Enough Bliss… back to the Food Thing…
I was quite young when The Food Thing started taking hold. I think I was 7 or 8 years old – at the dinner table, being told off for not eating my vegetables, or eating too much, or not eating enough, or… you get the picture. Then dad would yell at mum, who’d yell at dad, and even though I know this wasn’t my fault, it felt like it. My therapist asked me how old I was and when I told her, she was visibly and audibly shocked and said something like, “Really? Oh my god. That’s awful,” and shook her head. I admit I was taken aback by her reaction. It’s that thing about thinking this was “normal”, if upsetting, then realising it isn’t.
One of my earliest memories is of me at my grandmother’s house (she died when I was 9), sneaking extra biscuits and hiding outside to eat them. I did this quite a lot at home, too. Somewhere along the way I graduated to stealing money from my mother’s purse to buy food with. I’d go for a ride on my bike, buy chocolate, lollies or chips, and eat eat eat.
I’d even buy food to keep hidden around the house. I’m not sure why, it’s not like my parents starved me or anything. Perhaps the food, whether in my mouth, my belly or just around me, provided some comfort from the torment I endured almost every day.
Once my father was coming home from work and caught me eating lollies in the street. He got so angry – I remember him yelling, and the odd intake of breath he has when getting angry, though I’ve no idea what actually happened that day. Funny how the humiliation I felt then comes back when I think about it now.
There’s a Jewish proverb that says: “worries go down better with soup.” I guess that’s how I’ve lived most of my life, only I’ve substituted the soup for chocolate. And cake, biscuits, bread, donuts, coke, chips, ice cream … basically anything high in carbs and with the nutritional content of cat litter. High carb is high comfort, you see. That’s a universal truth. Unfortunately high carb has also meant high weight gain and high sensitivity to food through intolerances.
This eating behaviour – eating lots, eating secretly – grew into a lifelong habit. I’ve been through periods of bingeing and purging and just bingeing. I don’t purge any more, although for a while excessive exercise took over from the more traditional methods. Even that has fallen away lately.
I still don’t like eating in public. I don’t like people watching me when I eat – I’m ok with close friends, but not with family and certainly not with colleagues or people I don’t know. I prefer to eat alone and unseen. I also still hide food in the house – god knows why, given that I live on my own. Who exactly do I think I’m hiding it from?
When I get depressed or down on myself, I eat. I eat and I eat. Then I get more depressed and beat myself up even harder, so I eat more. I eat beyond comfort. I eat until I am exploding. As someone famous once said, “I eat until I feel like Elvis in Vegas – fat, drugged, and completely out of it.”
Short-term the Food Thing has been a great comfort from my emotional pain. It’s just like any other addictive behaviour – drugs, alcohol, cutting, shopping. I’ve tried them all, but food has been there for me my whole life. Long-term, of course, it breeds shame and guilt and fear.
They say that as you get better at dealing with the emotional pain, you also get better at supporting and comforting yourself in healthy ways, so you don’t need food in the same way anymore. Perhaps that’s true, though I’ve noticed I’ve turned to food more in the last few months of therapy, rather than less.