Tag Archives: eating disorder

Session Notes : Fed Up

24 Apr

First off, my apologies for neglecting this blog.

I (Soo), have been swept up by the real world, and what has become a busy coaching practice, and Heather has been jet-setting around the globe as a busy social entrepreneur should.

The issues of weight management, food addiction and all the many other issues which orbit around the subject have, however, never been far from my mind.

I am posting my notes from the last Fed Up (Food Addicts Group Therapy) session, which was held at my offices just short of two weeks ago.

I wanted to post these notes because there is still a fair amount of confusion as to what Fed Up is all about, as well as questions regarding its philosophy and content.  I hope this inclusion helps to answer some of those questions, but I also wanted to point out the following :

  • The attached notes represent only the framework of what was a very inclusive Group Therapy session.  You are looking at the skeleton.  To get the meat, you would really need to be there*.
  • At each session a different hot topic is raised.  In future I will not be sharing the topics in this way (just posting my pre-session notes) but I will rather bring together the learnings and points of view of all the attendees in an after session blog post.  I think the result will be far more interesting to the reader.

*I realise it is not possible for everyone, particularly the international followers of this blog, to ‘be there’.   I am working on a way round that, perhaps a podcast format for some portions of the session, or transcripts (thinking cap needs time to do its work…)

As usual, email me at talktosoopat@hotmail.com if you do not want your comments on the record.

FED UP, SESSION NOTES : APRIL 12TH 2011

WELCOME (Soo)

WHAT IS FED UP NOT?

A slimming club

A pity party

A one man show

FED UP IS :

A safe space

A place without judgement

A place to vent

A place to be real

A place and time to take ownership and responsibility for your life, your communication and your actions

THE FED UP MANIFESTO :

Fed Up is a confidential on-going support system for women struggling with issues related to food addiction and self esteem.  The Fed Up Sessions have a group therapy structure, and offer encouragement and therapeutic advice in your journey to self-awareness, victory over your addiction and the issues which underlie it.  You will NOT be weighed, you will NOT be measured.  You will not be asked to leave the group if you do not lose weight.  You will never be shamed, over praised or treated like a child.  You WILL be heard, understood, and given an opportunity to vent, facilitated by a kind a gentle process.

There are a few rules here, and they are designed to protect and empower us all

  • Never comment on a group member’s weight, whether it be a gain or a loss, unless the information is freely offered, and your opinion is sought.   We do not measure each other’s worth based on kilograms in this space, and this is not a competition.   Please know that I will stop you, if I see you doing this at any time. Feel free however to crow about your achievements, or vent your frustrations during the sharing portion of the session.
  • Do not use these sessions to evangelize about the latest weight loss fad, or to sell anything to anyone.  If the details of a diet or plan are specifically requested, rather offer an email, or a private phone conversation at a later time. I do not want participants of this group feeling they have been tricked into an Amway or direct sales presentation.  Please know that I will stop you, if I see you doing this at any time.
  • Be aware of the time you take up, in proportion to the other ladies in the group.  It is my responsibility as facilitator of these sessions to ensure they do not become focused on, or dominated by, one person and I will take measures to ensure this, if this ever becomes necessary.  If you need more of my time, approach me afterwards to arrange a one on one session.

INTRODUCTION & VENTING (All)

Each person introduces themselves, speaks briefly of their history with regard to food, and vents something, if necessary.  They can choose to end by reading the fed up affirmation.  Two minutes per person. (These confessional moments will never be shared in a blog.  They are private.  What happens in Fed Up, stays in Fed Up).

“I am FED UP with a world which measures my worth in kilograms.  I am FED UP by the ways in which I have reacted to these measures and judgements in the past.  I am FED UP! Today, I am moving forward, taking charge, and claiming my right to life, love and happiness.  Right NOW”

THE HOT TOPIC (tabled & facilitated by Soo, and discussed by all)

(Please note these are my rough pre-session notes.  I welcome any questions or queries on this topic, which was discussed in depth by the group during the session.)

