Below is the concluding half of my blog: The Day I Chose Not to Eat…
Thirdly I was not free to live my life the way I wanted to. I could not just pick up a food item and enjoy its taste, texture and nutritional benefits. I could not eat anything without feeling guilty. I could not stop thinking about food. I was constantly coming up with different ways of doing a “cleansing” fast or a “sentimental” fast. It consumed me. I might argue this was a case of social poverty. Society was a significant contributor to this issue and it was within social situations that I felt most vulnerable.
Today I am glad to say I have a healthy relationship with food. I decided one day last September that I would just try eating for sustenance and enjoyment (rather than comfort); allowing myself to eat what I wanted when I wanted to. This was a scary step for me, because mentally I could not fathom allowing myself to eat exactly what I wanted. It seemed like a trap, I mean, how would I ever lose weight if I ate whatever I wanted to?!
I followed through, however, and have found freedom from food (and a much healthier body image) since then. Unfortunately development work takes more than a change of perspective. Just because someone decides they will not allow their family to experience hunger caused by structural violence does not mean that they will find freedom by stealing a loaf of bread, for example.
The world is itself in disorder, maybe not a literal eating disorder, but a disorder nonetheless. This program (international development) would not exist if the world were in order *chuckles to self*. Therefore the conversation and struggle to end poverty continues. Unlike my approach of secrecy to the disorder, however this one is tackled through open conversation, a key catalyst in any road to healing.
Post script: I am at the point now where I enjoy talking about my struggle because it reminds me of how far I’ve come and allows people to become familiar with a significant part of what makes me, me. If you have any comments or questions for me please ask, I’m an open book.
I don’t have a vivid memory but a day I will never forget is during my summer break in between grade 7 and 8. I was 12 years old and I remember my family was out for the day; I had the house to myself. Growing up with four other siblings, this did not happen often enough and I cherished every solo hour I had.
I was in the kitchen; I think I was about to prepare something to eat when I thought to myself “what if I just tried not eating at all today? No one is home to make me eat, they wouldn’t know the difference and I could probably lose a lot of weight really fast!” Evidently this idea was due to a poor self-esteem, not some funky science experiment.
So I didn’t eat that day. At all. And I felt great. I really didn’t feel any different than if I had eaten. I wasn’t hungry, I had energy and the best part was that I could do this without having to tell anyone my dirty little secret. Little did I know this decision would drive my life, or at least control a significant part of it for the next eight years.
I had an eating disorder. It was never diagnosed. I mean, I didn’t actually tell anyone for six years, so a trip to the doctor never happened but my eating habits were definitely out of order.
You may wonder what this has to do with development? I mean, talk about first world problems; you have more than enough food and you choose to starve yourself?! Seems seriously backwards. And I would argue that it is, but there are some parallels one can draw.
Firstly, this eating disorder severely affected my everyday life. It dictated exactly what I would eat by product and proportion. It told me which social events I could and could not attend because most of them involved food and eating in front of people. And it decided that this was the worst thing people could know about me so I had to, at all costs, keep it a secret.
Secondly I felt like I had no control over my situation. I’ve talked in past blogs about how poverty puts people in between a rock and a hard place. I was really not in that place, but this bloody eating disorder told me differently. I could try and avoid suspicion from friends by packing an apple for lunch or I could eat a whole sandwich and remain a disgustingly obese individual and wonder why my friends put up with me.
…to be continued…