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A Struggle with Overeating

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.

But seriously, no one deserves to be denied the taste of something sweet and decadent in their lives. Food is something that should be enjoyed. It is the source of so many happy occasions and is often the most memorable part of any experience. It should not be used as weapon to hate on others or hate ourselves.

You can read more from Hanna Rashid on her blog.

Feature image via.

  • Heather Day

    Just a little bit tacky w/ the feature image, HG. That’s not what overeating looks like. It looks like your best friend. Your sister… your mom. It looks like hurt and shame… it has little to do with cramming two kinds of cake at a time into the mouth on your perfectly skinny face. Great article… HORRID image choice.

    • Gina Hermosillo

      I completely agree. The article hooked me at “overeating” since it’s an issue I have a close experience with but the image really turned me off. As Heather said, that’s not what overeating looks like and it completely undermines the author of the article.

  • Amanda Wild

    To me, making fun of someone for their weight is equivalent to making fun of someone for their drug addiction. I’ve used food as an anti-depressent, or something to temporarily numb the pain of whatever hurts mentally and emotionally. Food gives you that temporary feel good feeling, like drugs do. It accesses the pleasure center in the brain, like drugs do. America also doesn’t see a problem with selling cheeseburgers worth 5,000 calories for a few bucks. What an easy and legal drug to buy! It’s difficult to have respect for someone who doesn’t “appear” to have respect for themselves, but a person is so much more than their bad habits, and they have to realize it for themselves before ever making a positive change. Should you be commenting out of concern(to say a family member), the motivation behind your words should reflect that genuine concern for positive change. By making negative comments, rude remarks anything that tears down another person–you’re simply adding to the feelings of worthlessness that fuel the vicious cycle of depression that person has to fight, every single day. Trainers will often use a lot of tough, non sugar coated, constructive criticism (notice I said constructive)to motivate their clients–and here’s the biggest difference: THEY’RE GETTING PAID TO DO IT; they were directly hired, and ASKED to do it because they have the qualifications to do it. So really(with the exception of family/close friends), I don’t think anybody should be saying anything unless they have a license to.

  • Jennifer Edmondson

    Does the image honestly bother you? She could very well be someone’s sister/mother etc. BTW, that is exactly what I look like when I stuff my face with cake.

    True story

    Great article.

    • Ellicia Rosemary Klimek

      It doesn’t bother me persay, however I agree it’s not the appopraite picture. The picture is basically comical, and the author clearly states that jokes about over/binge eating have never helped stop it. It’s ironic, but the reasons over/binge eating occurs actually has nothing to do with eating food, it just happens to be the way some deep issues are expressed.

  • Cat Thomas

    Sometimes the comments are what hurts the most, particularly if you’ve been working really hard. I had lost 20kgs one year and kept it off completely just by making healthier choices and going to the gym a couple of times a week. I was in year 10 and then one of my “friends” gave me a Christmas card that read, “Inside every fat person is a skinny person screaming to be let out of their cellulite prison, maybe one day you’ll find them. Merry Christmas”. What the actual hell is that?! I ripped up the card in front of them walked outta school and went on a food bender I was so hurt by this supposed friend. The next day I got back on the wagon though. Still it’s more than 10 years later and I still remember it. People can be so needlessly cruel!

  • Naddy Ramli

    hello hannah..this is a topic close to heart. ive been struggling with an eating disorder since 15, it is a vicious cycle. I know exactly what you mean.. everytime i feel really low i would stuff myself with food hoping to feel good, and throw it up again when i feel the guilt and misery. it keeps repeating itself, until i finally get help. no one should tease u for this. its painful, and i dont wish it on my worse enemy.

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