time in OA, following a food plan and working the program I am finally growing into and becoming the woman - both physically and mentally - that I was always meant to be.