aka What’s your dirty little secret?
aka That one time in band camp…
Turning up as an 11+lb baby kinda gives my dirty little secret away. Let’s just say that my size was not because I have ninja growth hormones. Nope, it’s because…
I love food!!!! And I like to eat!!!!!
I always have, ever since I was the size of a pea.
Except now I listen to my mom tell stories of how I was such a good eater as a baby, and I’m like, great, that got me far.
My earliest memory of food was when I was 4 or 5 years old and my mom was teaching me how to make Lemon Chicken Cutlets in our kitchen. I loved cooking more than playing with dolls.
There’s lots of stories about me and food.
Like the time me, my mom and my sister were in the paper because ‘we’, aka mom, baked dozens and dozens of cookies for the church Christmas pageant. #famousforherfood
And there’s one that goes like this… ‘Remember that time we were in that Italian restaurant in England and Kendra ate a 16 oz steak all by herself? The waiter was so shocked because she was only 10 years old. But she cleaned her plate, licked her lips, and beamed at the waiter with a huge smile on her face!’ #gottaloveyourmeat
Then there was the time I was featured in the local paper as a senior in highschool because I was (finally) doing really well in cross-country. The journalist wrote something like this: ‘Kendra’s performance has greatly improved. She has lost 5 lbs and after State Championships she’s looking forward to going out for a Chocolate Sundae.’ (#misquote: it was really a Banana Split I was gearing up for.)
Food has always been something I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a pleasure of mine.
But it’s also been a source of shame.
In grade school, my mom would send me packed lunches from home and (with the best intentions) tried to give me the healthy options.
Which meant that instead of the standard PB&J 5 times a week, sometimes I’d open my lunch box to find sweaty slices of cheddar cheese to go along with my crackers. Or ‘peanut butter balls’, which, note to self, by 5th grade everybody giggles at the word ‘balls’.
Real Fruit Roll-ups were replaced with the healthy fruit leather kind. Instead of My Little Pony gummy snacks, I had the 100% juice fruit snacks. I wasn’t allowed soda, or chewing gum, or Doritos.
I totally get why. And guess what, my kids won’t be eating crap like that either (at least I say that now).
But every action has an equal and opposite reaction and here was mine:
Why am I different? Why do those kids get to have the ‘cool’ food and not me?
Another perfect opportunity for Mr Dick to chime in.
A common mentality that exists with food, regardless whether you have an ‘eating disorder’ or not, is the two-punch hit of Deprivation and Indulgence.
It goes like this:
Restrict, limit, count calories, only eat from the ‘good’ list, stay on the wagon.
Followed by ooh, I’ll just have one and stop there, consume more than you’re ‘allowed’, eat the whole bag, screw it the diet’s gone to hell.
Followed by oh shit, run to the gym, only eat fruit and veg, start a new diet, restrict, limit, etc. And here you are back at square one.
As a kid, there was a lot of food that wasn’t allowed; all for logical reasons, but not something I embraced at the time since the foods that looked pretty, colorful, fun, and allowed for connection with other kids my age, were forbidden. The deprivation mode was modelled, which left me craving for more.
So I also learned how to Indulge.
Who remembers Sizzlers? The all-you-can-eat-buffet restaurant? We’d go there as a family treat if we were out for the day.
I always loved Sizzlers. There was no end to the food! You could just keep going back for more! And so one time, I ate so much, I busted the belt I wearing.
No joke. I’m sitting there at the table in a pair of jeans, wearing this thin faux leather belt that was a pretty pastel color with the belt holes in the shape of stars. Or maybe hearts. I had a massive food baby going on in my belly and I took one breath a little too deeply. ‘Pop’, the belt snapped. I was 10. Maybe 11.
I was too embarrassed to say anything. So I kept on eating.
At 13 or so, a friend of mine who opened the door for me to enter into the ‘cool’ kid circle (they wore Keds… the real kind not the knock-offs from Kmart, and they shopped at the Gap), started having sleepovers. I swear I had never seen so much food from the off-limits list all in one place in my life. I was in heaven.
Pizza from the best pizzeria on Staten Island, potato chips, Doritos, Skittles, Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses. And as 13 year old girls do, we’d get really silly and mix the most random combo of foods possible. Skittles on pizza was my favourite. (Gross, I know.)
But this was a huge release for me. To feel normal with a group of friends where I could enjoy food that was a far cry from sweaty cheese… I liked myself a bit more.
But this didn’t last long because soon after my 13 year old self was enjoying Skittles on pizza, the Fear of Fat took over. And pretty soon, my whole diet became the epitome of ‘Deprive’.
I was famous for having ‘bagels and lettuce’ for lunch. I’d have my mom bake chicken nuggets instead of fry them in olive oil and sauteed onions. On Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve of all days!) I’d have her make three-cheese lasagna rolls without the cheese.
I ignored the fact that what I was eating didn’t look or taste as nice as everyone else’s. I didn’t allow myself the pleasure. Pleasure and turning your body into a machine don’t mix.
So when the journalist told the world how I had lost 5 lbs and was looking forward to the banana split turned chocolate sundae, he was describing the Deprive/Indulge cycle that I had fallen prey too.
And in my book, he glorified it.
And so my new pleasure became succeeding at the deprivation.
What I know now that I wish I knew then?
Allow for pleasure. Balance pleasure with nourishment.
Let pleasure teach you about your soul’s desire.
Sometimes I look back and I wonder, if that love for food hadn’t been coupled with shame, where would I be now?
And now, just writing this, I realize, my love for food now is not coupled with shame, so what are my possibilities now?
Something to think about: How does your food story begin? Do you have any pleasures in life that you deprive yourself of because they are linked to shame? What can your pleasure and your desires teach you about who you are at your core?
Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like yours shared there.
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