Cultural Appropriations · General Ramblings

Learning To Love Food: A Fat Girl’s Story

Recently, I was on Facebook when a friend of mine posted one of those popular e-cards going around. It stated something to the effect of “Have you tried eating the “not-shitty food” diet? It really works!” And the reaction I had to it was like an overreaction, because I got angry and felt judged, the way I do when nearly anything about food comes up these days. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the paleo diet, or if it’s about counting calories, or if it’s about how bad some foods are for you or the horror of GMOs, I feel judged and upset, every single time.

I’m aware that none of the food talk going on around me in my life has anything to do with me. But it’s not about what other people are saying about food. It’s about my own reaction to it. It’s about living as a person who has struggled with food for the majority of her life.

As a child, I was skinny. I could eat anything and never gain a pound, the way a lot of kids are. I had a fast metabolism and was proud of the fact that my ribs were visible and that my legs were like sticks. I started gaining weight when I hit high school, and then everything changed. I wouldn’t go so far to say as I had an eating disorder, but I started to have very disordered thoughts about my body and about food.

I would skip lunch daily because I became obsessed with the idea of staying thin. While my friends ate their lunches, I’d get comments about how I refused to touch the lunch that I had packed to keep my parents from getting suspicious. Later, when I had spare periods after lunch, I would buy perogies, chips, anything unhealthy, at the cafeteria canteen with money I had stolen from my dad’s change jar and gobble it in a dark corner of the library, feeling ashamed and sick to my stomach. I was so hungry, yet I felt so ashamed. The treats I was eating stopped being treats, and started being ways to punish myself for all the things I couldn’t control in my life.

I never spiralled down the path to bulimia, though I considered making myself sick to get rid of all the food I binged on in that library corner a few times. Instead, I just decided to stop eating. I was down to one meal a day, my skin pale and looking sick, when my friends and my pastor at church started to get concerned. We were on a mission trip in the States when my pastor noticed that I wasn’t eating – at all. It wasn’t until he confronted me that I realized what I was doing to myself. It wasn’t ever about being skinny. It was about trying to control the changes in my life and the shame I felt over the food choices I made.

We weren’t allowed to eat a lot of sweets or “bad food” as children. This, in effect, was probably great, because I was a healthy kid who chose fruits and vegetables over sweets and water over juice. The problem is, I started binging on unhealthy food and soda when I became an adult. I think I was always destined to be fat, just by nature of my genetic makeup, but I definitely sped up the health problems I have now by living on fries and pickles in my first year of university and then on a steady diet of pop, chips, and other unhealthy foods as I started working. Food became about convenience and about what I wanted to eat, not about what my body needed. It became a battle, every mealtime, knowing that I was choosing the wrong things but not caring, because I didn’t see myself as worthy enough to care about.

I’ve struggled with depression and with shame when it comes to my body. I still am very uncomfortable eating in front of people I don’t know, afraid they’re going to judge me. When I get sick or have to have a medical procedure done, I get secretly excited that I’m going to lose weight. When I feel fat, I stop eating, sometimes for more than a day at a time before I slap myself out of the shame spiral I’ve fallen into. It’s taken a lot for me to remember that I’m a worthy person, that I have to honour my body. And that brings me back to my original point.

I think I project my shame onto these food memes and articles and advice that goes around. Being fat-positive is hard when you live with a body you’re not completely comfortable with. I see the inner beauty I have. I think I’m beautiful on the outside, too. But sometimes the shame spiral is too much, and sometimes it comes out as anger towards our society that demands perfection. Sometimes it’s not even anger at that – sometimes it’s anger at the fact that I still struggle daily with food. That even though I make a lot of good, healthy choices for my body now, I’m living with the choices I made for myself years ago in the form of health problems that are really debilitating at times.

