I’ve been thinking about joining the gym to help me put on weight recently.
For a few reasons, I was petrified of developing an eating disorder when I was younger. So petrified in fact, I read books on girls with eating disorders to learn the symptoms/dysfunctional thoughts to avoid and I avoided magazines because they all seemed to promote the slimmer body and I didn’t want that.
I was born small. Mum always says I had chicken legs – have you seen a chicken? I was notably tiny! My sister and I were little as twins usually are.
Growing up, those already grown would comment, ‘Look how skinny you are!’. It was my defining feature. I was skinny = I received attention. And even at eight/nine years old, I remember wondering if people would notice me if I wasn’t skinny. Would people say hello to me if I put on weight?
(My twin was always told she was cute. She was small/normal sized but she could work the charm from a young age! I am too brash to work charm. ha)
Of course, adolescence was a right punch in normalising body weight. Add depression (Endless Sadness) to that where the only thing I thought could make me happy was food, and I was doing ok, at least when size 10 was concerned. Post-depression, I had a break-up that quietened the ticking of my body clock to inform me it was meal-time. Weight shed. My hips were more exposed than they had ever been and somehow hit everything hard; my ribcage was left un-protected too. Still now, my arms are defined to give the illusion that I exercise, but I haven’t lifted a weight for four years; there’s just little healthy fat to cover the muscle and bone.
Still now, I find eating and food boring. As soon as I’m not starving, I’m disinterested, distracted. I eat to live, and I’ve eaten, so can I live now?
Luckily, due to my fear of developing an eating disorder, I force myself to eat. I know that’s not the way eating disorders work, that they work by getting into your head, not your body, first but still, the underlying fear is enough. It’s a tough gig not enjoying food. I see foodies all the time who drool at the thought of their next meal and I wish I could eat with their enthusiasm. Or wish they could eat for me – I’ll take all the calories and then some, thanks.
Realistically, I was never going to develop an eating disorder. No, really. I am not a perfectionist. I lack self-control: I do what I want, when I want and indulge in weakness and convenience and comfort. I only work hard when I’m challenged and in the deep end (I love the deep end though).
I admire the qualities of people who develop an eating disorder just like I admire the qualities of a person predisposed to developing depression – introspective, analytical, deep. The problem with mental ill-health is generally, the qualities abused to develop/be attacked by mental ill-health are the same qualities admired. There’s just a point in mental health where someone crosses the threshold from ‘functional’ thought to ‘dysfunctional’ thought, as easily as days cross from Monday to Tuesday; it’s just an extension of what’s normal on Monday.
It’s ironic now, when I think about it. I could put on weight if I was really pedantic about eating every meal and snacks and exercise. But that would take the self-control and perfectionist attitude I don’t have to achieve a challenge I’m only interested in thinking about and not doing.
I don’t actually think I have an eating disorder – I don’t think of myself as highly as I do the friends I know who’ve suffered its curse. I actually just think it’s bizarre that people love food so much.