Food has become a massive part of the global conversation as people panic buy, shame people for panic buying and the vulnerable rely on volunteers to deliver them any essentials they may need. This is, of course, an ongoing problem and by what I write here I am in no way saying that people should not be highlighting the problem. However I am experiencing my own issues right now and this is my only safe place to express them.
I have spent much of my life dealing with an inner fight over my weight, my appearance and my general relationship with food. Each morning I wake up and prepare myself for a battle of my will power over food and I consider my days successful if I go to bed hungry. I look for opportunities to avoid eating meals and if I know there is a meal I can’t avoid, like a planned night out, I will eat barely anything all day in preparation. Food and eating consumes so much of thinking time, it feels like there must be a section of my brain specifically for this particular mental battle.
Over the years I have found ways to cope, to be somewhat healthy and to at least appear healthy around others so as to not arouse suspicion. At one time I would weigh myself weekly and that day would loom over me like a dark cloud. Depending on the numbers that would appear on that display the following week would have clear skies or thunderstorms. As a way to overcome this tide of emotion I began weighing myself much less often. I couldn’t stop altogether as that brought on a whole new wave of anxiety but doing it just once a month meant that my focus could be distracted from it. There are further rules I imposed on the scales, never weigh myself during my period, never when I’m pregnant, never for the first 6 months after giving birth and never on anyone else’s scales.
Other coping strategies I had included eating my breakfast later in the morning. This seemed to curb my need for mid-morning snacking and the longer I could go without eating always made me feel more in control. I learned that when I’m stressed or other parts of my life are out of control my brain focuses more intently on food and my eating patterns. This is because when the world is chaotic and I have no control over the situation, I can gain some form of control by restricting my eating further. This is where the current world situation is causing me a great deal of anguish.
When I first learned that we would need to go into lockdown, and saw that the supermarkets were bare I began to think that now I could truly lose weight and restrict my eating. I wouldn’t be doing it for the vile voice in my head but instead for the good of everyone. I would be ensuring there was enough food for others by consuming less myself. The rational part of me knows how ludicrous this sounds but that is just where my brain went. As the world continued to focus more and more on food, rationing and shaming those who were panicking I felt myself begin to panic. I started worrying about how I could stick to the food plan that I knew worked for me when I was overly focused on eating. Much like parents have been stressing about how to get the food that they know their kids will eat, I felt equally concerned about the changes I would have to make to my diet.
So far I have managed but as big shops are a no go at the moment we are surviving off the corner shops and while we are by no means going to starve, the selection is limited and so feeling in control of my caloric intake is particularly challenging.
I hate this part of me, I hate how it controls so much of who and how I am. I hate that as I sit here I am analysing how my clothes are fitting me. Have I gained wait? Am I losing control? Can I regain control? What will people think of me when life resumes as normal?
One day I hope to have the power of mind to thoroughly win the war against this part of my brain but until then I take solace in the thought that I am not alone, others understand this war. Don’t misunderstand me, I hate to think that anyone else is waking up each day readying themselves for battle but it is comforting to know that there are others who will understand the strain of never being able to lay down our weapons.