This week has been hard.
One of the hardest in a while.
I can’t quite explain it; it’s a loss.
It’s like experiencing a painful and confusing process of grieving for a huge part of who you are.
Dieting was my life; I was ‘good‘ at it.
I was so clever, I thought, for knowing calorific content in practically all food and drink. I watched in silent horror as people consumed my forbidden foods before me in what appeared relative comfort, the numbers flashing around in my psychy. I knew the drinks to avoid, the restaurants to suggest – I was a pro.
I come to realise now that abusing my body by a means of bingeing and starvation gave me the illusion of control. The regime gave me a focus, a way to feel powerful and superior, but it was a facade. As soon as there were signs it was being taken away from me, I felt desperately lost.
When my grip on dieting began to slip and the weight started to come back, the panic set in. No matter how many times I tried to restrict myself, count calories or even just ‘eat healthily’ – I couldn’t do it.
I remember distinctly when the weight gain began, when my body and mind began to rebel. The overeat, shame, restrict, overeat cycle saturated my life again and again.
Eryn was around five weeks old when my food intake increased.. I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but suddenly I felt absolutely huge. With one look through some of my previous posts it will become apparent very quickly that there were just so many problems within the larger picture. We were living with my inlaws as newly weds and new parents and the only thing I could see that I could manipulate was the size of my body.
The relationship between me and my mother in law was abusive and controlling – it is something I’ve blogged incessantly about, and still troubles me today. I’m quite sure the stress and environment I was living within contributed heavily to the re-establishment of my disordered eating.
Throughout our time living with my mother in law, neither me nor my husband were allowed ‘crap‘ in her house. Food was served to us at each meal time – snacks were homemade bread without added salt or sugar, yogurt or fruit. It was excessive and exhausting. None the less, we’d been sneaking in chocolate and other confectionary and hiding the wrappers – yes, we. We’d enjoy them in bed before Eryn was born with a movie or games; it was our little haven.
While in the hospital recovering from having Eryn, the evidence in our bedroom was uncovered. Patrick didn’t tell me to begin with though inevitably he had no choice as our departure from hospital was imminent. Oh, she was fucking furious.. In a state of deep seated denial, she didn’t seem able to comprehend that her son would lie about food in that way and so naturally the blame lie with me.
I endured a talk about how disgusting it was to take food into the bedroom, how disgusting I was. I was reprimanded that it had been ‘filled with ants’ (a lie). I was now forbidden from taking food and drink upstairs and I felt absolutely ashamed. I was 13 again and in my mind my mother was telling me I wasn’t to take yogurts upstairs because I was a ‘fat, sloven bastard‘.
I still feel sick today when I think about it; it was so humiliating and actually, fucking messed up. I’d just gotten out of hospital, could barely walk and just wanted space and to be shown some humility. The stress, the food shame, they left me simply one option; restriction.
Every day brought new challenges during those early weeks of Eryns life. Cupboard doors were slammed aggressively, ill intended comments were made and whispers in hallways were heard. I was absolutely hysterical inside.
My stomach was in perpetual knots and I hate to admit now that at the time I found some sick satisfaction in it. I needed the control that restricting gave me, and this stress helped, it curbed my appetite. I drank copious glasses of water to try ensure my breast milk supply for Eryn would increase – it didn’t, I was too stressed to produce a let down of milk. My esteem was shot.
Eventually, amidst me feeling I was having a mental breakdown, we left. With the help of extended family we managed to break out and find our own place. In the interim as we searched for an apartment or house, it was hell. We stayed in an air b&b for just shy of three weeks and trawled through the ads until where we are now popped up.
Patrick was at work through the day and we were furiously arguing most evenings. I didn’t have Marline watching me anymore, no need to hide wrappers or eat watery porridge and so I binged.
Every time Eryn napped through the day I would go make tea with at least 5-10 digestive biscuits. I’d eat them at lightning speed, struggling to swallow at times my mouth was so full and dry. I’d squirt chocolate sauce from the fridge into my mouth and keep going back for more until I felt nauseated.
Other times, when the digestives had gone; I would load up on slice after slice of soft, white bread with extra salty margarine. I’d eat chocolate bars, huge chocolate bars, in one sitting. It was often takeaway pizza for tea because cooking was so tiring and complicated with a constantly breastfeeding newborn.
