It's hard for me to remember the days before food guilt. As hard as I try, I only have fleeting memories of my behavior towards food before I started feeling that my eating was "wrong or bad." I remember pancakes sizzling in the skillet at my Aunt Linda's house. I remember having an odd hatred of Ketchup. I remember eating my spaghetti plain, with just butter and parmigiana cheese.
My relaxed, easy notions of food vanished by the time I was 10 or 11. It all started because my family-- especially my dad, paternal aunt, and paternal grandmother--thought I was an unusually pretty child. At around age 6 or 7, I started to receive a lot of comments about my looks. My aunt told me I was the prettiest out of all my siblings (nice, right?), and my grandmother told me I looked just like her (and she was a beauty in her day). I started to see my self-worth in terms of whether people thought I was beautiful or not.
But at 6 or 7, I didn't connect being "beautiful" to the Easter candy I liked to eat...or the chocolate chip cookies I liked to bake with my mom. No, I didn't start to worry about my food consumption until the very same people who commented about my looks started to make pointed remarks on my weight. It's hard to remember the exact remarks, but I recall my dad trying to convince me to lose 10 pounds at age 11 by saying, 'You could be a movie star if you were thinner.' Suddenly, my weight was linked to my looks and, by extension, to my self worth.
At age 12, I figured the only reasonable thing to do was diet. Restrict myself. I figured it would be easy to eat like a bird (like my two skinny sisters) and then the weight would fall off. And then I would be skinny. And then I would be a movie star. Right?
Except that I didn't anticipate how tired I'd feel. How much my stomach would grumble at night when I'd try to fall asleep after skipping dinner. And how much I would crave the foods I had previously taken for granted. Yogurts, cookies, pizza, muffins, bagels (you get the picture) all became forbidden foods for me. And that is when I started to binge.
During each binge, I'd believe it was my "last" and therefore I'd eat as much as I could. Because I'd honestly believe I'd never have another chocolate chip cookie again. Or another yogurt. Each diet transgression made me feel an immense amount of guilt. I hid my binges from my family and friends, which made me feel even more isolated. I grew up genuinely believing I was a flawed person.
And this feeling of self-loathing ultimately spiraled into a place of not caring. So what if I was a size 20? I was going to eat that large pizza, damn it. I hid from the world for a while, buried in my apartment with my two cats and lots of empty pizza boxes. Until one day, I poked my head up out of the fog, took stock of my situation, and realized that I only have one life to live. I could spend it hiding from the world, weighed down by guilt and excess pounds. Or I could have the guts to lose the weight and show the world the real Katie.
...continued to next post...