Obese, fat, no hope for you, a disgrace, immature withno self-discipline – these were words and phrases that I was
called by healthprofessionals.
Pig, fatty, oink-oink, elephant, not welcome,hippopotamus, bus, does not belong here – these were words and phrases that I
was called by peers and colleagues ever since school.
With dismayed looks, I was avoided, sent out of the consultation room as soon as possible and barely tolerated.
This was while I was in the grips of food addiction and obesity.
The WHY questions thrown my way often – why do you not just eat less, why do you not exercise more, why do you
not have portion control, why do you not have will power, why do you lack self-discipline, why do you not go to counselling.
I hid that they hurt me deeply, with a do-not care expression. That no one could blame me the way I blamed myself – I never expressed.
The frowns of disgust by health care professionals, family, friends, strangers, and colleagues were instrumental in the decisions to hide myself. Leading me to occupy my time with less healthy activities. Shame and guilt were joined by self-isolation and loneliness. I beat myself up and criticize myself, I threw around jokes about myself to prevent others from doing it to me and I was my own harshest enemy.
Instead of offering empathy people choose whispered words, harsh looks and judgement. No one offered me the information to an addict program.
By the time I had the guts to join a program for food addiction (at the age of 53), I was newly separated, just had my 4th hip replacement, was jobless and crashed with family and friends wherever I could find a bed and food. I mourned a separation from one of my cats and the death of the other one. My mom passed away 18 months before and I received the news that I will carry the chronic illness Fibromyalgia with me for the rest of my life.
I weighed more that 100kg, more than double my friend and business partner’s weight. It must have looked so funny when we walked together – 49kg skinny woman next to the 100+kg woman. We were always looking for local eateries with chairs that will handle my weight.
I hated my body, I hated myself and I hated society and life in general. I hated the fact that I was a disabled person with failing health and failing mobility. I felt so much shame and self-loathing for not being able to live with self-discipline, will power, strength to withstand temptation and eat like people around me.
I did not look into mirrors because I did not want to see myself. I did not want any photos taken of me. I did not want to remember moments in this life, and I did not want to be remembered. I was so afraid that I would taint the reputation of the friends that still reached out to me. I stopped going to church and made legitimate and false excuses to refuse invitations.
Then I began to realise that obesity and other food disorders are some of the least understood diseases around me. There is no such a thing as just stop eating so much or restrict yourself. It is nearly impossible to eat healthy, lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight for a food addict.
Obesity is an addiction and a permanent disability.
Overcoming an addiction to the substance that sustains your body, fulfils a physical necessity, and forms the central aspect of socializing, is a battle that sucks the life out of a person. It kills the living spirit and leaves despair and hopelessness behind.
My mind told me so many lies. Reasons to eat more, were all lies. My lying thoughts told me that I was despicable, no one cares about me, I am not worthy to live, and I am a failure. I began to believe that people who still associated with me did that out of pity and wanted to do a good deed, they did not like me and were not interested in me.
I began to see how my food addiction played a role in my failed marriage. My twisted thinking took it further (as the addict’s mind does) and told me I will not be loved ever again because no one wants to be in a relationship with an obese food addict. I told myself the story that I was fat, ugly, boring and a waste of space. I feared what my clients might thought of me – I was not the picture of health and self-care. I lost confidence in my abilities and stopped trying to gain more ground and clients.
I became obsessed with clothes. I wanted clothes to help me out and hoped people would see the clothes and not me. I spent a fortune on clothes and accessories. The irony was that I sat with wardrobes and boxes full of clothes, but because I isolated myself, I
did not wear them. I had make-up, accessories, clothes, and shoes to make myself look pretty and beautiful, but they sat in closets and cabinets. No matter what I wore or how well I applied makeup, I never felt good about myself. I did not feel happy and became more depressed.
Later, I discovered that some of the medication prescribed to curb my Fibromyalgia symptoms and also my antidepressants, were in fact bringing food cravings and binging spells. Receiving a drip in the hospital started sugar cravings, certain medications coated in a sugar film brought unstoppable binging periods. No doctor warned me of the dangers associated with my medications and my mental state. I was so grateful when my one sponsor told me about the dangers for a food addict lurking in medication. Medical professionals still struggle to wrap their heads around the fact that certain medications and treatments are life threatening to me and others like me.
Through a program for food addicts, I learned healthy principles for life. The most important for me – I am not a bad person, I am not to blame myself for the lack of willpower, I am not weak, and I am not lacking self-discipline.
What a relief to be able to set myself free. What a gift of life to be able to smile in the morning and not think of self-death possibilities. What a joy to end the day with my gratitude list and not being out of mind from sugar overdose. How liberating to be able to listen to others who went before me, read about the physical allergy, understand how addiction work and to practice new principles of living. How wonderful to have hope and to take one tiny step at a time.
I learn how to forgive myself for not knowing before and to forgive myself where I hurt others in the past. I learn how to make appropriate amends for mistakes of the past and to move on and not dwell on regrets. I learn how to use what could be defects of character to my advantage, e.g. stubborn is now my basis for perseverance.
I know with my rational side that past trauma, my disabilities, Fibromyalgia, unhealthy eating habits, triggered hormones and medication played a role to have brought me to where I was. However, that is now in the past. I do not have to give any more space to them. I have new information and new power. I now have a community that helps me every step of the way. They carry me when I am weak and celebrate with me in victory over every day ‘abstinent’. Knowing that abstinence for anyone with an eating disorder is not the same as it is for someone with a substance disorder.
Food and eating addiction is very real. Food addiction is not easily understood. Programs to help people with food addictions are not as well-known as other addiction programs. I want to convey the message of hope to everyone around me. I want to talk about the special community waiting to welcome the newcomer and fellow sufferer. I want do slay the dragon myths about eating habits. Everyone with problematic eating habits need to know that there is way out.
Lastly, whether we are sickly skinny, the worst of obese, engaging in unhealthy behaviours privately, or harbouring a dislike for food, it is important to remember that we are not inherently flawed or morally wrong.
If you read this and can relate, please reach out for help, information and counselling.
Remember that you are not a bad person, you deserve love and care, you deserve happiness, and you are worthy.
On days that you do not want to live, reach out and begin to make connections. You will begin to understand that you are not to blame and not the only one struggling in silence. Food and eating addictions are just that, an addiction. It does not have to rule your life. You and I are special human being just because I live. No other reason needed.