Eating Disorders: Being Fat
Fat. What a nasty word. It has all sorts of negative connotations and so much baggage, but it certainly gets a point across. I am fat. No, I’m not skinny and think I’m fat. I’m fat. In May 2012 I was at my heaviest… 289 lbs. At 5’4” this is fat (obese, even) by anyone’s standard. I weighed this much because I had a certain type of eating disorder. Yes, “had”. I beat this eating disorder… by developing another one.
When I was growing up I had a special relationship with my father. We would take trips to the nearby city (we lived in a very tiny town) to get our newspaper published. We would deliver the newspaper all over the county. We spent a lot of time together, and most of that time we spent eating candy… he had a sweet tooth. We would go on big candy trips to the Bulk Barn, make candy apples for Halloween, eat cookies on Christmas Eve and hunt all over the house for the Easter candy he had hid in all the nooks and corners.
Candy was fun.
But my father was also really sick with diabetes and hepatitis. And since I was the youngest I spent a lot of time with my mom driving back and forth from the hospital (in the city) to take care of dad. When we would drive home my mom would give me food so I wouldn’t fall asleep because then I wouldn’t go to bed when we got home. Food was used to pass time.
When my father died I was 8. I remember eating liquorish strings (one of his favorites) and crying. I developed a very emotional relationship with food. Candy reminds me of my dad. I also became a very passive eater because I had been conditioned to use food to pass time. Throughout high school I developed an eating disorder. I overate, a lot. Food was a source of enjoyment, a way for me to drown my sorrows, an entertainment piece and something I always knew I could depend on.
Shitty day? Have some fries.
Need an activity with friends? Go out to eat.
Bored and slow Sunday? Bake a cake.
Miss your dad? Buy a big bag of candy.
Watching tv? Always have food.
It was the answer to everything. I was addicted to sugar.
I was never super thin. I’m built fairly solid with a natural hourglass figure. My sister, who I assume has the same body shape as me, is an average weight and extremely curvy. So I’ve never been a stick. But by the time I was done high school I was around 190 lbs. By the time I was half way through undergrad I was 260 lbs. And by the summer after my first year of my masters I was 289 lbs. I went through a lot of yo-yo diets. I did all the fad diets that are out there and they all worked, for about 2 months. The lowest I got to was around 247 in 2010 but then shot right back up to 280 within a year.
I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw. I hated feeling like everyone in the room was thinking “there’s the fat girl”. And by that point, I already weighed so much… I’d think to myself “why not just have another plate of fries? It makes me happier anyway!” and so I would.
This kind of eating disorder is not the one you typically hear about, but it can be incredibly dangerous. Diabetes, heart attacks, issues with joints and hormones. Well, I stopped getting my period because I had a cyst on my ovaries. My doctor said it was definitely from being overweight. She also couldn’t recommend that I go on birth control because at my weight I could have a stroke. So that got me thinking but then my fiancé said something… something that, at the time, I nearly left him for but he changed my life for the better (well almost). He told me that I was getting too big. That he was still attracted me and loved me but that he was worried about my health. This was hard to hear, but it wasn’t what changed me.
What changed me was that he also said he wasn’t as attracted to me as he was to other smaller women…not skinny women, just not obese.
(Now – before we get mad at him for pushing unfair standards of beauty onto me and calling him names for being sucked in by the media’s definition of what is attractive…. He made it *very* clear that this isn’t a big concern to him. In fact, it’s a very tiny concern… he is more concerned with what is in my head. He also recognizes that this is what the media has defined beauty as, and tries to avoid using it as his own personal standard.)
What I heard was “you’re too fat to be pretty”, even though that’s not what he said. Within a matter of seconds my eating disorder changed. That day I stopped eating. I started counting calories obsessively. I was struggling to eat more than 400 calories per day. At the end of June I weighed 286 lbs and by the end of August I weighed 252 lbs. I was losing weight… FAST.
When he got home and saw what was happening he started forcing me to eat more food, and is basically the reason that I eat over 1000 calories a day (but will break down into a fit of hysteria if I hit 1500 calories in a day). My relationship with food changed so drastically so quickly. Most food grosses me out, now. Even worse – seeing people eat. It makes me want to vomit. I feel guilty when I eat anything that I used to think was enjoyable or brought me happiness. When others may think to themselves “I deserve to reward myself with this little brownie!” I think “I’ve been rewarding myself for 25 years, it’s time for punishment.” The phrase “Eat to live, don’t live to eat” is etched into my brain and I think it every single time I reach for something I know isn’t good for me or when I know I’m not hungry but want to eat. I have started punishing myself and not enjoying food, even a tiny bit.
I think about this and I can see what is happening. I can see that… it’s bad. See that it’s unhealthy to starve myself. But… I turn my head and see skinny people on magazines, on the street, on the bus…everywhere. I look at food, especially processed high fat foods and I just see disgust. I look at meat and it makes me sad. I think about being fat and my boyfriend not loving me and cry and cry and cry.
The worst part is that people applaud the weight loss so intensely. My family and friends always say how much healthier and better I’ve been looking lately. What stands out the most is that my mother applauds my weight loss a lot. I’ve wanted her to applaud me for so many things in my life, and rarely got anything from her, it’s not her style. But the weight loss… she always talks about it. But I think the worst thing is the pride and applause I get from myself. I’ve lost a lot of weight and it’s the only time I’ve ever felt proud of myself. I am my advisor’s star child in grad school. I have gotten numerous scholarships based on merit. Every time I have graduate from something I have been at the top of my class. I am a member of two distinguished international honours societies. I just presented a paper at an international conference where I was the only master’s student to present. All of these things, and I’ve never been proud of myself, all I have been is fat. But losing 50 pounds? It is the first time I’ve ever felt *proud* of myself, so I just want to lose more and more and more.
AND people will ask “oh what diet are you on?! I want to try it!” And I just want to scream “THE MENTAL ILLNESS DIET YOU JERK!”
I wish we lived in a society where we didn’t judge fat people. I wish people saw that some fat people have eating disorders too and that making fun of them could trigger a really negative tipping point. I wish we could change the perception of bodies in our schools and in media so that our worth isn’t attached to how we look. But most of all, I wish I could rationalize myself out of this disorder… But I can’t. All I can do is see that the numbers on the scale are going down really fast… and want them to keep going down…but faster.