“I don’t trust my body”

“when I eat too much, food makes me feel polluted and stuffed”

(these things were said by an anorexic, who weighs 73 pounds)

This woman is deliberately attempting to get as fat as she can. Empathy, Disgust or Pity?

What I really want to achieve tonight is a possible re-frame on some of these issues.  When food is the weapon are we really so different, in the ways we harm ourselves? Do we have double standards?  Do we have less sympathy, or more sympathy for different kinds of eating disorders?  Do we feel ok about ripping off a skinny person, in the way we would never consider doing to a fat person?  Or perhaps vice versa?  Do we admire the extremely skinny on a level, even anorexics, while we are disgusted by the obese? Aren’t they both killing themselves?

Anorexics can be mean and controlling to get what they want.  They lie about what they have eaten.  This is well documented.  Can fat people also be mean and controlling to get what they want?  Do they also lie about what they have eaten?  Does an anorexic person seem meaner to you?  Does a fat person seem sadder?  Does one have more of a reason or excuse to lie, than the other, in your mind?

Anorexic documentary : family describes when she ‘gets ugly’ she is ‘like a monster’.  How would it feel to be described this way, based on your weight?  Have you been described in this way, based on your weight?

This woman has deliberately attempted to get as thin as she can. Empathy, Disgust or Pity?

Anorexics have interventions and are told ‘you are killing yourself!” or are taken on Dr Phil, or sent off to treatment centres, where they are forced to eat the ‘right’ amount… but this is not done for the obese.  Why the double standard.  Who is getting short-changed?  Are the problems of the obese not taken seriously?  Does Anorexia get more ‘sympathy’?  Does it get less?

Anorexics often seek to dictate the terms of their treatment, or want to quit.  Do the obese do the same?  Are you able to relinquish control (and should you), even if this control is related to wanting to be left completely alone to self abuse, or insisting on following a crazy diet of your choosing, rather than following the advice and help of others? (Dr Phil to anorexic ‘You don’t get to be calling the terms of your treatment’.  ‘You are not equipped to deal with how this should be handled’)

Anorexics insist on exercising, or do it secretly.  The obese refuse to exercise, feel persecuted about being forced to exercise, and don’t stick to exercise programs and resent them.

Anorexics eat secretly for fear of being judged.  The obese eat secretly for fear of being judged.

Others say to anorexics “you don’t have to do this, stop right now.  Why are you being so selfish?”.  Does that seem reasonable.  How would you feel, if the same thing was said to you, as an obese or overweight person?

Anorexics are asked to stand in their underwear and to lift their shirts and show their bony ribs, and these clips are shown on national television, to show ‘the extent of their disease’ and how it has ‘ravaged her body’.  How do you feel about this?  How would you feel if you saw a clip of an obese person, who was asked to lift their shirt and show their fat rolls, or to stand in skimpy underwear to show the world ‘the extent of the disease which has ravaged her body’.  Are you more sympathetic to one, over the other, in terms of this humiliation?  Are you more sympathetic to one over the other, in terms of their disease?

Not Enabling Means :  Your disorder is not allowed in the house, in the same way as an abusive boyfriend.  No special accommodations are made (such as : ‘this is my food’, ‘this is my mustard’, ‘no one must watch me eat’, ‘no one is allowed to comment when I go off the rails’)

Anorexic’s say “I feel as though I am trapped in this body, while others are having fun and having a life”.  Do the obese say the same thing? (Particularly regarding hobbies and interests).

TONIGHT’S POWER TOOL (explained by Soo, and then workshopped by the group)

Do you know how to take a compliment?  Really take it and integrate it?  Do you know how to deliver a compliment?

Would you like to have a tool which allows you to take a compliment at face value, and to feel bolstered by it, no matter what it is?

Receiving a compliment :

Example :

“You really look fantastic.  Something is different.  What is it?”

