This is my final post in my series on my history with food and disordered eating. Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and offering your kind comments. For those that would like a refresher or are just joining, you can find the previous posts here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
Despite most of the other Northeast Ohio librarians I know, I did not graduate from the MLIS program at Kent State University. Instead, I got my masters degree from the University of Kentucky down in Lexington (go Wildcats!). It was not the graduate program that called me to the Bluegrass State. In fact, I first moved to Louisville about nine months prior to my first semester without any intention of continuing my education.
There are only a handful of reasons why a young woman in her early twenties will pack up her an entire life and move by herself to a new state. It wasn’t for school nor was it for a sense of adventure. That really only leaves one option.
At thirty years old, I have only ever had two boyfriends and I didn’t meet the first one until I was 23 or so. We met online, on a dating site aimed at the, uh, rounder demographic. I was a heavy girl with low self-esteem and eating issues, he was a heavy guy with low self-esteem and eating issues. A match made in heaven.
Of course I didn’t know about his eating issues until I moved to Kentucky. After a year of IMs, phone conversations, and five hour drives I packed up my little life and moved one state to the south. He was living with his parents — big red flag I ignored — so I moved in with them as well. Aaaaaawkward. His mother cooked dinner every single night. Fifty percent of the time, my boyfriend would find something to complain about. He was a very, very picky eater and took the whole mom-cooking thing for granted. He and I ate out a lot, which was great because for the first time I felt like I could order whatever I wanted free of judgment.
Or so I thought.
As crazy as it sounds, sometimes I liked ordering a salad and drinking water. Shocking, I know. Or at least it was to him. There he was across the table with his big ol’ plate of fried chicken and fries and large drink and I was happily content with my plate of greens.
This bothered him. Enough that he would make little comments asking why I was eating that. Uh, because it’s what I was hungry for?
And that’s when he would mentally retreat and turn in on himself. Because my “good” choices pointed out the error in his “bad” choices and now he felt bad about himself and it was my fault. Like we were supposed to be in some secret fat person’s club and only eat greasy food and I’d broken the rules. Suddenly I wasn’t to be trusted.
Of course at the time I didn’t realize how fucked up this was and that it was all on him, not me. Wanting to be the supportive girlfriend who didn’t know how to stand up for herself, what did I do?
Ordered crappy food and regular soda to make him feel better about himself.
True story. So, really, it’s no surprise I gained, like, thirty pounds during my first six months in Kentucky.
To this day it still angers me when people make off-the-cuff remarks like that Or, at least it angers me when I know it’s coming from some weird place of guilt. I have a co-worker who does it every single time he sees me in the break room, how I’m eating so healthy and he’s not. I never know how to respond because what I want to say is “Don’t take your shit out on me.” Instead, I just sit there, reading my book, silently waiting for the awkward moment to pass.
Eventually I realized how completely screwed up our relationship was (and I’m talking beyond just the food) and I broke up with him. In a roundabout way it was my getting into graduate school that was the catalyst. Eventually I got out, six months after moving to be with him, but not before I started hoarding food again. Little Debbies, boxes of them, tucked away in what small personal space I was afforded. Stress is a trigger and being in a shitty relationship and feeling alone and isolated is a good way to stress yourself out.
Then again, I didn’t make the connection between the food and how I was feeling until much later. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.
Soon after breaking up with him I started dating an old friend from college. He was the vegetarian that turned me onto a meatless diet. Like the Kentucky Ex, he and I were long-distance, a situation ripe for the emotional triggers that caused me to binge. Of course, I only did it — only needed to do it — when he wasn’t around. To him, my struggle with my weight was confusing, for no other reason than I never seemed to eat that much. And around him I didn’t.
I know I was out of control, driving through the drive thru several times a week, ordering 3000 calorie meals almost every day. The only thing I could think of to stop myself was to take out the variable: meat. So I quit. Cold turkey. Or, well, cold tofurkey.
Truth is, it’s still easy to binge eat as a vegetarian. Especially when you are new and out of your element and not used to tofu or any of the other soy products. Pasta and carbs were my best friends, but, I told myself, since I wasn’t going to McDonalds everyday it was okay.
When we broke up, my whole world fell apart. Only I surprised myself, because instead of stuffing myself silly, I starved. For three whole days I lived on Diet Dr. Pepper, with half a french bread pizza thrown in for good measure. When I crawled out, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for transformation. It was the summer of 2009 and I joined Weight Watchers for the second time. By January 2010 I had lost 45 pounds.
But, like the first time in college, something snapped in my brain and I started to gain the weight back.
At my family reunion a few months ago, I remember explaining it to my aunt like this: I thought losing weight, fixing what was wrong on the outside, would fix what was wrong on the inside. Only it doesn’t work that way. So at some point I figured, well, hell, if I’m going to be unhappy either way, I might as well just be fat and eat what I want.
And so, I started to gain all of the weight back, plus some. By the end of 2010 I weighed my highest weight ever, 311 pounds.
And, as you know, about a month later I signed up for Weight Watchers for the third time. This time it was different. I don’t know if it’s the new program or my new attitude, but nineteen months later, I am down over 100 pounds and have no concerns that I won’t make it to goal. I don’t worry about fixing the outside or the inside, because I know the inside is perfect exactly as is. I don’t worry about fixing it because there’s nothing that needs fixing. I don’t want to lose weight to be pretty, to be beautiful, to catch the boys. I don’t want to lose weight to match some ideal that exists for someone else.
Losing weight isn’t even an issue. I want to be healthy and fit and happy and I can’t be any of those things at three hundred pounds.
|This was the “after” pic I used for the WW contest|
If you can and are content and happy at a higher weight, good for you. No, really. I tried for years to accept my larger body and never could, not really. If I had loved myself back then the way I love myself now I might never have gotten myself into the situation that I did.
Here’s the thing: despite a strong belief I suffer from a binge eating disorder, I’ve never been diagnosed. Which means I’ve never been treated. Which means I still have moments, though it’s been well over a year since my last binge episode. It was April 2011, I had taken the week off from work and quite distinctly remember the plain cheese stuffed crust pizza and chocolate dipper things I ordered and polished off in oh an evening, maybe two.
April 2011 means I was already on Weight Watchers and my scale showed the damage. After three months, I was back up over three hundred pounds. And that was my moment, dear readers. The moment I began to fight back. Fight for life, fight for me, fight for the future. And I’ve been fighting ever since.
The longer I go without falling back on old habits, the less power those habits have over me. I have embraced the work I have to put into it, the feeling of accomplishment keeps me motivated. Yoga has shown me the beauty and power in the body while running has taught me to believe in the impossible. My relationship with food has completely changed and I go through life feeling bright and beautiful.
Love from the ashes,