My weight has been a major issue all my life at the age of 12 months I was placed on a diet by the health visitor because I had tripled my birth weight of 7lb 13oz. I look back at the pictures of me as a baby and I have seriously asked my mum how on earth could she take that ugly thing out in public? she laughed and said I loved you!
I know now that it wasn’t hunger my little body was suffering from but an excessive thirst, even as a baby I was showing signs of dysautonomia (polydipsia) but it wasn’t picked up by anyone. I was only ever tested for diabetes as a child due to my voracious thirst which of course always came back negative.
My mum and dad have often told me that I would suck on the teats of the bottles so hard that the sides of the bottle would touch and I would create such a vacuum that the teat would disappear inside the bottle, going off like a shotgun when I finished. Having spoken to my mum today she agrees with me I wasn’t hungry it was my thirst I was trying to satisfy and to this day I am constantly thirsty.
During those childhood years I was taller than everyone else and heavier than everyone else. On occasions when I stopped growing I may have been considered a little pudgy around the middle but I was never fat / obese. However being so different from everyone else (leaving infant school with adult size 2 feet and being just under 5 foot at age 7) made me extremely body conscious and hyper critical of every square inch of my body. I was never whippet like, unlike the rest of the girls that I hung around with, I was normal but not rake thin.
This insecurity about my weight has followed me all through my life. I have been influenced by the media throughout my life. As a teenager I had a subscription to Vogue magazine. I remember one article quite clearly, which followed a day in the life of the supermodel Naomi Campbell. I remember at the end of the article it said something like “oops I forgot to eat today”. Forget to eat? I can tell you thats never happened in my life! How can anyone forget to eat or have so much control over what they put in their body that they don’t eat? By the way Naomi wouldnt fit in a sample size these days, such is the way the fashion industry strives for thinness.
By the age of 17 I had already been to weight watchers and slimming world. I think the heaviest I had ever been when I went to these classes was the top end of 10st / 140 lbs (perfectly fine for my height of 5ft 8in well within a normal BMI). I look back at the photos of when I was a teenager, when I considered myself obese because I wore a size 14 and think what an idiot. In those days a size 12 would have been acceptable, a size 10 would have been positively dreamy but no I wore a size 14 and in my mind I was an elephant. I think of all those wasted years when I looked stunning and healthy, spent on relentless diets to achieve thinness (perfection) and I think that is what coloured my relationship with food so badly.
By my early twenties I had developed a little known eating disorder called “binge eating”. With binge eating you starve yourself for a day or two and then whilst you are starving yourself you plan what you are going to binge on with meticulous precision. Working in food retailing was a binge eaters heaven. All day surrounded by the food you were planning to binge on when you finally allowed yourself to eat. I dread to think how many calories I would consume during one of my binges.
Occasionally after a binge I would throw up, I probably made myself sick only on a handful of occasions. The problem was my gag reflex, it was pretty non- existent and sticking my fingers down my throat never produced the desired results. With hindsight I am glad that I couldn’t make myself sick because if I could of I would have then gone on to develop bulimia. Sometimes my wonky body does me a favour.
Around the same time that the binge eating was going on I developed a major depression and had what can only be described as a mini breakdown. I ended up having a lot of counselling, a community psychiatrist was involved and I also had to go to the local mental health unit once a week for almost two years. It was only at the mental health unit that I revealed the issue of binge eating. Through the support of my shrink and some hard work put in by myself with strict adherence to a cognitive behavioural therapy regime, I broke the cycle.
I am not cured of binge eating, I will never be cured as there is some place at the back of my brain where this little devil resides. In times of stress when I haven’t been able to eat this little devil bides its time before striking. Unfortunately my husband is a binge eater too and has very little control over his demon. Living with me is pretty stressful. Hubby isn’t a drinker (although we both smoke) his stress relief is food and the more calorific it is the better. It is hard for me when I am trying to be “good” when he brings all the “naughties” into the house. When the binging stops he always apologises for buying the food but as I always say to him, no one forces me to eat the stuff. I suppose its like two drug addicts or two alcoholics living together, its not a great environment to control that addiction.
In 2008 I was placed on steroids for my then diagnosis of myasthenia gravis. It was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Steroids made me ravenously hungry and in 9 months I had put on 5 stone in weight (70lbs). I was the heaviest I had ever been and was wearing size 26/ 28 clothes. I truly was the monster I had perceived myself to be at age 17. I literally couldn’t stop eating. I was so ashamed of the way I looked I hid away. Refusing visits from friends and declining visits from family. I have one picture of myself from that time and its my fat shaming picture, to remind me never ever to get to that size again.
I have lost all the weight I put on back in 2008, for years I was stuck at being 3 stone lighter. I was still enormous wearing a size 20/22. I felt disgusted with myself but lacked the willpower to do anything about it. I felt ugly and constantly berated myself for not looking good. All the time celebrities kept getting thinner and thinner.
Last year I lost 2 1/2 stone and was the thinnest I had been in years. I felt fabulous, I have though found it incredibly difficult to keep that weight off. Currently I am very limited as to what I can wear. My weight has been fluctuating wildly and I am fed up with not being in control. I have a wardrobe full of lovely size 16 clothes most of which don’t fit. I am gutted that I have let it get this bad. I know that my crazy health situation has a massive part to play in this. Food is used in our house of a way of cheering ourselves up of dealing with stress and celebrating happy events. Our whole life revolves around food.
My health being so bad has upset me. I am not depressed its just some days it hits me really hard how bad things have become. The ultimate humiliation was having my catheter fitted by two complete strangers. I am an intensely private person and to have these people messing about with my nether regions upset me. I know it needed to be done and I was grateful as it provided some relief however when you can’t control basic functions like urination it scares you. It also made me dreadfully unhappy for a time.
I now feel back in control of things although my bladder has played up (not to the extreme of the end of June), my dysautonomia has been awful during this heat and my pain levels have rocketed I am back to being happy again. Not a grinning idiot kind of happy, just the kind of happy when you can accept what’s going on in your life. Even if I am carrying a few more pounds than I would like to I am back to refusing to let my weight stop me doing things like seeing old friends.
I hate the fact that so much of my life has been consumed by what I look like and how much I weigh. There is so much more to me than that. I have many regrets because there are things I have put off doing or haven’t done because I didn’t look good. This madness has to stop, especially when my illness is also trying to prevent me from doing things!
I do feel dreadfully sorry for teenagers these days due to the images they are bombarded with. Due to photoshopping, airbrushing etc celebrities are held up to be the ideal, a size 8 or 10 (uk sizes) is now considered obese. You have to be a size zero or now a double zero to be considered perfection. Too much emphasis is being placed on looks instead of inner beauty. It makes me angry with myself that I allow my body image to be influenced by the fakery portrayed in magazines. I am sick for goodness sake and there are more important things in life than looking like you are dying from starvation!
However here I am again on another diet to lose the weight I have rapidly gained due to being on another few weeks of eating junk and not being able to wear the clothes I want to. There is no helping me.