Steps :

  • Internalise – do you believe it? Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Take it in equal measure (the example of the tot glass vs the pint glass – they are offering you a pint glass worth, but your current self esteem results in you receiving it in a tot glass)
  • Smile.  Don’t grimace or squirm!
  • Respond and pay it forward.  The practice of giving genuine compliments must be rewarded!  Be sincere.  Dig deep.

“Thank You.  I feel good.  Life is good.  I really appreciate how you have picked up on my improved attitude.  I respect and admire how in tune you are with people”.

THE PROCESS FOR GIVING A COMPLIMENT IS THE SAME!  Make sure you are not :

Giving a back handed compliment and that you don’t have any urge to ‘put them in their place’.  Even seemingly perfect people need compliments.  It is meaningful compliments they would prefer, ones which do not relate to their looks.

CLOSING COMPLIMENTS

compliments : I'll take em!

Each person gives a compliment to the person next to them.  It is not allowed to be based on their size. (post- meeting note :  This was an experiment and it ROCKED.  It may sound silly or superficial, but it was actually wonderfully moving and affirming, as we were all sincere and digging deep.  It ended the session on a high note)

Meeting closes.

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Confessions of One who has NEVER binged…

1 Jul

Written by Suzanne mid 2008

(Note from Suzanne : I am posting something I wrote a couple of years ago.  I find this quite difficult to read, as  I don’t even recognise myself.  I had just started an “episode” and I wrote this to justify to a boyfriend why I was eating a single boiled egg a day.  I am two different people.  I am one type of person when I am in the grips of an “episode”.. and another the rest of the time.  I admit that an “episode” is never far away, and that the most random thing can set it off… that pic… below for example – the back roll pic.  UGGGH.  It makes me want to vomit that after a mere few months of not paying attention, I am a pork roll again.  I worry why I am embarrassed to post this, because I weigh 59 kilograms / 130 pounds, RIGHT NOW.  I feel like a fraud, are the eating disordered ever allowed to be chubby?  Is healing about achieving chubbiness?  Is that the Holy Grail?  Should I love my current pudge?  I don’t.)

I think the statement is "I am not weak.. like you"

I like everything about food, which may surprise you. I like the way it looks, smells and tastes. I like to cook, touch and be near it. Liking food was never the problem. Liking food in fact, was always the problem.

I don’t like to talk about anorexia. I don’t like to say the word out loud or even write it. Up until a year ago, despite the dark days gone by I have never referred to myself as such. It seems an overly dramatic term. I have never been hospitalised after all.. have never been fed by a pipe because of it.  I have never been anywhere near thin enough.  I have never had anyone gasp at my weight as I passed by.  I have never truly proved myself worthy.

I do however like to think about anorexia. I like to think about it a lot. I also like to read about, to watch movies on it, and to look at pictures of girls affected by it. I used to be a member of an ana website (yes, there is a supportive sisterhood) but because of the difficulty I have to admit to myself and others that I am anorexic (I prefer the expression “I have food issues”), I entered the site as an observer. I pretended.. absurdly enough.. to be a bulimic, so as to not attract too much attention to myself while deciding if they were worthy.. or a bunch of fakers. There are plenty fake anas about.. if a chubby girl tells you she is ana.. she needs a kick in the chops.. you don’t do this half way. I have no time for pretenders. As it turned out, I was really amongst some stellar examples on the site, but that is not why I didn’t stay.

In the caste system of eating disorders, bulimics are those chubby girls that wish they could be anorexic, but don’t have the willpower, those with a true understanding of the lifestyle consider them to be the girls that learn to crawl, but don’t keep the sport up long enough to learn to run. The anas on the sight didn’t recognise me as one of their own, so I never really fitted in there, and didn’t last for long.

