I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve always had, and still have (but a lot milder and more tame), a love / hate relationship with food.
I’m a creature of comfort and habit. Obviously, I didn’t know that when I was a child (or maybe I did? I honestly can’t recall). Whenever I encountered something that was too overwhelming and stress inducing for me (and you know, every single thing was so stressful when you were a kid), I turned to a constant that provided instant gratification: food.
When I was a kid, I’ve had nothing but positive associations with food. My brother and I were primarily raised by my grandparents for the first few years of our lives (parents were, and still are really busy with their business). I can still recall having congee or noodles for breakfast most of the times with my grandmother. Sometimes I’d go to the traditional market that’s right behind her house to get food with her. They were nice little strolls. There’s a small tunnel we’d need to pass through first, and we always held hands. I felt protected. I think eating together with someone I care about brings me a lot more joy than other activities, because of the positive associations I’ve had with food.
Since life felt extremely overwhelming during my secondary school days…I resorted to the constant that brought happiness: food. Got yelled by parents for no reason? Let me find my favorite snack. Got anything less than an A- for a quiz or a test (doesn’t apply to math though)? Let me dwell on how stupid I was while eating that extra bowl of rice. Couldn’t join Girl Scouts when all of my friends were in it and were having such a fun time (because my mom “didn’t have the time” to pick me up from the bus stop after school)? Couldn’t go to a friend’s birthday party even though most of the class was going? Yeah. You get the gist of it. I don’t think I’ve had an extremely satisfying childhood, because there were lots of restrictions. There were a lot of potential inconveniences that could be imposed onto my parents, and they wanted to prevent that (which they did, by prohibiting me from doing a lot of extracurricular and social activities). I don’t blame my parents despite missing out on some activities, because their main drives in life are to survive and make money. Times were different back then. I’ll write about that another day.
My dissatisfaction in life had a direct, positive correlation to my weight gain. Yikes. Imagine adding salt to injury.
There’s an experience that I could never forget. I think I was around second grade then? I was at a park with my niece once and we were sitting on an old, wooden seesaw. Then, out of nowhere, two girls and three boys my age then decided to approach the two of us. They forcefully pulled my niece away, and the three boys abruptly sat on the opposite end of the seesaw. The upward swing happened so quickly…a piece of wood shard stabbed into the left side of my right leg. A chunk of my epidermis got degloved, and I started bleeding profusely. Time seemed to stop for a few seconds, and then it resumed as one of the boys pointed at my wound and said, “Haha – fat girl bleeds blood, not oil!”. The other children laughed at me. My niece was mortified and she screamed. I had to walk home that day, and I remembered crying the entire way home from the physical and emotional pain that I’ve experienced. I don’t recall eating much that night.
I still relied on food, but the relationship was never the same for me anymore. It wasn’t a pure feeling. There were mixed feelings of happiness and shame. I knew I wasn’t like the popular girls at school. I wasn’t the prettiest. I wasn’t the skinniest. I wasn’t the smartest. My life revolves around inadequacy and I couldn’t overcome that feeling, so I resorted to food, and then felt terrible afterward as it was a vicious cycle. There were no drive to change though.
I didn’t have a drive until I developed a crush on a guy. Long story short, he thought I was too fat. I knew I was fat, but I didn’t think I was that fat. As a perfectionist (and an infatuated middle about to be high school girl), I decided that it was time to go on a diet. At first, I cut down my portions, but didn’t exercise, and the results were too slow. Then I cut the love of my life almost entirely, cold turkey. I ate once a day, during dinner time. I stuck to apples and salads religiously, and I refused to eat anything after 20:00 pm. My parents were elated, because my weight loss indicated that I’d be able to find and attract a man in the future. It’s a sexist thought, but unfortunately there are still women in the collectivist culture who believes that their main goal in life is to marry someone financially stable and bear children. Again, my parents were exposed to a different era, so I don’t blame them. It doesn’t mean that I agree with their thoughts though. I choose to respectfully decline their belief. After cutting food out, I started running as well. I committed to 10 kilometers daily while barely eating. I obsessed over my weight every single day. I weighed myself once in the morning, once after school (pre-workout), and once before sleeping. I calibrated my scale every single time before weighing myself. If my weight were to gain by even 0.1 kilograms, my day was pretty much ruined. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I complied to all the fads (most memorable one being wrapping my thighs with plastic wrap while working out, because it “burns more fat on the designated area” – yes, I was an idiot). I convinced myself that constant dizziness, coldness, and hair loss while brushing my hair were normal, and that people were complimenting me on my weight loss. I got sick so often, and there was even once when my fever lasted for two weeks until I was forced to be hospitalized with an IV injection. External validation was worth more than that extra bite of food. I still loved food, but I was afraid of the consequences.
My weight loss negatively correlated with how much I didn’t eat.
