Trigger warning: Discusses eating disorders, mental health and body image.
I actually had another couple of pieces planned for today, but had some things that I want to express first.
For much of my life I have not had the healthiest of relationships with food. Before I knew what food was and that my body needed it for sustenance and to survive, I had an issue with it. As an baby, my mother was unable to get me to eat food. Something that she took me to the health visitor for, up to that point she had taken to extreme measures of making runny Weetabix and serving it to me in a bottle with the top cut off. The health visitor fobbed my mum off with a response of ‘as long as I’m eating I’m fine’.
I didn’t eat solids in a ‘normal’ manner until after my little sister was born and had been weaned and I witnessed that. I was over three years old by then. As I grew and became vocal, if you asked me the issue I would tell you I was scared of being fat. I had never been fat, but looking back and even thinking about it I can remember how terrified I was of that. I always felt like I needed to lose weight. Meal times were the biggest issue for me. I wasn’t a breakfast person, and my father was always chasing me with toast and demands that I have something before I left for school.
I couldn’t ever see how slim I was, convinced that I could always be slimmer. I hid food, and threw food away, flushed it down the toilet. Did everything that I could to get out of eating. My parents, who worked in the mental health field recognised my problem, even as the health professionals around me did not. My mother would often ask me what I wanted to eat in compromise, and went out of her way to ensure that she could get the foods that I asked for. This meant searching far and wide when the local butcher shut down and nowhere else made their tomato and beef sausages that I loved to eat. She would buy entire entenmann’s chocolate fudge cakes for me to eat, that my siblings were not allowed to touch. Barter and bargain with me on how much food would be put on my plate, I’d cycle through claims that I didn’t like certain foods, one week it could be salads and I didn’t like or want tomato, cucumber or lettuce. I can recall my mother counting out cucumber slices, chips and other foods as she placed them on my plate because I had decided I was only going to eat 6 cucumbers or 10 chips that day. All while, I would be hovering to make sure she wasn’t tricking me. Often I would be the last one at the dining room table as I wasn’t allowed to leave until I had cleared my plate. As I got older, she would have me dish out my own meals, we had an agreement that I would eat everything that I put on my plate. That was a lot of bartering and haggling between us.
I continued to grow with the fear of being fat, but I also grew into an awareness that my eating habits were not ok. I challenged myself one year with a new years resolution to try some new foods every month and to eat three times a day. I settled into routines but admittedly better habits but I still always worried about being fat. I suffered with tonsillitis, that led to them being removed during the school holidays when I was 9/10. I have also struggled with various digestive issues throughout my life. What came first? Im not sure. Thats like asking was it the chicken or the egg.
As an adult I could still wear and fit clothes that I wore as a teenager. I lost a lot of weight while I was at uni because I bowed down to external pressures and comments. For the first time in my adult life I was wearing size 0. I had the unhealthy habit of living of off cheeseburgers, hot wings, Doritos and Evian, something that only changed during my journey to veganism. It was no secret that I was really scared of being fat. I didn’t have the best body image and was always super hard on myself. I can remember meeting a friends mum during uni for the first time and she came to hug me with the words “don’t worry you cant catch fat”.
Seven years ago I was in a car accident, I may share on that another time, the post injuries treatment left me being classed as obese by my GP. I suddenly found myself fat, and many people that knew me were commenting on the weight gain, even knowing I was on a large amount of medication and had had multiple surgeries. My worst fear, something I had worried about my entire life had come true. The necessity of taking medications and the reality of having to eat full meals to do so, stopped me from reverting back to past bad habits. My GP referred me to a specialist who reviewed my diet, at that point I was fully on plant based and determined that the only help they could give was referring me the gym with a subsidised membership and sending me off to Slimmingworld for free. Limited with what I could do I took to spin classes with vigour. Low impact, and not too much of a strain on my spine I found a love for it that I hadn’t expected. My body shape changed along with my mindset and I found that I was able to embrace the bigger thighs and love the body that I have. Its not been an easy journey, according to my BMI I still have a way to go. I have learnt that I don’t need to restrict my food intakes in order to stay slim, I am eating more per day and more regularly then I ever have in my life. For that I credit food optimising and the Slimmingworld plan. I learnt to be more compassionate to those around me and understand that not only do people come in all shapes and sizes but people can carry ‘extra’ weight through no fault of their own.
So why do I say I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t?
Throughout all of my years of issues with food, I have also struggled with body image. In primary school and secondary school I was called Teeny or Teeny tiny because I was so slim and slender. My mother would buy the smallest available size clothes and then tailor them in to ensure they fit me. A lot of the time I used to dress with the confidence I wished to have. This continued on into adulthood til I had my car accident and I came to the mindset that I didn’t want to care so much what other people think. I get comments if I don’t post pictures of myself and comments when I do. I am aware that my body is disproportioned. If I post pictures ‘hiding’ any chest I get comments that I must be ashamed, if I post pictures ‘showing’ my chest I get comments that I must want attention on it.
Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.
I will not be ashamed of my body. I will not allow others to shame or dictate when it comes to my body. It has been through a lot and is still going strong. It has weathered Swine flu, meningitis, 12 back/spine surgeries, ruptured organ/internal bleeding, suspected Covid-19 and more. I am pro-choice in all areas of life, irrespective of my own opinions. So the next time you think to give me your twopence, stick it in your own piggy bank!