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Food Rules

By April Gigi

We are very excited to share a blog entry from one of our lovely Sheena’s group members about her experience with an eating disorder. Please be mindful that some blog content may be triggering. 

Blog photo

I have an eating disorder. It started around the time that I was twelve years old. I was convinced from an early age that I was fat. Recently I have looked at photos of myself as a child and discovered that in fact I was not. I was an average sized girl.

But family influences, people’s comments, the fact that my Dad oinks at me when I eat, and my experience of the world led me to believe that I was enormous.

My eating disorder is known as EDNOS: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. That basically means that my behaviours do not fit the criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. It also involves atypical eating behaviours.

I have symptoms of all three disorders but do not fall into any diagnosed category.

I am trying to break my own rules.

Rule number one: do not eat foods that are phalic in shape unless they are broken or cut up into pieces. Bananas. Cucumbers. Carrots. Eating these foods in front of people is a definite no no. It has the potential to draw attention to myself. Which is not okay.

Rule number 2:  never eat messy foods with my hands. This draws attention to me as well. People see me opening my mouth wide. They see me biting into the food. They see me dropping bits of the food. Or getting it on my hands. Or my shirt. This is completely unacceptable.

Rule number 3:  eating foods that you need to bite into is just plain wrong. Hamburgers, sandwiches, cookies, even apples. This also draws attention to me. Everyone looks. Everyone stares. Everyone judges me. So I need to tear off pieces of the food. Or use a knife and fork.

Rule number 4:   Do not eat anything on a bone. On a bone and messy is even worse. Chicken wings are the absolute worst! If I do eat chicken wings which is basically NEVER, I eat them with a knife and fork. Trust me, this isn’t easy. But eating such a messy food on a bone would certainly make me be noticed by people around me. Being seen equals being judged.

Rule number 5:   Do not eat brown foods if there are other people around. This includes cake, brownies, cookies, chocolate bars, or pudding. It also includes drinking things like hot chocolate. Why? Because it can get on your teeth. Getting brown stuff on your teeth means people seeing. People seeing means people knowing what I ate. People knowing what I ate means that I will be judged.

Rule number 6:    Do not eat treats in front of other people. Fat people aren’t supposed to eat or enjoy treats. We are supposed to eat salads. And if we are seen eating treats, then people will think, ahh. That’s why she’s so fat.

I can’t tell you how many times colleagues, family, or friends have commented on what I choose to eat. All in the guise of concern. Giving weight loss advice. Worrying about my health. My food choices are noticed and pointed out by the people around me. Eating treats in front of others means being judged.

If I do break the brown, sweets, or hands rule, then I am convinced that everyone sees me as a big fat pig covered in the evidence of my choices. I am convinced that I will be seen as even larger than I really am.

So when treats are brought to work, I say no thank you. I WANT the cookies or pastries or cupcakes. But my fear of being judged. My fear of the comments, prevents me from enjoying what everyone else enjoys. Instead, I stick to eating salad. Regardless of what I feel like eating. And it’s not fair. I watch everyone else enjoying and savouring their desserts while I sit and eat my Special K bar, or my weight watchers square. And it’s truly unfair.

If I do break the rules, then I imagine that the people seeing me start to picture me sitting home alone stuffing my face. Recklessly devouring entire cakes all on my own. I imagine that people are picturing me covered in icing. Surrounded by empty wrappers. My stomach distended from a binge.

These thoughts lead me to want to binge. To go home and secretly eat a container of danishes. To hide chocolate in my car and eat it surreptitiously as I drive.

Fat people are public property. We are ridiculed, shamed, called names, commented on. Commented to. What we eat is everyone else’s business. So I imagine that when I eat, I am being observed. Judged. Seen. I imagine that I look like I am binging, even when I am breaking my food into small pieces that are barely noticeable.

And sometimes, it isn’t my imagination at all. Sometimes people do comment on my food choices. Sometimes people call me names. Sometimes people call out to me from cars.

Fat people are somehow subhuman.

Eating in front of people causes me great shame. It makes me vulnerable. Raw. It hurts to chew if I am being watched. It makes me feel naked. Exposed. Every bite is a burden. Every piece of food is a giant wailing siren drawing attention to the size of my thighs. The size of my stomach. The size of my double chin.

And so I sit with the dilemma of what to eat. Whether I am alone, with friends, with family, with colleagues, or in public. It doesn’t matter. The more I lean towards how I SHOULD choose fruit salad, the more I WANT to eat chocolate cake. Whenever I impose rules on my choices of foods, I rebel. The more I tell myself to eat salad, the more cookies I eat.

Eating is either a chore or a punishment. I don’t enjoy my food. I either eat because I am supposed to eat, or I eat in response to strong emotions. Both are painful. Neither involve pleasure, enjoyment, fulfilment.

What I eat seems to be everyone else’s business. HOW I eat is my response to that.

The fact is, what I eat is NOBODY’s business. I should be able to eat what I want and to enjoy it. I wish that I could.

Let’s break our rules.

 

Be kind to yourself…