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The story behind my parents and my eating

April 5, 2009

A catch up and ‘everything is here’ post, seeing as a) I talk about it enough b) the background is unknown to many c) La asked to know!

So, where do I begin? Part of it is a collection of memories, snippits of conversations from my childhood; “you have a bit more covering on you”, conversations about portion control and greedyness: how one chocolate bar was greed; my thoughts supported by the media and bullying.

My mum, I now realise, has also a strange relationship with food- she’s quite thin and in a way obsessive, so it’s no wonder it’s rubbed off on me! When I was younger, I was never really cold like she or my sister was, she said it was because “I had more covering on me”. I was always so jealous that you could see my sisters’ ribs, then the inevitable drop at the end of her ribs revealing her very outy belly button; she was thin, very thin. Something I wasn’t exactly, except I wouldn’t accept that. Then I remember shopping at times, slightly older with my dad, looking for a jumper for my mum. We were in Kaliko in the Arndale I think and there was a nice jumper, so I picked up a 10, as you do (when the person you’re buying for tells you they’re a 10, you tend to go along with it) and showed my dad. He was utterly horrified that I had done such a thing, and when telling him my reasoning, that I’m an 8, so she’s a 10 he totally disagreed: I have a bit more on me, so she’d need a 6 (which they didn’t sell). I hurt, stung, knew I was right but he wouldn’t hear it. He idolises my mother, that isn’t something that can be debated.

Running alongside this time, there was the time when I was 10/11ish and convinced I was pregnant (yes, I know you have to have had sex etc, but stay with me, I was young!) because my tummy was so ‘outy’. I was embarrassed to go out, embarrassed to wear anything tight and still jealous of my sister. I was also being bullied a lot; that didn’t help my self esteem. I was in the gap between childrens clothes and adult clothes: 11-12 no longer fitted but I wasn’t quite an 8 in mainstream shops. I couldn’t follow fashion, and I had to keep trekking around in old clothes or lust after clothes in Topshop I couldn’t afford. I comfort ate, massively, and in secret. I’d eat 2 huge bars of chocolate every night until I felt sick, then I’d stuff myself at dinner, then eat after dinner and before bed. I was a machine, but still tiny. My parents kept commented, on holiday missiles such as “oh dear, we’ll have to keep shopping, it’s so expensive but Kate keeps eating everything”. It hurt. But I kept going, all this food never showed so I could. I guess I realised when I got to college that a) this wasn’t right and b) I no longer could eat and eat with no consequences! By this age, I’d tried laxatives and over exercising and various other too much information things! It was hell.

In my first term at college, my friend wanted to join the local uni gym and I said I’d go too; it was a good way to keep seeing her and we’d get fit! So we went, and after a while she kept going but I didn’t. I was obsessed. Looking at myself in every angle in the mirror, upset if I had to miss a session or didn’t have the money. The once a week changed to twice a week to thrice. I loved it. I loved the stitch I’d get, the muscle aches, the feeling of exhaustion. I was obsessed, but this obsession with exercise changed my food habits: chocolate, crisps… everything went. Totally forbidden, such poisons. (Although, I already had issues with sugary things: I was obsessed about my teeth and keeping them perfect. I’d drank too much pop in my childhood and had a lot of cavities in my milk teeth; I changed when I started to lose them, that in itself was an obsession in itself. Water and eating at meal times only).

This is when I started to stop eating the lunches given to me by my mum, reduce how much cereal I ate and hiding food from dinner. Eating wasn’t something pleasant. Anyway, the mirrors at the gym gave me the heebie jeebies every time I went: I look fatter today, trousers are tighter. No external circumstances were taken into account, I could be as harsh on myself as I wanted. I guess it was a control thing, really.

So, what happened next? I burnt out pretty quickly, as is imaginable. Weaned myself off 3 times a week to 2 (whilst hating myself so much, feeling so pathetic for not being able to make it) and well, tried not to listen to my mum asking me why I wasn’t going tonight, why I was fat, how if I didn’t go I’d get fat.

I sometimes wonder if it’s all in my head, I’ve remembered the wrong parts of conversations and forgotten complements on dresses and things. I wonder how such nice people can say such things, or whether I’m exagerrating on small points. The problem is that it’s all so embedded in me now, that I can’t stop it. It’s how I remember it, whether or not it was is something completely different. This is, in a way, why I’m reluctant to broach the subject. I don’t know whether I’ve remembered it correctly, and I know how much it’ll hurt them to realise what’s going on.

I guess when I say it’s my parents fault, it’s not really. It’s partly but also mine. I guess I use it as an easy word to hide an explanation, to hide behind it all. So, I guess that’s pretty much the story, give or take. I may add to it/clarify things later, but this is it for now, and for anyone who was interested I hope it helps!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2009 10:36 am

    Well, yes, you can say things are your parents’ fault, but then you can also look at their parents and probably move the fault back a generation. And then you can repeat the process back into the mists of time.

    So it’s not really about fault, but about explanation and understanding. I don’t think explanation and understanding are the same as hiding in any way at all. I think this is a wonderful post that shines a big searchlight back into your past.

  2. April 6, 2009 1:40 pm

    It is interesting to look back and see what’s in our life history that could have contributed towards the way we are today.
    I think it’d be good to have mental health teaching worked into schools somehow so that the children with vulnerabilities might get help earlier or avoid falling into traps. Leaflets for parents would be good as well.

  3. April 6, 2009 11:44 pm

    CBTish: I think it can be traced back, yeah. I don’t know my family that well, so I can’t *quite*.

    Bluesilk: It’s a good idea, just not sure how it’d work- the parents would have to realise it’s an issue first, and mightn’t that overburden stretched services when they realise they’re completely screwed up? (Okay drastic example but alas!). Info about MH and services definitely needs to be more accessible and not so stigmatised- if people are scared they aint gonna use it!


  4. April 7, 2009 8:19 am

    yeah it’s more of an idealistic wish. I wonder how much money the nhs/dwp could save though with early intervention. I’m guessing but I bet it’d be worth their while in money terms to invest more.

    Louise x

  5. April 7, 2009 10:47 am

    Far, far, far too much I suspect. I mean at the mo, things are left until they are at their worst, then you have to come back from there. I suspect that’s why EIS teams now exist, to try and help people sooner. Just they’d have to plan, and who likes planning?!


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