Bingeing might be part of the recipe for some, bulimics in particular, but it has never been part of the recipe for me. I would never do something that disgustingly ill disciplined as gorging myself for hours. The idea is completely revolting to me. Throwing up is also so obvious.. it’s looking for attention, and that’s the last thing I want. I have thrown up a couple of times to try it, but its far too theatrical for me, and for the most part unnecessary. If I don’t want something in my stomach, I wont put it in there in the first place. I control food. Food does not control me. I do not have a problem stopping my hand full of food reaching my mouth. I do not need to bolt the refrigerator with a padlock. I just don’t eat it. I just stop. I don’t have to, and I wont. Load the table with whatever you like. Bring it on (in fact, I will enjoy resisting it). I do not need to touch a single morsel.

diet coke? You can live off that. The rest? A choice.

In the past, on one of the occasions where I had been trying to lose weight (hang on.. trying is the wrong term.. as I always succeed), and had decided to allow myself one meal a day at the company canteen. On my way, walking with a group of girls – one of the chubby ones.. the type that is always trying to fatten up everyone else… says “Oh Soo… I see you are coming to lunch.. I thought you were on a diet?” (she smiles smugly…delighting that I am weak like her). I stop walking… right there… turn around and head back to my office saying over my shoulder “You are right. I have suddenly lost my appetite. You girls go ahead. I don’t need lunch”. And I don’t need it. I really, really don’t.

The same applies if I am at a restaurant and decide to order a dessert. It arrives and I am pleased with it.. and pick up my spoon and take the first mouthful. My dinner guest says to me “Oooh.. you are attacking that with gusto! you must have REALLY been looking forward to that!” It instantly turns to shit in my mouth and I won’t even be able to swallow that mouthful. I push it away immediately.

Maybe my dinner companion understands the urge to shove a dessert down her throat like a pig at a trough.. maybe she is one of those that likes chocolate more than sex, perhaps that’s why she feels the need to make that comment. In my mind.. she is probably just gloating at a sign of weakness from me (see above). I am not. I do not need it… and it is not about proving it to her. It’s about proving it to myself.

honey, are you going to eat that?

I hate the way people comment when I have lost weight. “Oh.. you are looking great!” etc.. etc.. It bothers me because they didn’t say a word the week before, which in my mind reads as “Aww shit you look fat today, I better keep quiet about it”. Either you say something every time.. or say nothing all the time. I would prefer the latter.

Do not confuse this with not wanting to be looked at, or not wanting to matter. I want to be looked at very badly, I always have. People do look at me, and for the most part, they like what they see. It would be great if I was pretty enough that my body didn’t need to factor in, but my body has always factored in, and people who have known me for years expect me to look thin.. and many of the nastier ones would just love me to get fat.

This creates a certain amount of pressure.

Christmas would come early for those girls if I arrived at a party looking fatter than them. It’s NEVER going to happen. Being thin is the only high ground I have ever had, and yes I validate myself on it to a large degree. If I wasn’t thin.. what would I have? Heather is the pretty one, Suzanne is the thin one, that’s how it has always been. It’s carved in stone and bolted away in some deep place that can’t even be reached.

If people don’t like me thin, I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know how to process it. So thin isn’t pretty to you? Where does that leave me? What must I do with that? It’s pretty to most other people.. I know this.. because they all tell me they envy me all the bloody time. If it’s not pretty, then that leaves me nowhere to turn.

thin = pretty. fat = ugly. Let's not monkey around.

I make a very revolting chubby girl. I have been a chubby girl.. I was a size 12 for about 5 minutes back when I was married when I thought I was happy. I look back on the pictures and it isn’t pretty. I look like Jabba the Hut and worse than that.. I was very.. very ordinary. My bone structure is very fine. I cannot get away with even being a generous size ten. It does not suit me. My face goes all round and I don’t have enough hair to balance my face. My head looks like a piece of dough someone has shoved on a stick. I also get a belly, because I don’t have much of a waist to start with.

Years ago I really applied my obsession aggressively. Before I entered the MNET Miss Bikini Comp I was on a milkshake diet for a month (I didn’t eat the evening meal though.. it seemed quicker to have the milkshakes and nothing else), and took a triple dose of laxatives before the finals in Plettenberg Bay to get my stomach really flat. I came third. Praise and affirmation for a job well done? Of course.

