We hear it on the television, we hear it on the radio, we read it on the internet, in the newspaper, and in magazines. We see it on billboards, on the back of buses, on taxis. We hear if from friends, we hear it from family, we hear it from doctors, we hear it from ourselves. We’ve all heard it too many times. I must lose weight!
We’re a generation obsessed with size, looks and image. We’re so obsessed that we even have a show dedicated to fat shaming – The Biggest Loser – because it’s okay (apparently) to yell at large people and make them wear skimpy clothes in order to ‘help’ them.
We’re so obsessed that the diet industry has become one of the most lucrative industries to be in. We’ve become so obsessed and yet we’ve become the most obese generation to grace this planet.
As a person who’s never been a petite size (except those high school years when I never ate…but that’s a whole other story) I’ve always been sympathetic when I saw obese people walking slowly and uncomfortably in our Brisbane heat or sitting on a bus, trying to make themselves as small as possible so another can share their seat.
And then, as quick as a click, I’ve turned into one of those obese persons. I’ve become a person who struggles to put my socks on because my stomach is so large it won’t let me past my shins. I’ve become a person who has to shop in the ‘big is beautiful’ section where nothing is beautiful. I’ve become a person who hides what she eats because I’m so worried about being judged by others, and worse, I’m so worried about the judgement I put on myself when I look in a mirror, so I don’t.
You see over the last two years I’ve put on 40 kilograms, officially putting me into the obese category. This is hard to admit to you, mostly, because I’m so ashamed of it.
Over the years I’ve always had many well meaning, but let’s be honest, irritating people tell me what ‘diet’ I should be on and what I should or should not be eating. Depending on how irritable I was that day depended on exactly how irritated I was at receiving this unsolicited advice.
Over the years I’ve been on a raft of diets, often under the supervision of experts such as a nutritionist, a naturopath, a personal trainer via a 12-week challenge and a dietician. Yes, I got results, great results in some instances, but they never lasted. I got frustrated with what was happening with my eating - the hiding of food, the secret consuming of chips and chocolate, the feeling of constant hunger and never knowing where full is - so I did my own research. What did I discover? I had a binge eating disorder.
I remember the day I figured it out. I was in my office after my colleagues had gone home and I had bought myself nine Krispy Kreme donuts and ate them all within a few minutes. The following day extreme guilt kicked in because I was on a really strict supplement diet with my naturopath and had finally lost 10 kilograms. Krispy Kreme donuts were not on the menu, let alone nine of them.
It was at that point that I got on Google (yes, I went to Dr Google) and started looking for overeating information. I came across Eating Disorders Victoria, which had a great fact sheet on binge eating. It was like the angels started singing in chorus to me…I found my problem.
I know, it’s not glamorous and in fact many of you may think it’s down right disgusting. I guess in many ways that’s exactly what I think of me, disgusting.
For me, eating is my way of coping with things. I think eating is the way many of us cope with things. And for the last two years, while I have been struggling to cope with the many problems in my life, one way I’ve dealt with it is through food like it’s a life raft keeping me afloat.
My binges are played out to military precision so no one will know about them and so I have 10 minutes of blissful calm in my head. That’s right, you read correct, calm. For a brief moment during that binge there’s no self-talk, no thinking, no worrying, there’s nothing, there’s silence. In fact I’m almost in a trance state that by the time I finish I can wonder what the hell happened to all the empty packets in front of me.
It’s those minutes of binging that stop the incessant shouting of thoughts in my head, the self-loathing and the indescribable internal pain. So you see, it’s not really about the food. The food is simply a medium to calm the never-ending chatter in my head. The never-ending judgement.
Binge eating has been something I’ve had since a teenager. It’s not going to be cured because I see an advertisement about eating better or because I see Michelle Bridges telling me to join her 12-week challenge; the only person winning from that arrangement will be Michelle Bridges.
I’m working with a psychologist and a metabolic clinic to, very slowly, improve my relationship with food and replacing the act of binging with other activities that I like; like blogging, playing with my dog, walking, and crocheting (I’m such a nana).
I know I need to work on my diet. I know I need to work on my fitness. But I also need to keep working on what’s going on in my head. I don’t need to be a slimmer, trimmer more beautiful me. I just need to be a happier, healthier and kinder me. Isn’t that a better aspiration to have?
Due to the overwhelming response to this article I've decided to log my journey of being kinder to myself via YouTube. I hope my journey helps you lead a kinder life for yourself as well.