I’ve been really drawn to websites and books about nutrition; not weight loss, but using food to heal and the sorts of food to help alleviate health problems. It got me thinking about my dieting history and what I’ve denied myself over the years, what doing that has done to my body and mind, and how I can get out of it permanently.
It’s all so delicately woven together.
But I’m broken. And I did all this to myself.
Body-wise, I’m lucky that on the face of it I don’t have any major health issues. There’s nothing seriously wrong with me. But over the years I’ve mistreated my body so much that it’s screaming at me to look after it properly.
- I’ve had a big patch of eczema on my hand that I haven’t been able to get rid of in over a year.
- I’ve got patches of incredibly itchy eczema all up my arms and as soon as one patch goes, I get another one.
- I have IBS, and I always have to carry Immodium pills with me. A couple of months ago I ran out and couldn’t leave the house until 2 pm. I was so desperate, I actually took headache pills with codeine in to try and help.
- I’ve got acid reflux and I’m on pills every day for it.
- I’m the Headache Queen. Until recently I was taking Solpadiene painkillers most days, but I managed to stop the habit and they are easing a bit.
- My joints ache
- I get awful PMS about every three months where I think everything is crap and want to get on a plane and run away to Australia. Just as well for my brother that I can’t afford it!
- I have zero energy a lot of the time.
See, none of this is serious stuff. I’m truly thankful for being pretty sturdy, really.
But for over 20 years I let my diet obsession consume me, and I was either eating additive-packed ready meals marketed as low calorie, sweetener-infused ‘treats’ with more Es than a disused warehouse just off the M25 in 1988, and fat-free yoghurts so sweet they made my teeth jangle OR I was binge eating crap with huge helpings of fat and sugar.
My poor system first started protesting in 1999. I went to stay in my late aunt’s house in Brighton so that I could look after her dogs while she was on holiday, and me and my then boyfriend ate our way through the nearby ASDA, as well as indulging in every take away, doughnut opportunity and junk food experience we could manage in two weeks. I’d been on Slimming World for a while before we went and so my system wasn’t used to all the sludgy, fatty, salty chocolate covered calories and protested by giving me well-deserved heartburn and indigestion. Hello Rennie. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
I’d already been dieting on and off for 12 years by then, and also was just getting over the worst of the eating disorder, but when I binged, I binged good and hard. I never did the starving bit so well. I think they call it non-purging bulimia or something? Whatever it was, it did me NO good at all.
So, over the years, the obsession with my weight and diets has physically hurt me, because I’ve damaged my digestive system and denied myself good quality food…I think I would have got the IBS and reflux anyway but there’s no denying that eating too much in one go, eating fatty, salty foods and alcohol all make it worse. All of which I’ve over indulged in when I’ve been off-diet in the past.
I also denied my skin fat, and essential vitamins, and stressed myself out. That’ll be where the eczema came from, then.
The obsession with losing weight has turned my brain into a binge-starve machine that’s either on or off a diet. Even since giving up diets, although I rarely binge, I still quite often overeat the foods I wouldn’t let myself have for so many years when I’m fed up. It’s as if there’s still that voice in my head saying, “She’s going to go on another diet soon, fill yer boots!”
The other damage it’s done is to my fitness levels. For many years I associated exercise with dieting and when I was off one, I stopped the other too. However, it was easy for me to stay fit and healthy at 12, 13 even 14 stone. I had no problem running for a train at 15 stone either. When I gave up diets I was 16 stone something. I’m a bit more than that now although not massively, I just don’t know the exact numbers any more. The thing is, and this is all my own fault, I gave up working in an office and I’ve worked from home for over six years now. When I had no choice but to walk to and from the office every day, you bet I was a lot fitter! But the thought of going out when I have a whole load of work to do, or it’s p*ssing down with rain, doesn’t motivate me to the gym, or out for a walk. Lazy? Yeah, a bit.
