I’ve been on a diet (even when calling it a lifestyle change instead) for most of my life. My mother first put me on a diet when I was about 7 years old. And while there were months when I abandoned dieting out of sheer hopelessness even when I wasn’t actively counting my daily calories, or some variation of that, then I was actively policing my food intake and trying to restrict it.
A bar of chocolate as a morning snack has been out of the question. Laughable even. I told myself: I’m fat and fat people shouldn’t be eating chocolate. I should be trying to loose weight at all times. Because, duh, the fat. Chocolate and loosing weight is not happening. From the ages of about 12 to 16 years old my mother tried to convince me I was allergic to chocolate. I even paid lip service to the idea myself and told people “I can’t eat that because I’m allergic to chocolate”. It did help to have such a good excuse. To be fair, part of my mother’s chocolate allergy theory was that she believed it gave me acne but it was also certainly not agreeing with me in other ways too (i.e. my weight). So I didn’t eat it at all for a few years. And I mean at all. I avoided chocolate as if it would send me into anaphylaxis.
When I was in my early twenties I started to binge eat and compulsively eat. These are two different things to me but I realise some people see them as equivalent. From then until last summer I couldn’t eat a bar of chocolate by itself and stop there. It was an irresistible trigger to keep eating. Sometimes it would be the start of loosing control and I would end up pushing (literally) the food into my mouth and swallowing as fast and frantically as I could and keep eating and eating and eating whatever I could find until the pain started and then I could stop. The pain from the sheer volume of food was what snapped whatever ‘turn’ in my mind that was the core of the binge. However, sometimes when I ate a bar of chocolate it was the beginning of days of what I call compulsive eating. I wasn’t binging on huge amounts of food at a single time but instead simply nearly continuously eating. I ate at about a normal speed and I ate normal (for me), or roughly normal, things but instead of gaps or breaks between snacks and meals I had more snacks. The pattern my ED therapist recommended me to try and follow was sleep-breakfast-gap-snack-gap-lunch-gap-snack-gap-dinner-gap-snack-gap-sleep. When the continuous/compulsive eating thing appeared, and I use the passive voice intentionally because it felt like I had very little control over it, then every “gap” was replace by”‘snack”. Except I didn’t eat meals when I was alone because, duh, the fat, so it was more like sleep-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-snack-dinner-snack-snack-snack-sleep. Another description is that it was days of low level, slowed down, continuous mini-binging. The ‘turn’ in my mind was there though not as intensely as the frank binges but the behaviour was different. I sometimes think that the behaviour that I call compulsive eating is what the general public think that all obese people do all the time and that is why they got so damn fat! Well let me tell you, you know pretty early on then something is fucking wrong when you eat like that and it looks even to the most casual and callous glance that the inside of this person’s head is a fucking unpleasant place to be. Also, try opening your eyes … most people who are categorised as obese do not have disorders (see section 2.4 for the UK government funded NICE Guideline on Eating Disorders for a review of the epidemiological research. Or try putting “prevalence eating disorder” into PubMed.)
Did I get distracted by ranting about the perception of obesity. Good god. Anyway …
Today I ate a bar of chocolate as a morning snack. A single bar of chocolate. Because I saw it in the shop and thought it looked nice. I just ate it and didn’t think about whether I was a failure as a human being. I don’t even want to eat more. Which actually feels a bit bizarre. It’s just chocolate. I can eat it whenever I want. And when I genuinely mean that and I’m not trying to con myself, persuade myself or convince myself out of it in any way it really did turn out that I didn’t devour the world. I also had to deal with the other things that drove my binging, restriction, fasting and compulsive eating but dumping the whole idea of “I can’t eat that because, duh, the fat” has been given me huge amount of breathing space from the insistent push of the eating disorder demands. That Shapely Prose article was published almost two years ago and I read it back then and very much agreed with it. It has taken me even longer than two years of thinking and mulling over this stuff , a course of psychotherapy, medication and a fair bit of time talking about it as well to get me to this point. Yep, still fat and still eating chocolate. I bet there are people who would laugh at me so hard for this and say that this is the most convulted way of lying to myself and making it okay to eat chocolate EVERZ. To them I say: it’s just chocolate and it’s my body, don’t worry, it’s not your problem.