Who pretends they didn’t eat every chocolate in the box or pretends that they shared that packet of biscuits and no wasn’t just them?? Probably quite a few, but for me I empty cartons to pretend I did eat it and I hide uneaten food and say yeah it’s fine I ate earlier.
For many years it was almost impossible for me to eat in front of other people, it was really emotionally painful to be in a group setting with food. Because I see myself as a lot bigger than I actually am I worried that people would look and go ‘blimey, no wonder she’s so huge – have you seem how much she’s eaten??’ What I didn’t know is that actually the complete opposite was going on, people kept saying ‘sure you don’t want some more?’ because in reality I’d pushed food around the plate more than actually eaten any of it. I’d make excuses like I’d eaten earlier, got a bit of a funny tummy or sorry don’t really like that sauce. The ability to lie becomes amazing, you even create back stories and complete cover tales and become incredibly adept at spotting an incoming comment and diffuse before it even lands on you. And yes, we’re very good at shall I say managing the illness, face it, we’ve had years of practice at this!
The reason it’s popped into my head again is was chatting with a friend who had a previous partner who struggled with food too and couldn’t understand the logic behind it. The only way I can describe it is it’s about control, it’s the single thing I had control over. When you feel overwhelmed or that life is unravelling around you, you seek out small victories. Unfortunately for me the not eating became that victory. I already considered myself overweight, I probably was in true terms – the practice nurse never liked me asking how tall should I be at weigh in! Apparently that wasn’t the appropriate question, but I figured being little I could get taller and then fit the chart based on my weight – she promptly told me no, can’t blame a girl for asking!
Anyway, back to the control and victory aspect. When you have a misplaced view of yourself and we know food (too much of it) makes you fat so in some perverted logic due to that lovely negative pixie in your head you restrict food. It starts as I’ll just eat one of those sandwiches rather than both in those supermarket packs and very quickly escalates to bemoaning yourself for even eating the entire single sandwich. But something else is going on too, because you have no calories your body can’t function properly – simple terms you can’t run a car without petrol and you can’t systematically refuse calories and expect to function. Your skin, hair, nails and pretty much everything go out of kilter. I’m sure the medicals amongst you can tell me the true medical process and names but the effect is that you start to look worse so are even less likely to look at yourself in a mirror which creates a lovely negative cycle for the wicked pixie telling you you’re fat.
But then something odd happens, your weight loss becomes apparent and you get compliments so you think ooh this is working, I’m taking control of my body image. They think they’re being helpful and lovely by giving you a compliment but the naughty pixie takes over and says ‘see, I was right, you need to keep going’ so you do. Fast forward two months and I’d lost about 3 stone, collapsed and ended up in hospital.
Food issues are complex, each of you have different triggers and different ways of handling things but if you are worried about someone ask for advice. Tell a medical person what you see, how they talk about themselves, what makes them happy or what causes a negative reaction. And sadly, much as you want to you can’t help them, but if you’re close enough to notice they want you to know but don’t quite know how to tell you yet. Be patient and be kind, it’s an illness not a vanity choice.