So it’s harder to get fit now, and there’s the vicious cycle. If it feels uncomfortable and it’s inconvenient too, only a saint or one of those lucky people who gets some kind of orgasmic endorphin-induced high from a session on a treadmill would do it, right? It’s not just me, is it?
Exercise doesn’t make you lose weight, anyway. I know that. But I do feel a bit ‘Meh’ and it’s getting over that hurdle and getting back into feeling fit and healthy that I need to work on.
Lastly, I broke my head.
I turned it from being a normal teenage girl’s head, full of dreams and daft ideas for the future, into a grown-ups head full of ‘where did those years go?’ and stress. I filled that head full of calories, fat and Syns. I read magazines that told me fat was bad. Sugar was bad. Calories were bad. Hell EATING was bad. I drank too many Diet Cokes and pickled my brain in Formaldehyde because I thought that if I wasn’t going to be able to resist the full fat sandwich, I could at least save calories by drinking a Diet Coke.
I made myself not good enough. I made myself hyper-aware of what everyone thought of me, ashamed of every bit of fat that was growing on my body. Scared someone would yell at me from a car again. Scared I would never get my life back while I was binging. Terrified that if I didn’t stop eating like this, I might end up one of those people that has to be winched from their house by crane because they can’t fit through the door.
I did this to myself. OK, diets and the media and rubbish men and everything else all fuelled the fire but I let them, and in letting them I broke my head and I broke my body. For years I lived in a constant state of stress and despair, hidden from the world by a cheerful exterior, pretending I was fine. Beating myself up for not being perfect.
So what made me write this? It was a review I saw of Gorgeously Full Fat by Ang at Fierce Freethinking Fatties.
“I would have liked more of the “After.” The final section, “After the diets,” begins on page 103. Sarah has now found love and happiness and I am absolutely delighted for her — she ruddy well deserves it. It would have been good to see more of what that looks like. There are some good resources at the end of the book, but little of Sarah’s own guidance on how to get to your own happy place.”
I want to get to that happy place and stay there. I’m setting myself a challenge – three months to get from ‘Meh’ to ‘Yay’, and recruited a few volunteers to road test my plan. I’ve swung from one thing to another to try and nail this not-good-enough feeling and it’s time I managed to kick its arse for good, quite frankly!
This week is research week. I’m looking at really fab nutrition sites, recipes and more, for the food side of it, because I want to start really feeding my body rather than just sustaining it from one sugar high to the next. Logically I’m a non-dieter but someone forgot to tell my brain that it’s OK to eat. While I was researching over the weekend. I came across something that made me sit up in my chair and decide enough was DEFINITELY enough.
Back to my skin condition. Eczema, as most people know, is triggered by stress – but there have been studies recently that also link it to deficiencies in vitamin D.
Stress also makes IBS and acid reflux worse.
Last summer I started on tablets for acid reflux. It was around the same time , or not too long after, that the eczema appeared on my hands and started to creep up my arms. I didn’t link the two.
I managed to drop down to one pill every other day for the reflux and the IBS was calming down, until my dad became ill and to put it mildly, my eating and drinking habits went haywire and my insides went into rebellion. Back to one a day and my eczema joined the party. I was burping, scratching or running to the loo, on constant loop (lovely) although the IBS was slightly relieved by the amount of codeine I was taking to relieve the stress headaches. This doesn’t sound good, does it?
Things have calmed down a bit now (thank God) and you know what I found out yesterday? The pills I’m on for acid reflux have been linked to vitamin D and B12 deficiencies. Are you following? Basically…I got stressed, my digestion got worse, I took pills, my eczema got worse. The pills I’m taking for the reflux which was made worse by the stress that’s also made the eczema worse, could have caused a vitamin D deficiency that’s left me unable to shift the bloody eczema, plus a vitamin B12 deficiency,…and a lack of B12 causes guess what…stress!
Number 1 on my list. DEAL WITH THE STRESS. My first task is to find an amazingly nutritious anti-eczema recipe, and research the best stress-relieving yoga moves known to man. I don’t want to be broken any more…