I can pinpoint exactly when eating became an issue for me. 2001 and the stomach upsets began to start. No, I don’t mean rushing to the toilet every 5 minutes throughout my childhood. For a good few months though, I had the type of pain you get now when you’re PMS-ing but in my upper left abdomen. It was pretty cool as a seven year old as I spent loads of time in the receptionist/nurses office at school and I learnt a new skill – I now know exactly Where Wally is in every single one of his books. However it continued so being a good mum, she made me an appointment at the doctors due to my whinging.
The doctors surgery was very beige, as if it hadn’t been updated since the 80s – not that I knew then what that looked like. Either I’ve blocked out the rest of the appointment, or I just didn’t care for it, because the only thing that I really remember about the rest of the hour were the very itchy large ‘sofa’ style chairs with wooden arms – obviously very fitting for the beige decor – and the diagnosis: a ‘rather sensitive’ stomach.
No more processed food whatsoever to help alleviate my symptoms. The true tragedy of my childhood. No Fruit Winders, Cheesestrings, Babybels. My lunch consisted of a sandwich, a few cherry tomatoes and a piece of fruit. I knew it was going to be a good week when we got strawberries in.
From then on, my relationship with food has been tricky to say the least. Over the years, I’ve thrown up meals (and blood), limited calories, binged more than I thought could be possible… It’s not been an easy ride. It still isn’t. Whilst at university in 2013, I developed appendicitis and reached my lowest, extremely unhealthy weight whilst recovering. It got to the point when in a whole week all I ate was a fruit basket my grandmother had sent me. Even the start of this year, I was crying to myself if I consumed over 300 calories in a day – even the past few weeks, I’ve been so scared to consume over 800.
Whilst talking to one of my oldest school friends yesterday, we discussed eating whilst at the all girls grammar school we attended. “You were seen as weird if you actually ate at lunch” – it’s true, no one ate and the ones who did were seen as abnormal. This mentality has stuck with me. I don’t particularly like eating in front of anyone – I’ll avoid it as much as I can.
My last relationship helped me a lot, our main ‘thing’ was eating in restaurants but I was comfortable because it was in a city where I didn’t know people. The thoughts of people judging were (and are) still there. But it’s not just a mental thing – I’ve learnt that my body goes through cycles where it’s normal for me to eat more for a little while and then a lot less for longer. Anxiety causes me to eat a lot less too – my brain will think my stomach is full when it isn’t.
I’m learning to accept not only my body, but my relationship with food. Personally, it has a lot to do with control – when everything else isn’t great, I can rely on limiting my intake and controlling what I put into my body. But, slowly I’m learning that food is great and if I want to eat all them veggie sausage rolls (thanks Linda McCartney, you goddess), I can bloody well eat them.
Recovery is possible.