The girl who won  was thinner than me.

At my worst, I was using every method available to me and it was at a time in my life when my system was developing. I have messed myself up a bit, and I still need a proper diagnosis as to exactly what that means for me. It appears to mean no children.. but after the initial discussion with my doctor and her questions getting a little close to the truth, I never went to the specialist she recommended.

I chose to leave it.

That was 4 years ago, 3 and a half of which I was with my ex without using contraception (he has 2 kids already). I leave it because I feel that I have earned that condition, and that’s the price I am going to have to pay for all of this. I don’t expect anyone to understand, and I deliberately seek out men that don’t have baby ambitions so that the issue is not a deal breaker down the line. I would have liked to have had children and I mourn the loss of the choice, but moping and whingeing about it isn’t going to get me anywhere. I would also have liked to have competed in the olympics and I never did. boo hoo.

I refuse to consider my life to be “incomplete” just because I find myself in this position. Exercise helps me normalise, but then my obsessive focus gets directed there. During my modeling years I spent many months going to gym twice a day for three or four hours at a time. During those times, I could eat what I wanted, as I burnt it off immediately. When I climbed Killi I lost 6 kilograms / 13 pounds in 7 days, even though we were eating fried bread and tons of food three times a day. I like the high I get from exercise, the more extreme the better.. and I like the fact that no one judges you for going overboard in pursuit of a perfect body.

On that note.. no one needs to tell me that my body is not perfect and think that I need to hear that and get over myself. I have never ever ever thought that.. not even for a millisecond. The list of things I hate about my body could fill a few pages. I have been eating relatively normally for years. I will not pretend that my viewpoint of food has ever been normal.. but I have been fitting in nicely around regular folks for quite a while now.

I have had a bit of a flare up recently since starting the book, because I have been forced fed at the hotels and James freaked me out more by making an issue of it and calling me “Karen Carpenter”. Anything that draws attention to it makes it worse. What is my current status? well I think I am see-sawing somewhere in the middle. I would like this to not become the thing that defines me in the eyes of people who have just met me. I do not want to be pitied or looked down on. I want to treat it like its nothing.. and allow it to be nothing.

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Confessions of a Binge Eater

1 Jul

Written by Heather in early 2008

I know it’s going to be a bad day the moment I wake up and the first thought that drops resolutely into my mind is:  “I want food.  And I want it now”.  It’s then that I know, without question, that the day ahead is going to involve an intense inner struggle – and that the food will, inevitably win.

Reluctantly, I part with my warm duvet and slouch off to the bathroom for the mandatory ablutions.  I avoid the mirror, keeping my eyes downcast so that I won’t catch a glimpse of my repugnant reflection.  Even when I brush my teeth and hair, I don’t look myself in the eye.  I have developed a unique skill of creating optical illusions, fuzzy blurs of everything ugly that I don’t want to look at… and I don’t want to look at that sad, obese woman in her faded granny nightie from the fat-lady store.  I feel as though I’ve betrayed her.  She had so many special dreams, and I let her down.  I’m sure that if I look at her, I’ll be infected by her sadness.  So I pretend she’s not there and get on with business.

I’m on another one-size-fits-all diet.  As always, it’s bland, restrictive and it promises rapid, miracle weight loss.  I can’t seem to get my mind around the idea of gradual weight-loss or of ‘healthy lifestyle changes’.  It seems so… half-hearted.  I tell myself that I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person and I remind myself of a childhood mantra, taught to me by my super-achiever relatives:  “If you won’t do it properly then don’t do it at all!”.

For me, weight-loss done “properly” is all about restriction and rules.  Three carefully measured and weighed portions of legal food with two small snacks slotted reluctantly in-between.   It’s about forcing down grapefruit halves, tuna-in-water, celery and fish, all the foods I abhor, at special, allotted times during the day.  No food after 7pm.  Eight compulsory glasses of water.  No coffee.  No sugar.  No refined carbs.  No dessert.  Nothing fatty or fried.