I rode on the high of compliments (read: my new instant gratification, replacing food). My lack of eating went unnoticed for a little while, until the rose tinted glasses came off and people were accustomed to my weight loss. Then the questions flowed in. My nostalgia for food kicked in, too. I was so scared. Then I did some digging and realized that if I ate and then purged, it wouldn’t count as much, would it? I still ran daily, so it should count even less, right? Instead of denying myself to what I love, and I indulged. A lot. What happened after the indulgence were constant repeats of purging and crying, because I could’ve sworn I ate a lot more than what came out, but I was so inadequate and useless to the extent that I was incapable of throwing everything up. I was dedicated. I threw up until I saw blood quite a few times, and I was desensitized from that phenomena really quickly. I felt a defeat every single day when my weight was stagnant or when there was a slight increase. My weight dominated my life.
I still love food, but there was some sort of intimidation from it. It’s the textbook definition of a toxic relationship. My thoughts and focus were terrorized and regulated by calorie control and how I could discreetly throw up my meal. I was clouded by perceptions of never being good enough. I’m never going to be skinny nor pretty enough. Honestly, I still have these thoughts now. The thoughts creep into my head when I’m least suspecting them, and they still hurt me. I’ve been consistently telling myself that not all of my thoughts are healthy, and that my insecurity is screaming because it needs attention. The best thing to do is to work on myself in a healthy manner. I know. It is so much easier said than done.
If anyone is curious, I’m doing a lot better now. I no longer see weight as my main priority in life, but these thoughts do come back occasionally and haunt me. I just try to put a filter on them. To all those girls who think that they’re never enough: stop having these thoughts. Yes, it’s easier said than done, and I know from firsthand experience. It’s so important to lose weight to impress that guy. It’s so important to lose weight to fit in. It’s so important to fit in a size zero, or a size two (but then if you were to have an eating disorder, a size two is still too fat, even a size 00 is too fat). I know, and I understand how it feels, and it sucks so much, because it feels like you’ve let yourself down.
I still have these moments where I feel like I’m never going to be pretty or skinny or fit enough for my crush, let alone anyone else. The feeling of inadequacy creeps up once again, and because I’m such a failure…I don’t deserve anyone. When I dress up or see myself naked or half naked, I still think I have so much excess fat. I have times where I want to revert back to my EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) days (since I obviously love doing things in extreme and decided to dabble in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), so I’d feel better about myself. It takes so much effort to reassure myself that it’s just my own distortion. I’m not that fat girl anymore. I’m aware of it, even though there’s days that I feel nothing but ugly and disgusting and unloved. These harboring thoughts are nothing but unhealthy for me, and I am aware of that, but I still have them. They’re merely smoke and mirrors manifested by myself. I’m my biggest enemy at times. I know my weak spots, and I’m not going to hesitate to target them, because I am my biggest critic.
It’s a letdown when someone tells you that you’re not good enough. It’s devastating when you believe that you’re not good enough. It might not seem like it, but this distortion chips you away bit by bit until it turns into a belief that you’re a failure and that you cannot do any better. I have to face these thoughts every single day. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not beautiful enough. I’m flawed. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve a relationship. I don’t deserve a person who would like or even love me as a whole (the good and the bad parts). I don’t deserve friends who care about me. Then I look back. I look at the changes I’ve gone through. I look at the little victories in my life. I look at the genuine and wholesome interactions I have with others. It doesn’t convince me that I’ve done enough, because I can do better, but it does make me aware of how distorted I am sometimes.
I’m not as much of a failure as I see myself. My self worth took a dive when I decided to put all of my focus on my weight. I don’t really know how I got out of that situation, but I’m out of my worst days. It can only get better from there, and it has gotten better. I still trip myself up over the same issues, but at least I’m not back to square one. I’m not letting my distorted view get the best of me, and neither should you (this applies to whatever you are facing).
The toughest enemy you have is yourself. Remember that. Remember to be a bit kinder to yourself. It will go a long way (at least it’s still working for me).
PS: I’ve had one glass of white wine and red wine and three Moscow Mules. My face is red. It’s 2:02 am. I rarely stay up so late. I’m at the brink of crying, because I’ve never been so upfront about my eating disorder to anyone. And I’m trying to be as candid as possible on a blog. I’m posting this to the public (good thing I don’t let that many people know about this blog). It’s big. I want to write about thoughts and experiences that are meaningful, and this is one of them. I’ve started this draft eight days ago, and I’m finally able to complete it after many thoughts. It might sound like the most superficial and idiotic problem for some people, and that’s completely okay, but it was something I really struggled throughout a big part of my life (not to mention my lack of confidence in the appearance department, but I’ll leave that for another day). I’m glad I’m able to write about this, even though it hurts more than I’d like to admit. I’ll be okay though. I know it.
PPS: It says it’s completed on the 20th of December, but actually on the 24th of December at 2:08 am. I stared at the publish button for ten minutes before clicking on it. It’s not an easy topic to talk about. I hate showing vulnerability, and this is one of the times I’m willing to do so…