I have recently come to terms with something, while in counseling on a weekly basis. I am a bulimic. I know this seems counter-intuitive to those who picture skinny, waif-thin models with ribs showing, taking diuretics to weigh half an ounce less before a photo shoot, but it is so much more than that. It is, as the definition provided states, "excessive food intake followed by self-induced vomiting to avert weight gain."
Well, what if you've already got the weight? What if you are told when you are 9 years old that you are fat? What if you start dieting at 9 years old, and the diets don't work, so you go back to gorging yourself? What if you are obese, but you still purge?
That's what I started doing at the age of 10. I was in the 5th grade the first time I made myself throw up. It was after a particularly hard lunch period in my elementary school. Kids had made fun of the fact that I was eating. Not eating five donuts, an entire pizza, and three milk shakes. In fact, I was eating a chicken salad sandwich and a yogurt. What a pig, right? I was so upset, that after lunch, I immediately went into the bathroom, stuck my finger down my throat, and yacked it all up, then flushed it down the toilet.
Starting in junior high, I stopped eating lunch during school hours altogether. The first day of 7th grade, I had a bag lunch with me, with some innocuous food items in it, and a group of kids pointed at me and laughed, commenting at the "fat girl eating." Well, DUH. Of course I eat. I'm a human being. But apparently if you're fat, you're not supposed to eat. So every day after that, I did one of two things: I gave my lunch away, or I threw it in the trash can. Then, when I got home from school, starving, I gorged on whatever I could find in the house.
In 9th grade, I discovered diuretics. What a godsend! I started taking enough to clean me out after every meal. I was literally starving to death, but the weight wasn't coming off. I was still obese. I was still teased for being fat. That girl wearing her new yellow jacket she's so proud of? Someone called me "Big Bird," and I never wore it again. That girl who wore a bright red dress that made her feel so beautiful? "Oh, look! It's Mrs. Santa Claus!" I ripped the dress to shreds that very night. Nothing I did made me lose weight. I ate and I ate and I ate, hording food in my bedroom closet, sneaking snacks after my parents went to bed. And then I popped a few laxatives and/or stuck my finger down my throat and all was better. The guilt was gone, the full feeling was gone. I was so hungry, but at least I wouldn't put on any weight.
Nope. My body did what bodies do. It overcompensated. Every morsel I *DID* consume went straight to fat. I started GAINING weight, and despite my best efforts to eat less than anyone else I knew, despite the daily puking and daily expelling of calories, I watched the numbers on the scale steadily rise. I became afraid to eat in front of people--even my closest friends rarely saw me put food in my mouth. I had the "shift it around on your plate" trick down pretty well by then.
After high school, I drank all my calories. My weight steadily increased. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes in 1993, I could hardly believe it. The insulin I took made me gain even MORE weight, even though I was barely consuming 1000 calories a day. I was starving, but I looked like a bloated whale. The angst over not being able to wear the fashionable clothes I wanted to wear was unbearable. I bought clothes in sizes 10 sizes smaller than would probably ever fit my big-boned frame, because I was determined to get skinny. I wanted to see my ribs. I wanted to show off my collar bone. I wanted to be lithe and waif-like, so I ate out of sheer starvation, and then I vomited.
The day I came home from hospital after my Gastric Bypass, 12/2003
By the time I had gastric bypass surgery in 2003, I weighed 450 pounds. I couldn't believe I had gained so much weight, when I hardly consumed a damn thing. It wasn't fair. I had withheld meals for years and years, and yet I was close to the brink of death because of my severe morbid obesity. I had the gastric bypass, and I lost 100 pounds in the first six months. After that, I lost (more slowly, more healthily) another 100 pounds over about an eight-year period. I was feeling pretty damn good at 250. But then it stopped. I stopped losing the weight. They call it a "plateau." I wasn't satisfied with that, so I started making myself throw up again. Started drinking those detox shakes that make you run to the bathroom eight times a day, expelling every calorie consumed.
The thinnest I've been since
8th grade, 10/2009
Today, I am still considered morbidly obese. Even 150 pounds down from my highest weight (I've gained 50 back), I'm still morbid and I'm still obese. I try not to throw up on purpose anymore. But sometimes, I binge, so I have no choice. I refuse to go the wrong way on the scale anymore. I'm obsessed with food. I HATE being obsessed with food.
On a positive note, I finally learned to love food, to a degree. It's not the enemy anymore, because now I know how to cook what I like, stuff that makes me feel healthy and good about myself. But it's not enough. I'm still on insulin, and I still can't exercise without ending up in a crippling Fibromyalgia backslide that keeps me bed-ridden for days, sometimes. I'm addicted to pain killers and cigarettes--a perfect cocktail for super models who weigh 90 pounds and strut around in clothes I'd love to be wearing. But no. I still have to get most of my clothes in the men's section of the Good Will.
So, yeah. There's my big confession for the day. I'm a bulimic. I'm living in an extremely overweight body, and I'm starving to death with no results.
Next time you see someone who's fat, don't assume they are pigs who eat and eat and eat. Don't assume they're okay with being that way. And don't assume they're the biggest they've ever been. We all have struggles. Some people I know wish they could GAIN weight. They struggle the same way I do, dealing with food and wishing it was their friend instead of their enemy. Bottom line? If you don't know someone's story, keep your mouth shut. They don't know YOUR story, either.