I’ve always had a strained relationship with food. I didn’t fit in at school because I was, supposedly, more intelligent (i.o.w.: less focused on boybands, make-up and boys, the things my peers would rave on about). I had extremely bushy hair, I was constantly reading, and I was extremely introverted. I started my high school career as a real-life Hermione Granger — a social outcast. You could say that I was quite the opposite of my two brothers. I was invisible, whereas they were the centre of attention because of their outgoing behaviour and their hyperactivity disorders. Because they required so much attention from my parents, I (wrongly) felt that my parents didn’t pay me much heed, and I slowly but surely turned into a little mouse — a little mouse who only felt comfortable with food, and around her computer.
One of my favourite pastimes, when I was not reading, was chatting with strangers on the Internet. I didn’t have any real life friends and my brothers were sucking up all of my parents’ attention, so getting in touch with people via chatboxes felt incredible. These people I talked to were listening to me, they were interacting with me… or so I thought. The thing that I never really thought about that much was that my social-emotional development got geared into reverse, because I was not gaining any experience in real-life social interaction. In fact, it became increasingly difficult for me to even talk to my peers in class. The only interaction I didn’t mind was talking to the cashier when I went to the supermarket to buy myself a bag of crisps or two. Or three.
Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t start gaining weight rapidly earlier, because I downed at least one bag of crisps a day, while retaining a ‘healthy appetite’ during dinner. The one thing that saved me back then was the fact that I had to cycle 20 miles per day to get to school and back. Crisps and my computer both became my personal safe-havens. Whenever I was upset about something, I immediately started craving chips — because that’s the way I taught myself to deal with my problems.
Out of control
At age 18 I got my driver’s licence, and that’s when things started spiralling out of control. One of my brothers had dropped out of high school and my parents were jumping through hoops trying to get his life back into order. I was about to graduate from high school — not exactly with honours, because my homework was being seriously neglected by then. I got a car and never used my bicycle to go to school anymore.
In spite of all this, my eating habits didn’t change in order to cater to my less active lifestyle. I felt so lonely that I only started eating more, and more, and more. That’s when I started gaining weight… rapidly. I went from a healthy 130 pounds to close to 200 in a matter of two years. Naturally, my mental body image couldn’t keep up with that ridiculous evolution and I got depressed. I felt unattractive, fat, and useless, and the only way I thought I’d make myself feel better was by eating crisps. Lots of them. In hindsight, I should’ve talked to my parents about it, but at the time I felt my problems were disposable in comparison to my brothers’ and I didn’t want to bother them with it. Eventually, I completely discarded any thought that eating healthily would make me feel any better about myself and instead always opted for the immediate gratification option: comfort eating.
I am actually embarrassed to say that, until around a year ago, my behaviour towards myself didn’t change. I was stuck in a vicious circle I’d created for myself. I felt safe eating and sitting in front of my computer. The only good thing that happened during the period after my graduation was that I’d gotten over my social awkwardness. I still had practically no self-esteem to speak of though and I didn’t have the feeling that losing weight would make me feel better. After all, I figured, you can be fat and pretty. I’d never considered myself pretty though, even when I was skinny, so I didn’t really see any use in losing weight. I felt guilty about eating chips when my mind cleared, but for the bigger part I really only saw the point in comforting myself.
The Wrong Solution
Two months ago, a close friend of mine went to rehab for substance abuse treatment. He told me that there would be a seminar in July for family and loved ones, which would explain to us the kind of treatment the people in this clinic were receiving. Up until this seminar, refraining from eating chips was an everyday struggle, but after the seminar things changed. We were told that these currently reforming junkies (sorry A.) didn’t want to do things wrong, they simply got so stuck in their own ruts that what they thought made them feel better (get completely knocked out on weed, i.e.) was actually a wrong solution to their problem. Their problems varied from insecurity to having dealt with bullying to losing people, etc.
“A wrong solution.” Now, after having been addicted to food which is high in fat, I am fully aware of the fact that what I was doing was the exact same thing. Eating chips was the worst solution to my problem: a severe case of inferiority-complex which is at the root of the depression I dealt with for the majority of my life. Now that I am aware of this connection, I am able wake up everyday and look at myself in the mirror and think “today’s another day where I will not reach for the wrong solution again, because it is not helping me.” The only thing my crisps-eating behavior ever did for me was only contribute to an unhealthy weight and push my self-esteem even further down. And you know what? I’m still overweight. But I’m working on it for the sake of my health. I don’t hate my reflection in the mirror anymore, and I’ve not been craving any fat food ever since I attended that seminar.