This all started, as it always does, with food.
Knowing my talent lies with savoury dishes, lately I’ve been experimenting with more sweet recipes hoping it will improve my hand in baking. I suppose the reason why I don’t do it more often is because baking usually uses a lot of butter, eggs, sugar etc., and I’m conscious of gaining back the weight I lost becoming a vegetarian. I worked really hard to lose those 40 lbs and to regain is a pain, mostly because as a naturally lazy person, I don’t fancy spending two hours at the gym every day.
But there was a time when food was not a source of passion for me, as it is now, but caused a lot of misery and self-hate. Up until five years ago I was an overeater, trying to fill what I thought was an emptiness with food; lots and lots of food. Every meal became a mission to soothe the aches inside, but no matter how much I ate, the hurt was not remedied. The worst part about it was that I gained weight really quickly. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, the image reflected back didn’t seem real, as if the person I knew myself to be was trapped inside unrecognizable flesh walls. The rapid weight gain also became noticeable to my family, who showed concern but didn’t know how to help. My father, who always had difficulty understanding me, sometimes gave me a hard time as a teenager whenever I stuffed my face with cookies, pastries or french fries. Feeling hurt, I would yell at my dad to lay off, to which he usually retorted “I’m just trying to help.”
We’ve all heard our fair share of those “helpful” comments and I can say, unequivocally, they don’t really help. These comments, though seemingly harmless and maybe even well-intentioned, are (I suppose) meant to inject a hot dose of inspiration so that you can throw away the danish and reassess your life. Having spoken to many other overeaters like myself, it’s been my experience that these unhelpful comments actually feed the sense of guilt many overeaters face after eating something unhealthy. For me, it was a weird form of control-uncontrollable thing. I felt like I was in charge of whatever I put inside my body – because at the time it made me feel better – but then it would get out of hand as I kept eating and eating until I felt physically ill.
It didn’t help that I had family members whose unhelpful comments just made me feel less in control, thus turning to food to regain control only to lose it again in a vicious cycle. It would take years until I learned proper eating habits, find people who didn’t make me feel guilty for indulging once in a while and started to love my body from the curves to the heart. But it wasn’t easy. For me it started with confrontation – first with myself, then with those “helpful” people.
When was it ever okay to make someone feel like they were defective, like they were committing a grave error for not looking or behaving or eating like idols put on a cake pedestal? Sounds ridiculously simple, but the way to help someone eat better is not by chastising them, or belittling them into a guilt cycle. Really, when has that ever worked?! Lend an ear because the overeating may be masking deeper-rooted issues.
For people like me who has struggled with their eating habits (and let’s face it we always will), we eventually hit a point of what I call compounding sickness – sick of the constant binge eating, sick of the “helpful” jokes, sick of feeling unattractive, sick of feeling like we are lacking in something. This is the point where we are the most vulnerable but believe me when I say it is also where we have the most options available for change. Acknowledge that as vastly varied people, our problems with food may be personal and unique but once we begin to vocalize it, share it with someone who doesn’t judge you for it and even laugh about it, that’s when we get the courage to take the first step towards a lifelong change. It will be a struggle – I’m not saying that it won’t be – but the road to better self-acceptance is not all rainbows and sunshine.