Ever since I was little I haven’t exactly had the best relationship with food. Something I have only just come to realise. Or rather, I have always loved food but struggled with how much was too much, or how little seemed too little to the family members who called me ‘skinny’ or ‘anorexic-looking’ before I’d even hit puberty.
My family is a very large one; one that is definitely centred around the strong, matriarchal and loving character that is my grandma. She will cook all day knowing her grandkids will be coming over from school, and all family events centre around her amazing cooking. Because my family is so large, with a number of parents, the different styles of parenting get pushed around a lot. So on the one hand, at family get-togethers, I had relatives telling me I couldn’t leave a single piece of food on my plate because wasting food was bad, others telling me that that was enough for a girl my age, and the rest telling me to eat up because I was ‘stick thin’. Who was I supposed to listen to?
It also didn’t help that I was growing up alongside my only female cousin on my mum’s side, who was just three weeks older than me. Comparisons between the two of us are still made to this day: who’s more successful, smarter, gonna make it in life? It’s something the two of us can, luckily, first bitch about then shrug off together – and I hope she realises this is one competition I’m not willing to enter. Nevertheless, when we were younger people would comment on our weight, the way we ate, the amount we ate, what we ate, and the clothes we wore that would either show off our assets or hang off of us completely. We were going through changes, and for some reason our family weren’t able to realise just how insensitive they were being.
This isn’t a dig at my family. I hope they have a healthier attitude to food, weight and body image nowadays after the host of both scientific and opinionated literature dedicated to the topics since 1995 the year I was born. And also due to some of the health problems that are apparent in our family.
But tonight I find myself feeling extremely bloated and very guilty of it. Since speaking up about my low spells, I began to realise that comfort eating is actually quite a serious matter. For me, it has led to minor binge eating – sometimes in secret so housemates and relatives wouldn’t judge – and then feeling bad about it and almost hating myself because I said I would stop.
Something I’ve also begun to realise is that I can’t see food go to waste. So if the people I’m with order far too much in a restaurant and can’t finish it, something inside of me tells me I need to eat that to not waste it. But really, what is this doing? Eating all of that food despite being full from my own meal won’t help the impoverished people around the world who don’t have access to healthy, nutritious food. I guess this is a complex I picked up when I was a kid.
And because of people having very contradictory opinions about my figure when I was younger, with some relatives saying I had the figure of a model and others saying I looked anorexic, I’ve struggled to be comfortable with my body for all these years. There are times when I feel great and love my body – with the help of people who can appreciate it too – then others when I just want to take a bit of fat from one place, pop it on another. That’s why today I look in the mirror and think I need to get rid of the little tummy I’m getting, I miss my more prominent thigh gap, and where have my hip bones gone?
I’m sure some of you will read that and think it ridiculous, and yes, it kind of is.
It’s fine that my body is changing – it’s finally reacting to the sometimes-excessive amounts of food I eat. But now that I’ve pinpointed the problem I know that I need to try stick to a food schedule, resist temptation, snack on fruit rather than slump in front of Netflix with a spoon and a jar of Nutella, and get back to a better swimming routine.
I’m not sure whether the problem has worsened (maybe Mexico is to blame?) and that’s why I’m finally getting my thoughts out, or whether something triggered me to really think about my attitude to food. Either way, I’m working on it.