Six and a half years ago, I wrote this. And, at the time of posting, it was true. I really did lose 75 pounds, and I really did lose it following little more than common sense. Exercise. Don't eat if you aren't actually hungry. Eat healthy things and keep your body active. It wasn't easy, but it was, very much, doable. I worked hard to get fit, and I was proud of myself.
What that link does not provide, however, is the rest of the story. In the months that followed, I became obsessed with calories, with food, with my body. I became so terrified of regaining all the weight I'd lost that I declared food my enemy. I developed a genuine fear of food and drink. I limited my caloric intake to 800 calories per day (to put that into perspective, a woman of my age, size, and activity level should consume a minimum of 1200 calories per day). I refused to sit, ever. If a co-worker bought me a coffee, I'd politely take a sip and then slip into the bathroom to pour it down the drain, as the 40 calories in the little bit of cream and sugar they'd added to it was simply unacceptable. If I decided I wanted to go out for a drink or two, I would calculate how many calories those drinks contained, and skip a meal to balance things out. For two solid years, I did not purchase butter, margarine, or oil. I didn't buy bread. I didn't buy pasta or sauces or cheese or meat. A normal day in my life of food consisted of a protein bar in the morning (because, hey, if I'm eating a protein bar, I'm obviously being healthy, right?), half a cucumber roll (that's a kind of sushi, for you uncultured lot) for lunch, and half a dry english muffin with a boiled egg for dinner. If I was feeling particularly cheeky, I'd throw in a midday coffee or a glass of juice. I did not see any of this as a problem. I trained myself to not be hungry.
Right around my 30th birthday, I travelled to Vancouver Island to visit with both of my parents, albeit separately. They both wanted to take me for dinner. They both wanted to buy me cake. I obliged them both, but I did not enjoy it. I should have - I mean, hell, who wouldn't enjoy being spoiled, twice, by people who love you on an island that boasts some of the best food you've ever laid your eyes upon? Who in their right mind would feel put out having fresh oysters and gourment cheescake thrust upon them? Who would recoil in horror at authentic Mexican food and a black forest cake (my fucking FAVOURITE)? No one sane, that's for sure. But I wasn't sane, and that's the whole point, here. I had lost any ability to enjoy food. I saw everything in its caloric value. I, the girl who had just barely passed grade 8 math, was suddenly able to calculate the caloric and fat value of a plate upon sight. It was then that I realized I had a problem, but it would take two more years before I'd face it. I just thought I wasn't hungry.
On my 32nd birthday, my partner took me out for sushi. And I did enjoy it. I stuffed myself silly, in fact, but I then avoided eating for two days afterwards, and went home (he was working out of town, and I was visiting him) angry with myself. I arrived home, upset and disappointed, and yelled at my bathroom mirror. I reverted back to my half-an-english-muffin diet. I examined my 104 pound self, and thought I can do better. I spent two weeks eating the bare minimum and walking 5+ kilometres a day, trying to burn off that single indulgent meal. I told myself over and over again that I was not hungry.
Fastforward (because, holy shit, you absolutely don't want to hear about those years in detail) four years. My partner successfully convinced me that my eating habits were not healthy. He got me to eat a bowl of pasta with him now and then. He got me to go out for dinner and not cry in the bathroom. He convinced me that being a size 4 was not a life goal worth sacrificing my happiness for. He helped me regain some semblance of sanity when it came to food. The problem, of course, is that, once you've convinced your body that 800 calories is all it gets, eating a normal amount of food means you absolutely will gain weight. Further, when you've developed such a fucked up system of sustenance, no matter how hard you try, you're constantly fighting against your former self. You are constantly trying to tell yourself that you are not hungry.
I'm now 36. I am once again overweight. And, yet, I still hold onto all the habits I had when I was underweight. I eye up my calories. I walk everywhere. And, most tellingly, I tell everyone, all the time, that "I'm not hungry". Eating, to me, is shameful. I do it when no one is looking. I pride myself on not being hungry when everyone else is. I feel like I'm better than everyone around me when they eat and I don't. I wait until everyone is busy, or away, or in bed, to eat. My relationship with food, my relationship with people, is not healthy. I've been overweight, and I've been underweight, and nothing in my mind has really changed - I consistently feel that being hungry, that eating, is something I should be ashamed of, and I know that I will not get myself fit until I can overcome that single idea.
I am not hungry. But I want to be.