In this crazy, crazy world we call home, there is one thing that has always been a constant companion to me – food! From a young age, I have struggled with over eating and getting into bad habits around food and suffered the consequences of having a poor diet from health issues to dealing with years of bullying at school and beyond. But does all this ‘comfort eating’ work? Does it actually make you feel any better?
When I was younger, I used to go to my Nan’s house every day after school, and eventually graduated to going every Thursday afternoon from high school. Food was always an important part of my family life, especially at my Grandparents house, where my Nan would give me what we called ‘tasters’ before dinner, which generally consisted of a piece of bread and a small bowl of gravy (my Nan literally used to be the Queen of gravy in my eyes). This became such a regular habit when I was younger, especially when I would go to my Nan’s every day, it became almost habit.
I can never actually remember being thin, or a ‘normal’ weight for my age as I was growing up, and as harsh as it sounds, I do blame it in some part on my family life. My parents worked so hard to give me a good upbringing, that it meant that they generally couldn’t be there in the morning before school or in the afternoons when I got home. I started going to a child minder after school when I was still at primary school, where I would be given my dinner like any normal child and left to play. It was such a lovely place and environment, but the problem I had was when I got home, where I didn’t like being left out of things – which included dinner. My parents would have dinner when they both got in and had picked me up from the child minders, and to keep me at bay would offer me a miniature portion of their dinner as well – so in effect, I was having two dinners on an evening. This became such habit, I carried it on into my high school years without even thinking about it.
When I went to high school I started getting the bus to and from home. The bus I got in my first few years of high school was quite an expensive bus, and would drop me off about half a mile away from my house, where I would, when I got home and have two or more hours on my own before my parents got home, entertain myself with snacks while I was watching the television. When I went into my teenage years, I started getting a different bus, which stopped much closer to my house. However, this bus was much cheaper than the original bus I was getting, which left me with some spare money for sweets from the shop on my way home. What became an even worse scenario is when the bus times changed, and I had a forty-five-minute wait at school for the hourly bus to arrive. Armed with some friends, we realised that while waiting for this bus we had two options – sit in the library at school, or walk down to the shops and spend our money on sweets and wait for the bus outside the shops instead (which also gave us 30 pence more to spend in the shop each).
This terrible habit with food went unnoticed, even by myself, for a long time. I was quite stocky when I first went to high school, and was over weight, but not massively. My weight soon ballooned with all this spare money and sweet buying, until I started to notice myself that I was much less fit and much larger than all the others girls in my school – which going to an all girls school was a lot! I started getting bullied toward the end of my second year at high school, which got to the point that I would purposely take more food to make myself feel better and would mean that I could spend more time by myself eating rather than sitting there with nothing to do on break times. I became so detached from most things in my life at that point, that food became the one thing I could rely on and would make me happy, even for a little while. And, for the time that I was severely bullied, food made me happier – but it also made the bullying worse.
With my weight ever climbing, I had gotten so caught up in eating for pleasure, that I didn’t even notice my habits transition into something more sinister. I got to the point that I was eating because it meant that I wouldn’t have to speak to anyone and that I would eat something to feel accepted and elated, but that feeling would last for less and less time each time I ate something new. I had turned in to a massive comfort eater, and I honestly believed at that time that it wouldn’t have any effect on me other than making me happy.
The bullying eventually stopped on a grand scale – though I still did get bits here and there, but my eating had become so much a part of my life, I was eating without even realising it. There would be times where I would finish a meal or a snack and not even remember eating it, I was eating so fast just to cram in the happy feelings. I tried every diet under the sun, but no matter how hard I tried and persevered with the dieting, I had gotten to a point where I felt so fat and worthless that I would secretly be eating again to make myself feel happy and convince myself that I was doing the right thing.
At the age of twenty-four, I can look back on my relationship with food, and say that it was a terrible relationship and one that has affected my life in more ways than just causing me to gain weight. I’ve gotten to the point now where I can say no to food, however, I still have times where I see food and I will have finished it without even thinking, and sometimes I get frustrated if someone else is eating something and I don’t have anything edible. I spend most of the time I look in the mirror when I’m getting dressed or doing my makeup hating myself for the size that I am, and it has taken me a long time to reduce that hate to a point where I can appreciate my personality and my passions more than my looks. I want to be healthier and I want to lose weight – but I have put myself in a position by letting comfort eating get the better of me and take over my life so much, that there is a massive mental battle I am currently going through, which has caused me to have days when I feel worthless and depressed, that I have to conquer before I can start a healthy diet.
Comfort eating is a slippery slope. It can make you feel fantastic, worth something, happy and accepted – but it won’t last. For those five minutes you will feel incredible, but as soon as that food is no longer passing your lips, it will only make you feel worse, both mentally and physically. Food doesn’t control your life – it took me a long time to realise and be able to accept that. If you take one thing from this post today, take the self-confidence to be who you are and love who you are for your personality and your passions, not for the way you look!