Feeding Eryn at the breast was exhausting; but I felt compelled to continue. One part instinct and desire, two parts to prove to those who had doubted me that I fucking could. I was also convinced it would make me thinner. I reasoned through the fatigue that if I kept going I’d surely be smaller than if I didn’t..
By the end of September, we had finally moved into our home in Mölndal. By this point I’d gained a fair amount of weight and I could feel it. It was now I knew I was coming to the end of my tether with dieting – I couldn’t keep a handle on it like I could when I lived alone with Eddie; my unhealthy behaviors weren’t as easy to stick to. I had an audience.
Patrick liked to eat cooked meals (healthy ones none the less) but that was a totally new concept for me. His example of a meal consisted of potatoes, a protein product (usually vegan) and vegetables with lots of margarine and ketchup.
I struggled to adjust to this new routine as I was most adept at saving my daily (and tracked) calories for two large chocolate bars and existing on three dry Weetabix for the rest of the day. In times throughout our premarital living arrangement I could keep it up. Back then he would visit for a few days and I’d play along, eat at restaurants and indulge in whatever we fancied, but now he was watching me; and he was concerned.
I decided to order myself some new clothes and ‘give up’ dieting. I started by deleting any apps I had related to fitness and weight loss – I lasted a week. The stress that had built up in me had manifested itself so hard in my body image I felt powerless but to submit and start tracking my food again. I didn’t trust myself not to overeat and subsequently become everything I feared; fat (again).
I went through the cycles, October to November, November to December. With each month I dieted I gained more weight or stayed the same; the weight simply would not budge any way but upward.
I’d watch as my husband hopelessly tried to reassure me I was beautiful and that he just wanted me to eat normally and relax. He felt confused and every time he tried to comfort me I pushed him further away, the only way I knew to protect myself was to withdraw my love. The whole house suffered.
All I could do privately was cry and plead with someone, anyone, that might be listening above to give me back the willpower I needed to retain my thin, powerful body. I missed it so badly, I needed it back.
It was February when everything began to change. I decided that I’d had enough, I was killing myself mentally if not physically and I was killing my marriage. It took a trip to England to finally snap me out of it, for good.
When I finally got home for the first time in nearly a year (again see prior posts for further info) all I could do on the drive up to Yorkshire from London, was panic.
I panicked that people would be horrified by me having regained some weight. I panicked that I wouldn’t be good enough, wouldn’t be loved. I panicked that it would set me off spiraling out of control. I just felt fucking shit.
Turns out when I got there nobody seemed to care. The more I talked about my body openly, the more I described my struggle, the less I cared, too.
For years I’d been miserable; starving myself and purging and I’d been alone. I finally realised that by leaving England, by being bold enough to seek change; I had become free. I suddenly began to understand that my body really didn’t define me at all – I fucking did, I defined me.
It took a break down in a shopping center; a combination of me not wanting to buy larger sizes and feeling ashamed. I was taken aback by the completely overwhelming sensation of being surrounded by voices I understood, and shoulder to shoulder with so many people. It was distressing but I learned a lot from the experience – I was done.
I was done punishing my body, I was done living for the scale and I was done pushing my husband away. I loved him, and he loved me and I wanted us to be happy again. I resolved from then on, I was done with diets, forever.
I left for Sweden again a few days after and got home feeling refreshed and relived to regain my personal space. I’d missed my routine of walking and reading and cleaning, I realised these were the things keeping me sane, giving me meaning.
I love my family, but they stir up a craziness in me that I cannot explain. I attach so many deep-seated body issues to that place, those voices, that world. I love my hometown, but it doesn’t love me. Self care for me, I’ve found, is being as far from there as I can and for lengthy periods of time.
Day by day I’m learning to let go of the calorie counting, the restricting, the excessive exercise. It isn’t easy, and when I wake up having a bad image day I try to reassure myself that feeling ‘fat’ isn’t an emotion, and instead of turning to self destruction try to put aside time for myself, to work through why I’m feeling disrupted and uncomfortable. The better I get at working through, the more often than not I can honestly say that my body is everything but the reason I am miserable or stressed; she is amazing.
There wasn’t a definitive point to this post, more a dabble of musings about my journey along to body neutrality, and even positivity. It’s my way of clarifying to myself that I can do this, that with time space and endless amounts of patience; I can be free.
We all can.
Over and out,