This is a very sensitive and difficult issue that I’ve dealt with for much of my life, so the story is a bit lengthy. However, I will break it up into several parts in order to keep things short and easier to digest (no pun intended). This will also allow me to not spend too much time thinking about this particular topic all at once. Hopefully you guys can understand.
Before we start this series, I just want to make the same disclaimer as last time: If you are in any way triggered by content relating to eating disorders, food, weight gain, weight loss, or anything remotely similar, please do not read this particular series. There are many wacky/funny/thoughtful/downright silly posts to read on here, so please feel free to read one (or more!) of those instead.
I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a professional expert. Nothing I share here can be used for self-diagnosis, so while I encourage you to read the story, please seek the professional opinion of your primary care provider if you think you may have binge eating disorder. You can also visit NEDA’s website for more information and support.
I am not here to upset anyone and I am certainly not advocating unhealthy behaviors (regardless of what I may disclose about my past). I simply feel it is important to share my story and help those in need of reassurance that they are not alone. Also, it is my wish to expose this condition for what it really is and help people who may have incorrect assumptions about those who suffer from it. You may even find yourself wondering how to help or better understand a loved one who is going through the same thing.
In whichever case, if my story helps anyone in any way, my job will have been done.
Pretty Little Fears
Some little girls fear spiders. Some little girls fear dirt. Other little girls fear little boys. But when I was a little girl, my biggest fear was getting fat.
Despite having a memory that rarely ever fails me, it is impossible to recall the precise moment when the fear of becoming fat gnawed its way into my psyche. What’s more, it is mind boggling to think that I, a girl who had been underweight for a good portion of her childhood, actually believed obesity was some ravenous monster lurking beneath my Disney princess comforter-covered bed, waiting to devour me.
Yet, I did.
And though I don’t know who gave me this impression or when I began to internalize the notion, my worst nightmare eventually came true. But before the beginning of my journey living with and desperately trying to hide a humiliating burden, I was thin.
Indeed, I was very thin growing up. I remember my mother muttering something about nothing fitting properly on me as she would punch additional holes into my favorite glittery pink belt. My pants were always threatening to fall down around my ankles, and my shirts often sloped off of my shoulders at a strange angle, but it was all the same to me.
Despite my mother’s concerns, other family members would simply shrug and say, “She’ll probably be a model.” I’d always nod enthusiastically before getting sucked into another daydream featuring a “grown up” me prancing down a Parisian catwalk.
At that age, I never paid much attention to the baggy shapelessness of my clothes or the worry lines that struck my mother’s face as she would ask my doctors why I wasn’t gaining any weight. Back then, I only cared about playing with my neighbor’s dog, Yogi the Bear, looking for pretty rocks in my backyard, or reading the Berenstain Bears.
For years, I hated the entire ceremony behind breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you asked me, meals were a terrible inconvenience that interrupted far too many video game sessions and outside romps with my friends.
Overall, I wasn’t very fond of most foods as a child. My mother would lovingly tease me, calling me “Pickie Younie” (whatever the heck that actually meant) due to how selective I was in what I’d agree to eat. I liked plain cheese pizza, but never pepperoni or sausage. Meat was “disgusting” in my eyes, and fish was even more inexcusable. Though I would usually tolerate chicken in the form of nuggets and though macaroni and cheese—particularly my mother’s—was the love of my life, my favorite foods were salad, shrimp, and fruit.
While my young peers often preferred candy and juice to anything green and nutritious, I actually enjoyed most vegetables and found many sweets to be nauseatingly sugary. I still laugh to myself when I think back to how I used to sit in front of the tv pulling plain lettuce leaves from their head and chomping on them like some people would eat popcorn.
I’m not going to lie though… there were times when I would envy the brightly packaged (not to mention junky) snacks that my friends routinely pulled from their Power Rangers lunch boxes. My parents rarely bought junk food for me to show off at lunch, and even though I wouldn’t have liked it any of it anyway, the commercials made Gushers, Dunk-a-roos, and Lunchables look so cool.
Needless to say, I had a very healthy diet. And you may as well have called me the energizer bunny because I was extremely active as a child. I loved to be outside, moving, jumping, and playing.
Oh, and cartwheels. Lots and lots and lots of cartwheels.
The Back Field
Several times a week, I would beg my dad to take me to the park until he was nearly beside himself from my begging. Once there, I would run around playing tag with other kids. After pretending to be an acrobat on the jungle gym, I would see if I could finally get high enough on the swings to see my school.
My absolute favorite playground activity was the merry-go-round. No matter how hard my dad pushed, it was never fast enough. I loved the sensation of the wind whipping against my face and tousling my ponytail. It felt like I was flying.
In second and third grade, my elementary school invited students to run laps on the back field each morning before class; it had something or another to do with the American Heart Association.
Initially, my friends and I signed up because we wanted the chance to win the cute prizes our teachers told us about. But as the weeks and months wore on and after all of my friends had stopped running (they were satisfied with the glow in the dark Marabou pens they’d earned), I kept showing up on the field each morning.
For two years, I ran for forty-five minutes before starting my school day. What started off as a childish desire for stickers and toys evolved into something I felt I couldn’t afford to miss. Much like the merry-go-round, running (most often sprinting) became an addicting rush. There, running around the orange tree-lined field, I felt free, happy, and weightless.
So even when I collected awards for being the girl with the most laps out of the whole school—twice—I didn’t care. In the end, I wasn’t doing it for the claps or for my name and face to be printed in the school paper. I did it for the scent of orange blossoms and dew-kissed grass as the sun climbed in the sky. I did it for the feeling of my heart thumping gleefully in my chest. I did it because it came naturally… and I loved it.
My childhood was pretty idyllic, come to think of it. Fun too. I didn’t have anything to worry about aside from picking out the perfect outfit for Barbie’s date with Ken or making sure my one sheet of “homework” (aka coloring a map) was completed as soon as I got home from school each day.
Clothes were just things my parents bought for me and made me wear.
Food was mostly weird and gross unless it was a nice strawberry or orange.
Mirrors were good for making funny faces in or marking up with lipstick when my parents weren’t looking.
Life was so easy then. I hadn’t a care in the world…
…until I did.
© C.M. 2019 All Rights Reserved
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*Featured Photo Credit: Levi Damasceno from Pexels.*