This post is the second installment of the “Breaking the Cycle” series. This series has given me the chance to reflect upon my past and to share my struggles with overeating. My hope is that for those who have similar struggles, you will know that you are not alone and that you can beat this. For those who have never struggled, my hope is that your eyes may be opened to the reasons why weight loss is a battle for some.
My struggle with overeating began when I was a young girl at the age of 5. At that age, I really wasn’t aware of how my eating affected me. I was too young to put two and two together because the reality is, I was just a kid.
At the age of 8 (3rd grade) my mind started to shift. I became more aware of my reliance on food, the comfort food gave me, my size compared to others, and how others were treating me because of my size.
Starting in the 4th grade, I was bullied, made fun of, and really struggled to find friends who accepted me. I remember hating how I looked, how others treated me, and how judged I felt by adults. I didn’t help that we lived across the street from a pediatrician who openly shared her opinion with me and my parents.
The constant chatter about my eating and my body weight led me to feeling ashamed of myself, which pushed me closer to food. In the 4th and 5th grade I began meeting with a dietitian, who taught me about portion control and calorie consumption. It was at this point, at the age of 9, that I became engulf with the need to diet. Dieting became my key to losing weight, to having friends, and to having adults accept me.
I was too young to join Weight Watchers officially at that point, so I followed along with my Mom at home but really was more excited about the Weight Watchers frozen meals and desserts that the prospect of losing weight.
The most challenging years for me were grades 6-8 (age 10-13), as I reached 200 pounds by the age of 12. I remember hating myself and how others treated me because of my size. I hated that kids made fun of me. I hated how uncomfortable I was sitting in my desk at school. I hated that I failed the mile run every quarter… and I hated PE for that matter. I hated going to the doctors and I HATED the scale.
By the age of 12, the scale defined me. Without talking to me or getting to know me, doctors saw me as a morbidly obese child and nothing more. They didn’t know how badly I wanted to be on the cheerleading squad and that year after year I tried out anyways. They didn’t know that I induced asthma attacks because I wanted to be able to workout and play like all the other kids. They didn’t know that their words left scars that still to this day hurt. What I wish doctors had realized is that I was using food to fill a void, a void that only grew deeper and deeper with each review of my weight and health. I needed someone to help me break the cycle, not push me further and further into it.
Looking back I feel like I just numbed out during middle school. I was in so much pain that I just kept eating. I don’t remember having issues with breakfast or lunch but after school I would eat anywhere from 1-3 meals worth of calories in the form of snacks, all before having dinner with my family. I was a compulsive over eater and had reached a place where I ate so much that I didn’t realize just how much I was eating. I was in a vicious cycle of eating because I was miserable but miserable because I was eating.
As difficult as middle school was for me, in the 7th grade I became great friends with a girl named Lara. Lara helped me to live my life beyond my weight issues and accepted me for who I was. Lara and another group of friends in the 8th grade really helped me to build the confidence I needed as I moved into high school and into my sports career. Though my weight and eating were still a major issue, being accepted by my peers was a great step in my growth as a person.
To be continued.