Trigger warning for discussion of a dieting past and for some discussion of eating disorders
I read this old post from the Shapely Prose Archive on demand eating, and the comments have given me some insight into my own experience over the past 6 months. I think a little background on my eating history is in order. It’s probably a familiar story to many of you:
I never had any negative feelings towards my body until I was about 8, when my doctor told my parents that I was possibly in danger of becoming overweight (read: a normal kid who weighed more than a lot of other kids her age because she was taller than them and was not a picky eater), and my parents, being perfectionists, decided to start controlling my food intake. This time in my life, however, was probably the beginning of puberty for me, so I imagine that the extreme food cravings I felt during the next few years were actually signs of undernourishment. I reached my adult height of 5′-6″ at age 11. But from the age of 8, I thought I was abnormally large, and I was ridiculously self-conscious. A side effect of this feeling was that I quit gymnastics, thinking I was too big to do it anymore. I told my parents I just didn’t want to do it anymore, because it felt shameful to admit to being ashamed of my size. I repeatedly denied that I was uncomfortable with my supposedly too-large size, but my mother would tell me that she could tell I was uncomfortable (like that my being uncomfortable was proof that I knew she was right and that I should be compliant in my family’s efforts to shrink me). Over the next 12 years, the highest I ever weighed was around 155 lbs, a number that is just on the cusp of “normal/overweight” on the not-trustworthy-anyway bmi charts, yet I still had family members controlling my eating and bribing me to lose weight. It’s kind of overwhelming to summarize this experience here, because it seems so clearly wrong now, and at the time it felt like there was a right course of action, and it was restriction and exercise and weight loss. That’s not to say I was always a willing dieter–I was certainly rebellious, and would have bouts of “I don’t care” and bingeing, but I always felt deep-down that my parents were right. I wanted to develop an eating disorder, because I felt that If I did that, it would show my parents that they’d gone too far. But since I didn’t (think) I had an eating disorder, I couldn’t totally condemn my parents’ actions. Looking back, I definitely had disordered eating, I flirted with bulimia, and I possibly had full-blown binge eating disorder.
Over the past 8 years, my weight has fluctuated several times, with periods where I would secretly yet actively lose weight (quite successfully), and other periods where I would rebel against my own plans and would gain weight (always more than my previous highest weight). I have never had a time in my life where I was around a certain weight range for very long. It’s embarrassing, because it means that my disordered habits are out there, supposedly my secret but actually visible to anyone who knows me for an extended period of time.
So that’s my background in as much of a nutshell as I could muster up. In this half-year-long period of “rebounding” from disordered thinking around food, I have gained weight. I have not had the immediate feeling of “Oh, I can eat whatever I want, so actually all I want is a salad” that a lot of the commenters on the Shapely Prose entry had. Some of them, thankfully, discuss struggling with this, even for several years. In my head, it still seems conceivably that I could continue to slowly gain weight for the rest of my life if I’m not dieting. I’ve never known not-dieting to go any other way, so it seems like a possibility, and whether or not it is, I have to come to terms with it, since dieting again is not an option (both because I’m not willing or able to devote the time to it that it would require to potentially work–see here if you can handle the voice of a size-acceptance supporting weight-maintainer–and because it would be counter to my stance that I am ok just as I am now). I’d love it if my body would hit a size and just stay at it, whatever the size (assuming it didn’t affect my mobility), but if my body is just not going to take that route, I will deal with it. I am not really one for routines, and I’ve had a big range of physical activity levels over the course of my life, so maybe I am just not a stable-body-sizer (yes I made up that term). Whatever my body does, I am not going to obsess over or restrict food. But, it’s also still too early in my release of control to determine that my body won’t find a size at which it likes to exist. All I can do is live my life and try to observe what happens with my body with curiosity and acceptance instead of judgment.