Unsurprisingly, I become a different person when on diet.  Stress levels peak and every spare moment is spent obsessing over food;  ‘What does the diet say I must eat for lunch today?  Do I have enough Provitas?  Did I forget to buy tuna?  Oh God – what am I going to do?  How can I eat my proper diet lunch without tuna or Provitas?  I’m going to fail!’. I become a social hermit and turn down invitations from friends.  I avoid restaurants and coffee shops – terrified that I’ll be overcome by the lure of food and that I’ll cheat.

Impressively though, I went to bed last night having completed three perfect diet days.  I hadn’t cheated.  Not once.  Hadn’t even swallowed an extra segment of naartjie or sipped a non-diet Coke.  I went to bed last night, smug at my success… and then woke up this morning thinking only of food.

I had hoped that my scheduled diet breakfast (half a grapefruit with sweetener and a slice of low GI toast thinly spread with lite margarine) might put a dent in the ferocity of the food cravings – but I should have known better.  Grapefruit can never cure a chocolate craving.  I sip my de-caff coffee (with fat-free milk and 3 Candarel’s) and desperately try to think of something… anything… other than food.  But it doesn’t work.  I dream desperately of Wimpy cheese burgers and KFC fivers.  I imagine the taste of Spar sausage rolls, packets of Flings, slabs of mint Aero, lemon meringue pie and donut holes from Woolies.  There’s a Woolies Food Store and a Spar Supermarket just a few steps from my home.  I live that close to abundant food!  I dream of Nutella and chicken nuggets… and I berate myself sternly for dreaming.  But the thoughts of delicious food stick stubbornly in my mind like a piece of ageing biltong between the lateral incisors.

Indeed...

I turn up the radio to drown out the noise in my head and force myself to focus on my job.  I work from home as a graphic designer.  I don’t quite know how I ended up with four employees and demanding hoteliers as clients.  This was never my dream.  I was always creative – but it was never my dream to run my own graphic design business.  Why am I even here?  Why am I doing this?  It’s certainly not fulfilling.  Creativity has bowed the knee to marketing formulas that work:  boring, predictable designs that make my clients happy.  It feels as though I’ve been whisked along by the cruel tidal wave of life and dumped unceremoniously on a shore I had never intended on visiting.

Lunch time arrives.  I need to fetch my daughter from school soon.  My mind turns, again, to thoughts of food.  I start dreaming of Ghost Pops and guava rolls.  I can’t eject the food thoughts from my brain – no matter what I do.  Resignation begins to set in.  I know that I’m about to binge – I just know it.  I make excuses, I argue with myself.  I tell myself not to be such a weak, pathetic excuse for a human being.  And then right there, right then, in the space of a millisecond, I give up.  I decide to visit the supermarket on my way to Morgan’s school.  I tell myself that I will start the diet again, next week, on Monday, when my mind is in a healthier place.

The urgency to eat is overwhelming. I speed to the supermarket and snatch two sausage rolls, a full-size bag of Flings, a mint aero and half a litre of non-diet Coke.  I also grab a magazine.  For some reason, when I binge, I need to simultaneously read or watch the TV.  I can’t allow myself to be completely alone with the food.  I need some distraction to take my mind off what I’m doing to myself.  If magazines, books or TV aren’t available – then I’ll read whatever I can find.  Past binges have seen me devouring the fine print on the back of shampoo bottles… whilst simultaneously shovelling salami slices down my gullet.

I’m at the check-out counter.  With hands trembling, I pay for the food.  The cashier is taking too long.  I want to eat, and I want to eat now! My impatience is beginning to show.  I notice that I’m fidgeting and tapping my foot.  I wonder what the cashier thinks of me.  I wonder if the woman in the queue behind me is inspecting my loot… and my backside… with a smug knowing look.  I’m pretty sure everybody understands that the stash is destined for me alone.  After all – I’m a fatty with food.  It’s painfully obvious that a binge is about to commence.  Is that revulsion I see in their eyes?  Or is it pity?  Oh dear God… are people laughing at me?  Are they staring?  Can they see my shame?  Is it scrawled across my forehead or, more aptly, across my arse?

