Let me start by saying, so many trigger warnings for this post. I realised I have written, briefly, about this before, but it is a very emotional post written while in distress. It’s not actually one I would recommend reading, though can’t bring myself to take it down. I want to talk about weight loss, disordered eating and exercise. Please practise self care when reading it.
There’s been multiple discussions recently in groups which are body positive safe spaces, places where diet and weight loss chat are banned, about why it’s banned. There are some people of the view that a body positive space should not only support all bodies, but allow all talk about what is happening to said bodies. It’s a superficial argument which misses so much, but it is apparently compelling enough that people keep clinging to it. This blog post isn’t to educate those people, those people do not want to be educated I’ve seen many eloquent and intelligent women try it! This is a personal post, partly because I need a way to get it off my chest, and partly because I kind of need others to know what’s going on and I’m finding it nearly impossible to talk to people directly about it. Also I guess there is always the chance someone else, feeling like me, will read this and know they aren’t alone.
Things are not good right now, I can’t talk about it all yet, rest assured I have an absolutely enormous rant just waiting to be unleashed, but I need to sit on it for now.
All you need to know is that things are way out of my control right now, and others are being deliberately critical of me as a person. I do not cope with lack of control at the best of times, I cope with it even less when it’s twinned with low self esteem. Every day I swing between wanting to fight onwards and prove them wrong, and just wanting to lie down and give up. I’ve come so close to shutting down this blog, stopping the illustrations, and going silent on social media. I can’t even guarantee I won’t right now, though I do know it’ll do me more harm than good in the long run, so I’m trying to keep perspective.
I have certain ways I cope with loss of control, they aren’t healthy ways. I have a history of self harm and of disordered eating.
I want to talk about the disordered eating here.
There’s the temptation to explain all eating disorders as being the result of a culture which idolises thinness, just look at the fuss that gets kicked up every time Fashion Week rolls around. While this worship of the waif like is harmful, for many different reasons, it’s not the only possible cause.
For me it’s always been about control. When things feel out of my control is soothing to find something I can control. Self harm was the obvious first port of call, and it served it’s purpose for a long time. Now though I have two small children and I do not want them to see that, they cannot grow up thinking that is normal or advisable. I cannot do that to them.
I also live in fear that if I should slip and fall back then people would use it against me. Not giving them that chance.
Restricting food though? Oh that’s far easier. I’m a size 18/20, if I start to drop weight who is going to flag that as a concern? No one, unless they know my history. I know from before that if you start to drop weight, no matter how rapidly, then all you hear is praise. You are treated like you’ve achieved something wonderful. I will note that none of my other achievements ever garnered me the praise that rapid weight loss did.
So I got the twin benefits of control and praise, who wouldn’t want those feelings? And of course the more you get the more you want, disordered eating essentially feeds itself (ironically).
For me it was all about the quantifiables.
I wanted to be able to count how many hours between meals, even better if I could count days.
I wanted to be able to count how little I ate at each meal.
I wanted to count the numbers on the scale.
I wanted to count how many minutes I worked out for, or hours.
I kept spreadsheets and charts, constantly trying to outdo myself. I had to lose more than the day before, exercise more, eat less, and I needed to see the numbers.
I’d go looking for other people’s numbers so I could compare myself to them. If person A lost X in a week, I needed to lose X in a day. If person B exercised for Y minutes, I needed to double that. I was competing against myself, against everyone else. Programs like Supersize vs. Superskinny were my meal replacement, if the hunger pangs were getting hard to ignore I’d watch it and try to lose more than the plus size contestant, and weigh less than the skinny one.
I’d follow other’s weight loss journeys so I could beat them.
Obviously I started eating again, and I stopped exercising, so the weight came back (and then some). Recently I’ve been happy with that, still am in fact. But the cravings to restrict aren’t about losing weight as such. I don’t care about being smaller, I’m fine as I am. But oh I want the buzz that came from beating my own numbers.
Even at my most content that voice still niggles at me, even when I’m feeling on top of the world I still have to fight the demons down. I have to be careful what I’m exposed to because it’s so easy to get sucked back in. I deliberately avoid media that I know will add fuel to this feeling, I excuse myself from weight loss conversations, try to close my eyes and ears to the numbers. So it’s upset me a lot recently that at a time when I am feeling more vulnerable than usual people are intruding into spaces that should be safe with harmful conversations. It’s harder to just skip past when I feel like this.
Every day I have to fight my urge to not eat, I feel no desire to eat right now, just to restrict. I’m not doing it because I need to make sure I can look after my children and set a good example for them, but it’s tearing me apart.
I am not in a good place right now, and I need things to get better.