I recall when I was only seven or eight and at middle school and the topic of weight came up. I was four stone which was met with what I guessed was approval. I was the lightest of all my friends. I then got it into my head I must stay this size, this is why people liked me because I was slim. I would be the small slim one. So at this very young age, and with my Mum not having a clue I kept a food diary and exercised into the night. I used to do as many sit ups as I could, thinking this would keep me at the same size.
This was my first proper memory of my relationship with food and appearance. What I don't think helped was having no emotional encouragement or support at home. When you're are regularly told all of the negatives about yourself on a daily basis then you begin to think they are true. My Mum was very good at this. Making me feel like I was fat, ugly and basically growing up had every ounce of self-esteem taken away from me. My confidence was shattered at a time I needed it the most. I started High School and was still fairly slim, but with growing up comes your body changing shape. Except mine didn't really change that much I was very flat chested, started my periods a year later than most, and suffered from severe acne.
At home I was constantly told how spotty I was, how I wasn't any good, I did nothing right, so I believed it. I felt beyond worthless and insanely jealous of all my friends who seemed to have boys beginning to look at them and want to take them out. I started out at high school with a horrendous haircut, I mean think a small mullet. I think adults saw the real me and began to comment to say, 'I would be a heart breaker', 'a pretty young thing', my Mum became jealous and punished me by giving me the worse haircut. My Nan was amazing, she took me to the doctors for my skin, she painted my nails and brought my make-up. She was a beautician and hair dresser so dyed and cut my hair after that.
I then met some lovely friends who I could begin to feel comfortable with. But I still felt I was the ugly friend with acne, whilst they went out with boys older than them. They had amazing figures, I had the figure of a young boy. I mean really who would even look in my direction? People regularly said how they wished they were my size but I still used food as a way of controlling how I was feeling. I used to get a free meal pass at school which entitled me to a lunch every day. My Mum knew one of the dinner ladies and pretty soon I was caught out by not collecting my lunch. So then began me collecting and hiding it in my bag, this was my downfall when it was discovered weeks later in my bedroom.
This is about the time; I should have been given some professional help but I didn't get it. I began getting really tired, but this wasn't through not eating it was an undiagnosed thyroid problem. It made me slim, so when I was told the tablets would stabilise my metabolism and I would perhaps put on weight, I freaked out. Half the time I didn't even take the tablets. Fast forward a few years and I met the love of my life and finally felt accepted by someone. He didn't care if I had a spot, if I wore make up or even brushed my hair, he loved me for me. My lack of confidence and self-esteem still caused a lot of problems in the first years of our relationship. We worked through them, and I began to accept actually yes, he was with me, no one else. I still used food as a way of control, when I felt I felt didn't have any. If I was stressed, wanted attention or wanted to punish myself. It's how I asserted control, how I felt like I could cope with everything. Greg learnt not to push me, the more he made a fuss, the more stubborn I became.
At the beginning of Jan 2014, I fell pregnant. Strangely, although for all those years I worried about weight gain, I embraced my baby growing inside of me. Being pregnant was the most beautiful I had felt. My body changed so much but I was okay with that. I would have never put my baby at risk but not eating. I had a really healthy pregnancy, and a good labour. But this wouldn't stay like this and soon, I was back to my old ways.
Elijah was very ill and needed surgery at 6 months old down Great Ormond Street. In those months leading up to the surgery date, I had no control. I feared my baby boy was going to die. That I was consenting to him to a surgery he wouldn't survive. I was physically sick with fear. I once again resorted to punishing myself with not eating properly to cope with the guilt that he was going through this because of me. My thyroid has gone AWOL post partem, and I am now on a higher dose of medication. It can lead me to losing my appetite or just wanting to pick at food. I may not eat a full meal for a couple of days but I have learnt to make myself eat something even if it is a little snack. I do not want to pass these habits onto my child, and it is my responsibility to make sure he doesn't use food as a coping mechanism like me.
Looking back after all these years, it was quite clear I had an eating disorder of sorts, I starved myself, excessively exercised and at times made myself sick. I either ate too much or too little. I hated my appearance. I had such a warped view of myself that I just couldn't shake. I used to hate photos, and would only consent to being in them if I was drunk. However, it was never a constant. It was when I lost control, when I felt I needed to take control. When I was stressed, or going through a huge life event. This is clearly however an eating disorder. I never let it get too far, but it is always there is background. With any comment regarding my weight, the fact I lost my baby weight so quickly, that due to my thyroid I have had a recent weight loss.
It can be met a compliment when people turn to me and say 'Oh you look slim', 'don't you look skinny', then I am instantly transported back to that time in middle school wondering if this is the way to go to keep their approval or acceptance? I am beginning to grow my confidence, and I do like how my body looks, of course there are flaws but I gained such a confidence after having Elijah. I will even have a photo taken with not a drop of alcohol, and go out without make up! So many things are more important. I know I need to lead him by a good example, and Mummy not eating or worrying excessively about what she looks like isn't that example. I will never pass this onto Elijah.
He has an incision and chest drain scar on his chest. I used to worry about how people would look at this. How he might feel. I will teach him to be proud. That it is a symbol of strength. I will always tell him how much I love him; how proud I am of him. One thing I will never, never do, is tell him he is fat, he is spotty and make him feel worthless. The impact of words must never be underestimated. A mother's job is to love their child no matter what and show them unconditional love. This is why I will always put my son first. All it takes is one small world to plant a seed, and that turns into something deep rooted and ugly.
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