An eternity later, the cashier hands me my bag of treasure and I speed walk to the car.  I lock myself in, turn on the air-con and un-wrap the food.  I quickly check that there’s nobody sitting in the cars parked next to, or in front of mine.  I would hate for any other human being to witness my gluttony.  I’m a secret binge-eater.  I never binge in front of others.

The first sausage roll is gone in a number of seconds, followed shortly by the second.  Oily crumbs spill in abundance on to my lap and in to my cleavage.  I don’t care.  I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and start in to the Flings.  I flick through the pages of my magazine between mouthfulls.  I read about Britney’s custody battles and Brangelina’s brood.  I admire the perfect bodies of the celebrities and the supermodels… the seemingly perfect people with seemingly perfect lives.  Crumbs spill on to the magazine pages.  I ignore them.  I try not to dwell too on how much I’ve let myself go… how much I’ve failed… how disgusting I am.

Half-way through the bag of Flings, I start feeling decidedly ill – but it doesn’t deter me from my mission.  I continue to stuff chip after chip into my mouth.  The yellow gunge sticks between my teeth and lodges underneath my finger nails.  Flecks of Fling crumbs float down on to my lap to join the remnants of the sausage roll pastry.  I ignore them – and finish the bag.  I swig some Coke to wash the lot down.  And then I start on the chocolate.  By this time, my stomach is uncomfortably straining against my jeans.  I un-button, un-zip and continue unabated.  I’m on a binge-mission and nothing can stop me.  The world could explode around my car and I would carry on eating. The chocolate is melting.  I lick my fingers, lick the chocolate packet and lick my lips.  I’m feeling ill.  I want to vomit.  I wish I would vomit – but I know that I won’t.  I never mastered ‘The Purge’ and, for a long time, I envied bulimics who could binge-eat… and yet remain thin, their ugly secret kept hidden from the world.  My ugly secret is marketed for all to see.   My bulk betrays my binge-eating.  It’s impossible to hide.

Twenty minutes later, and it’s over.  I’m left with empty packets, a lot of crumbs, a silly gossip magazine and a mountain of guilt.  The guilt weighs on my shoulders like an iron mantle.  I feel suffocated by it.

I fetch my daughter from school (after dusting off my clothes and pretending to be fine).  The empty food packets are disposed of, I’d be so ashamed if my husband discovered them.  Back in the office, I continue with my routine.  I phone clients, design brochures and argue with printers.  I feel like the ugliest, weakest, most useless individual on the planet.  My self-disgust is palpable.  I can taste it in my mouth – and it’s bitter.

In the evening, Nick asks how my diet went.  I lie.  I tell him “fine, thanks” – although the nonchalant way in which I dismiss the topic raises questions in his eyes.  He decides not to press the matter further.  I love him for that.

Come supper time, my scheduled diet meal of grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables is abandoned in favour of spaghetti bolognaise.  I make a mean pasta and I go back for second, and thirds, with extra cheese.  When Nick is out of the room, I open a wrapped birthday present, designated for a friend, and eat the chocolates within, promising myself to replenish the supply later.

Midnight.  I lie awake, on my back, in bed.  My body feels ill and uncomfortable.  Beads of sweat break out on my forehead on this hot, hot night.  My breathing is laboured and my own snoring wakes me up every time I begin to drift off into dreamland.  My hands hover upwards and trace lightly over the rolls of excess fat on my stomach.  My hipbones have long since disappeared under a blanket of blubber.    My poor, poor abused, hated body.  Hasn’t it suffered enough?

“I’ll start again tomorrow”, I tell myself.  “I’ll start a new diet tomorrow and this time, I’ll succeed!”.

(Shortened version of this article was published in the Marie Claire magazine)

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