You read this everywhere. Social media, magazines at the grocery store check out line, at book stores, and too many other places to name. You see it in videos on YouTube and in the news. What the heck does it even mean? Especially to someone that has an eating disorder.
This is going to be long, please forgive me. My only hope is that I can help someone else in their struggle with food and their body.
I’ve read that food can help a body heal from all types of cancer, not just breast cancer. I’ve been encouraged by many these past couple of weeks to eat a more healthy diet. I even went so far as to ask for help from my Facebook friends and family to help me put a daily menu together. Why? Because I don’t have a clue where to start.
Eating is something a person has to do everyday. Food is energy for the body. I’ve been told that many times. This breast cancer thing has spun my head around – not that I’m afraid of it because I’m not. It has caused some triggers in my brain to fire off causing an “Epiphany” of sorts.
I don’t speak of my past. It is, just that, the past. But I will have to share my past in order for you to understand what I have recently realized about me and my eating disorder. I don’t have anorexia, or bulimia. Anorexia sufferers are afraid to put on weight and know that food causes that to happen. They avoid it like the plague in their struggle with it everyday. Bulimics eat, then make themselves throw up. They cope with this disorder until it gets the best of them and they eat non stop for a period of time. Out of control it becomes. Then they do what they know to do. They go throw up.
I just don’t eat. It is a waste of time in my opinion. Cooking, cleaning, dealing with leftovers that will not be eaten. I’m not hungry so why is everyone else in my family hungry? Frankly, I can have, and have had, angry outbursts over this issue many times. I do eat, though. Late in the day. Once a day. Not all day long, just one large meal and that’s it.
I’m overweight. I’m on the tipping point of being obese. Am I ashamed of my body? At times but not always. Do I get frustrated at my body weight? Yes. How can I not lose weight when I don’t eat? Well, my poor body is in “Starvation Mode” and has been for 61 years.
I’ve had enough therapists and counselors in my life helping me with other issues so I kind of know how this works. How my past affects me today. So now I will take you back there.
When I was about six or seven years old I was told by my father that my mother didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Now this is “hearsay” and I cannot testify to the veracity of his words.
The story he related to me was at the age of 3 months I had gotten sick with double pneumonia. I couldn’t breathe. He had just come home from a long day of brick laying to find my mother in bed while I was mewling in an attempt to cry and breathe. He told me he had asked my mother why she hadn’t noticed or taken me to the doctor. According to my father, my mother’s words were “Just let her die!”.
My mother had some kind of mental illness. She was in and out of mental institutions all of my childhood. She would be gone for weeks or months at a time. My father was a brick layer who traveled many miles for his work. He would leave before day break and would return long after sundown.
So as you can imagine, I was left alone. The feeding and diaper changing happened before my father left for work and after he came home at night. The rest of the day was who knows what.
My sister and I grew up in an environment where food was not a priority. We never had breakfast or lunch. Dinner was hit and miss. When our mother was home from the mental institutions she would prepare dinner for us. Our father was mostly absent. He did cook a few times. Today, I think I can only count about 10 times that we actually had food prepared by either parent for a meal.
That left my sister and I to fend for ourselves. I do remember opening cans of spinach, draining the liquid, and eating it out of the can. I do remember getting into trouble for doing so. Big trouble. I was told by my father that I was selfish.
This kind of an environment raises questions about a child’s self worth.
My sister and I didn’t get lunch at school when we were old enough to go. Not on a daily basis anyway. There were a few times we ate school lunch but by and large I spent my lunch period outside playing on the recess grounds.
My sister and I were placed in foster homes when I was 11 and she was 10. By this time I was already quite overweight and malnourished. My sister was malnourished as well, but she was not overweight. I was shamed by our first foster family for me being so fat. This was the first time in my life where breakfast was eaten before school. We had lunch at school. Dinner was served in the evening. I remember eating like there was no tomorrow. Again, I got in trouble for eating and was labeled as selfish.
My second foster family, I lived with them for the next six years. Once again there were daily meals and I could not help myself. I would eat anything I could.
I didn’t learn how to prepare food nor how to take care of myself when I came of age and went off on my own. So, after I turned 18 and was out in the world on my own I reverted back to not eating. Because I didn’t know how to prepare foods. Frankly, I wasn’t interested in learning how to cook either. I had better things to do with my time than waste it on cooking and cleaning.
Not long after I turned 18 I met my children’s father. We had three girls and one boy together. That was a dreadful time in our lives. All I’m going to say about that time is getting money from him to feed our children when he disappeared in our lives for long periods of time was extremely difficult. I made sure my children had food to eat and didn’t worry about myself.
When I was pregnant with my last child her father served me with divorce papers. Which I was thrilled to receive. The thing I didn’t see coming was his family would take my other three children from me for the next 12 years on the pretense of taking them to the zoo and would be back in a couple days.
Once again. Take care of my child to ensure she was fed but didn’t take care of myself. Times were tough for us. Money was a commodity that was not plentiful. I struggled to keep her having lunch at school when she was old enough to go. Breakfast was not something I made for her on a regular basis. I was always in a hurry to get to work and would give her something to take along on our trip to daycare or school. Our dinners were anything but healthy over the 11 years that my daughter and I grew up together.
My daughter and Joe’s youngest daughter got us together. My whole life changed in 1990. Now there were a whole lot of people, 5 of them, that wanted to eat. What’s for breakfast? What are we having for lunch? What are you making for dinner? It was relentless. It felt like I lived in the kitchen. There were many angry outbursts over the whole issue of eating all the time. What was WRONG with these people. The three children that had been out of my life for 12 years came back in it. Now there are 8 people asking me what we are eating.
Days passed. Years passed. The food thing never went away. Everyone always wants to eat. I don’t want to.
Now I am in a place where I am aware of my food issues and where they come from. I think that my breast cancer is caused, largely, by starving my body for six decades. This insight was whispered to me by God, triggered in my brain because of all the things I’ve been reading, or as simple as still being in touch with the therapy and counseling methods of introspection I’ve had in my life for at least 5 decades. Whatever you choose to believe about my “awakening” is how it will be. I choose to believe that I am at a place in my life where God knows I am ready for change.
As much as people don’t want to believe it, there is a vast majority of children who go to bed hungry. Here in the United States. Hungry children can’t focus in school because of malnutrition. Joe has said he can’t believe there are children that are going hungry. He didn’t experience that in his childhood so he can’t understand it. I do.
I’ve created a meal plan for Joe and I. Trying to eat healthy-er than we have before. Neither Joe nor I are diabetic which is a miracle in itself. Am I adhering to the meal plan? Honestly, no. I let my old habits and days events take over. I still don’t eat most of the time but I am trying to do better.
I am getting more fruits and vegetables in our house. I will, and do, eat them.
I am eating chicken. Reluctantly though. Fish….well that one will be a while coming. I will celebrate adding more chicken in my meals first, then later I will THINK about adding fish.
Okay, so what are your childhood memories around food? Do you love to eat? How do you feel about food? Do you eat to live? Do you live to eat? Or do you have to learn, like me, to just eat? Basically I eat to shut off the growling in my stomach when I can no longer ignore it. I’m working on it. One day at a time.