Saturday, October 27, 2007

Food for Thought

This was sent to Aunt Babz via email...

Dear Aunt Babz,

I was wondering if you could possibly help me? im not sure if you deal with things like this.
i am 18 years old. im a dress size UK 16 and wiegh around 12-13stone.
i think i have an eating disorder and i think it started when my parents broke up when i was 4!
when my parents split up i lived with my mum and ate whatever i liked..crisps, biscuits, chips..all bad things but when i stayed with my dad he sat me at the table and forced me to eat vegatable , fruit ect.. he would sit me they untill i swallowed it. i would cry and throw up everytime.
now as you problery guessed my problem is i CANT eat fruit, veg, fish ect.. and its embarresing that people think im stupid and a fussy eater, people try to take me out to dinner and they order just normal food and i have to order off a kiddies menu!
its eefecting my health, wieght, and my whole life and im so desperate for help! no body understands, apart from my mum who does nothing at all to help and my boyfriend who is very understanding but doesnt help me either.
im not doing this to loose weight or anything like that although i should loose abit of weight as im slightly overweight, but i want to be normal and just plain happy with myself and my life. please please help me in anyway that you can. i dont really know how you reply but it would be grately gratley appreciated if you would reply via email.
thank you Ashley

Dear Ashley,

I was going to go into the semantics of size vs confidence, and what you could do (once I converted the stones to pounds so that I could better understand your situation)… but instead, after writing a page and a half reply, I looked over the initial reply and decided to answer you a different way. Why, you might ask, would I go through a reply and then admittedly tell you that I went another way with it… but the answer is this: weight is actually not the issue here. It is a symptom of something more, and something that I do truly understand.

The issue at hand is purely emotional and evolved into a resentment and dislike of certain foods due to traumatic experiences in your life. Let me explain my own situation before I will get into what I think will help you.

See, my parents split up when I was rather young (I think I was eight) and I had pretty much the same thing with food and parental choice as you, except that I was living with my mother and eating primarily healthy foods.. and when my father would have visitation I got to have the chance to have ‘fun’ things like taco’s and chips and pizza. My mother would do the same thing essentially as your father did. You did not move from that kitchen table until you were in front of a clear plate. Of course, in my situation, my mother was very broke financially speaking and what ever she put out in front of my brother and I was not to be taken lightly. It was her breaking her back to provide for us… so if we didn’t eat what was there for supper, guess what was there for breakfast the next morning? You got it, the previous nights dinner. And on and on this cycle went, where I was forced to eat foods that I deemed a punishment (which were in reality the best thing that my mom could have provided) and given free reign at my fathers with junk. Naturally, I preferred the free reign and yummy badness of salt and sugar and fat.

Now, I am 31. And to this day I cannot eat certain things.. like cantaloupe, cauliflower and most fish. I hate them, and will not eat them, and avoid getting into social functions where I may be forced to eat these things out of respect.

But, I did realize that I was avoiding foods that were good for me because of the emotional attachment I had to these foods. Sometimes it was very hard to eat things like blueberries when I had been forced to eat these things as a luxury item that I should be thankful for and made to eat. Instead of something that most people associate with a fun picnic and a treat. To me, it was torture. And I knew that I had to fix this problem before I got far to set in my ways (as most of us tend to do).

When I was 19, I decided that I would try absolutely everything over again. I was not living at home, and I knew that foods would taste differently prepared different ways. So that was what I did. I started out small, and with the really essential “good foods” that I couldn’t stand. Broccoli, peas, carrots, corn, strawberries, salads, all the good stuff. And I found that if prepared certain ways, I absolutely loved them, and it wasn’t attached to some bad memory from when I was a kid, it was a fresh new experience because I hadn’t had that item made that way before. For an example, my mother would always boil broccoli and put a cheese sauce on it (low fat sauce which was really yucky and still Is I might add!). So I tried the broccoli that was steamed and with Soya Sauce on it. It was great! And I had no idea. Then I tried it with asparagus and a white wine sauce.. I found out that I truly disliked the asparagus, but to my delight I still loved the broccoli and I was out with a few friends and there was no pressure. I was buying my food and I could choose to discard it if I didn’t like it.

So I went on with that motive on food for YEARS. I am still in the process of trying not to like the junk food, something that is very hard to break, but I now know that if given my own time, my own decision and making no stigmas towards the food I am about to try.. that I will much more prepared to actually give it a fair shot. And to be fair, there were things that I really disliked (such as cantaloupe.. that stuff is foul) but I know that it is ME making the choice based on my taste and not an emotional side effect.

I will also tell you that I had absolutely no support on this, it was just me. Other people thought that I was nuts (like who doesn’t like steak but a vegetarian right??) but I decided that I needed to enjoy what food there was out there, and not be restricted anymore because of something that I could defiantly control.

I really do dislike the word “eating disorder” because I find that more often then not, the disorder is not actually food. It is the emotional and psychological stigma and attachment or abandonment that we have either decided on or had imposed on us which makes the disorder. We eat to be happy, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are in need of energy, we don’t eat when we are grieving… there are so many reasons that we eat, and not a single one of those is something to make light of. But for me, the bottom line is that the WAY we choose to eat is a direct coalition of things that happen in our lives. And the only one who can change that, is you.

So, here is my advice.

You are 18. you have a long life to live, and you are right at the point where you are deciding what is best for you and this is a great sign. Do not think that this is some small thing, this realization that something has got to change. This is a great tool that your body has designed to help you grow into a positive and engaging woman.

You are right that this nature of eating will destroy your health, your weight and your life. And you are absolutely normal in the reasons that you dislike the foods you had mentioned. But now, you know, you need to change those habits into something that is controlled by you and is beneficial by you.

You can do two things to change here. You can do what I did and try new things out all the time. Something small and with something you like. For an example, get your chicken nuggets kids meal.. but skip the fries. You know that if you were to eat a plain apple you would gag, so try something else, like yogurt with granola in it. Something like that. Mix your foods up so that you are eating something you truly enjoy with something unknown. When was the last time that you ate a dragon fruit? Try that, and see if you like it. If you don’t, well don’t beat your self up about it.. just try something else at another time.

The other thing you can do, is to seek help from a dietitian or a health expert, like the people at weight watchers. They can not only include the foods that you like to eat in your normal routine, they can also tell you what a good range for eating is, and how much to consume at one sitting. That way you won’t feel deprived of the things that you really do enjoy eating.

It all comes down to what you want for your life. So you want to feel imprisoned and powerless for the rest of your life over something you can control? Or do you want to take this situation and make it suit your needs? Only you can answer this, and I have the utmost of belief that you want the later. And I know that you can do this, if you make an honest go of it, and remember that you control it all.

Let us know how you are doing, and what you decide to do. Take care and good luck!


Aunt Babz Said,

I think you only have a problem, if you feel you have a problem. Many of us, have strange quirks, which are the direct result of our childhood rearing and I am no exception, to the rule. I don't drink when I eat and quite often, will continue eating, even when I am full because I was raised that we clean our plate before we can get up. My own list could go on and on. My only suggestion is to try some of those things but do it in a setting that is conducive to your well being, meaning, when you feel safe and in control. It is quite possible, that counseling, would be beneficial. But don't think you're alone, if nothing else, Xmichra and I can be in your Funny Food Eaters Club.

Wishing You the Best,

Aunt Babz

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