I’m learning to love myself. I’m learning not to see food as little hidden hand grenades, trying to destroy my confidence and health and worth in myself. I’m not perfect. I still have my days where I struggle. But in the end, I need to remember that it was never about food, or the way my body looks. It’s about remembering that I don’t have to punish myself for being less than perfect.

That’s the lesson I’m still learning – but I’m doing a pretty good job at trying.


9 thoughts on “Learning To Love Food: A Fat Girl’s Story

  1. Healthy diet is very essential for any one to live a good life. I mean a prosperous life in terms of healthy living. Thanks for showing us the lights.

  2. I relate to this so much. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I haven’t really had a good relationship with food since I was a kid. Struggling with food is like being an alcoholic who still has to have alcohol each day to survive, and so few people understand that.

  3. I’ve struggled with some of those same issues and can relate to the scenes of shoving food into my mouth in a hidden corner. When I first started dating my husband, I HATED that he liked to watch the Food Network, because I didn’t think I could stand watching people prepare delicious food without wanting to eat it. After a while, the exposure helped me to see food in a different way: to appreciate the variety of it and the idea of tasting things without feeling guilty.

    As far as dieting is concerned, I’m eating in a certain way right now (currently, gluten-free and dairy-free) because it’s what feels right for me. I’m not about to proselytize, and I don’t understand people who do, unless it’s how they make their money (i.e. nutritionists, dieticians, etc.)

    One more thought I had to bring up: I’ve been really quiet lately on my diet blog because an old friend more or less slapped me down when I was publicly happy about having gone down a dress size and pointed me towards a site on being fat-positive. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, because I viewed it as a personal milestone in my battle to reclaim my vigor, energy and gastrointestinal health. Yet, I was treated as if I was being a shallow person who couldn’t love myself without losing weight. I gained 60 pounds in less than a year, acquiring a slew of new medical issues that did NOT go away for three years until I started to eat differently, and I’m somehow a bad person because I’m happy that I’m starting to finally feel better and be closer to being able to fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes? What are your thoughts?

    1. The thing about body positivity is that it’s not only about fat people. It’s about all people. And in order to feel positive about your body, you need to be able to feel comfortable in your body. I’ve never begrudged people losing weight or being proud of losing weight. Their journey and struggles are completely different than mine, and it’s extremely unfair of me to project onto them. Now, have I been jealous? Of course – I think that’s only human nature. But as a rule, I’ve tried to be happy for people who are moving towards being okay with themselves and with their bodies. I think your friend did you a disservice, and I think you should proudly be able to post on your diet blog and detail your journey without being directed to fat-positive blogs.

      As far as I know, you’ve never once said that being fat is wrong. That’s the thing about fat positivity that I struggle with – that being fat equals wrong, immoral, lazy, etc. Losing weight to feel better and be healthier isn’t saying those things. So my thoughts are that your friend was unfair to you, and shouldn’t have been. He or she is clearly insecure with themselves, which is their problem, not yours. I think you should feel proud of your accomplishments – I am proud of you!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. I grew up in a family where we were all thin, so I didn’t really know how my mother felt about weight until I started to gain a few pounds in my early twenties. I was shocked at how negative she was and I was really quite turned off by her attitude. My mom is a highly educated woman, who I have looked up to all of my life and I just wanted her to love me with my extra fifteen pounds anyway.

    Consequently, I do realize that this experience affected me negatively and I ended up eventually losing that weight within about three weeks. My mom and my step-father had went on a trip to Switzerland and by the time they got back, I was thin again. I remember how wide-eyed my stepfather was when he first saw me and what was really sad about me losing weight that fast was that she made me feel like I was back in the loop again because I was thin again.

    I have worked through some of my issues, but I know that I constantly watch what I eat, for health reasons of course, but also because I don’t want to see that disapproving look on my mother’s face ever again. Even though I am an adult now and she lives in another state and we don’t physically see each other that much, it still stays with me. So, thanks for this post because all this boils down to body positivity, regardless of size, and I am still working on it.

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