My Secret Eating Disorder

 This article came about from our holiday in Cornwall during the summer of 2009.  I kept a diary whilst on vacation, with the purpose of writing it up as a page on my blog when I returned home.

One little snippet I wrote about was the way in which I eat chips (fries).  This was a truthful, but lighthearted piece about the order in which I have to eat them, and was designed to make people smile, but Oh Boy! Did I open a can of worms.

 Everyone who read those few paragraphs about my chip-eating neuroses had a story to tell or their own eating habits.  Some of these were funny, but some were equally distressing, or appeared unfathomable to the outsider.

This set a germ of an idea percolating away in the back of my mind, which has given rise to this Hub.  I'm publishing my fry eating habit here, plus, with permission, a few other people's eating habits.  

 

Become Part of a Published Book

It seems everyone has a story to tell; what I would like to do is put together an anthology of many people's eating habits, disorders, patterns and neuroses and ultimately (if I have enough stories) publish it in book form.

Please type your story in the comments box at the bottom of this article. You can remain anonymous if you wish, by putting a pseudonym. Please don't put contact details in this box, but if you wish to contact me, you may do so through the email tab on my profile page.

As the stories build up, I will copy them into the body of the article.

Our society portrays a view of 'normal' eating that includes a family sitting at the table eating and talking together, using cutlery, napkins, plates and reasonable portion sizes. Your stories tell me something completely different.

Many of you struggle to have a healthy relationship with food, some barely able to eat at all and showing all the signs of anorexia nervosa, whilst others of you can't find the off switch, cramming food in your mouth to the point of exhaustion and becoming obese.

This article is not attempting to trivialise any of these things, but rather to show that so many people have eating habits that are not considered 'normal,' that it's actually more 'normal' to have some sort of neurosis around food, and to not fit in with the idealised picture of healthy eating.

Food and eating is far more tied up with our emotions than just satisfying basic hunger. So Onward:

Georgina_writes eats fries

 It's important that I eat chips in a certain order, but first I have to choose my chips.  Now, french fries are just that, fries, so I'm not too concerned about the order in which they're eaten.  They're pretty much mass produced and uniform in shape and texture, so I don't care.  The problem comes with what I call real chips.  These are the sort you might have in a chip shop, or a pub meal.  It's the fat, hand-cut style of chip that throws me into a spin.

What you see is a middle aged woman eating her meal, chatting to others at the table.  What is actually going on in my head is a frantic categorisation and prioritising of the chips.

Others at the table think they have my full attention, but they don't!  My mind is busy elsewhere, deciding how to eat my chips.  The first to be eaten are quite large, nicley oblong, golden brown and quite chunky.  They should have just the right mix of crunch on the outside, softness inside and have a little oiliness to them (actually a lot of chip shops still use beef lard).  I really can't stomach chips which have been overly drained of oil.  I will pick out all of the good ones and eat them first.  Next, I will eat any crispy, overdone pieces - the oilier the better - and finally, I will eat all of the small, odd-shaped pieces.

In many respects, this anal prioritising of my fries is pointless, because the other aspect to this disorder is that I must eat all of the chips, regardless of whether I am hungry or not.  In fact, who has a plate of chips and leaves the meal hungry.  I will eat the chips until there are none left and I feel absolutely stuffed with food.  It is not possible to leave fries on the plate.  Even the rejects must go.

Everybody chant with me 'I am not anal...I am not anal...I am not anal...

Ok, maybe I am just a bit. When I was a kid I used to have to get dressed in a certain order, starting with the right or left side of my body and apologising to the other side, promising to make them first the next day... 'Good morning left sock, on you go...sorry right sock, you'll be first tomorrow...'

I digress, but what is normal?

Debbie Jones's Story

Debbie Jones' father was a master butcher.  Every day he would bring home waste meat for their numerous pet dogs.

Debbie just couldn't stomach the family meal, barely able to eat anything that was put in front of her - it was revolting, sickening almost.  But, in the evenings after the family had dispersed, she felt compelled to eat the raw waste dog meat from the butcher's shop, sharing it with the dogs.

Is this normal?  What's normal.  Was she physically healthy?  Yes - didn't do her any harm. 

In fact, listening to some of the stories people have told me, eating in secret is a huge part of people's eating patterns, so much so, that secret eating must actually be normal.  Who knows, maybe it dates back to primeval man, where you'd grab your part of the kill and drag it away from the pack so you'd keep your share.  Here's another example: 

Marie's Secret Eating Disorder

Marie is an intelligent, well educated, attractive woman with a svelte figure.  she is happily married to a guy who's so proud to be with this gorgeous woman.  He marvels at her ability to stay slim (she's a UK 10/US 6), wonders at how she doesn't fade away when he looks at the amounts she eats.  He's amazed that she has enough energy to keep going. Marie rarely has breakfast, she may allow herself a biscuit or a piece of fruit for lunch, but sometimes has nothing, and when they sit down to supper she has a salad, no carbs and a tiny piece of meat, or just a yoghurt.

Hubby frequently praises Marie's self control and beautiful figure to friends.  At night, she waits for him to drift into sleep, then sneaks downstairs and secretly eats a whole day's worth of calories straight from the fridge, standing in the kitchen.  She cannot allow herself to savour the food, it must be gulped down, ears straining to hear a footstep on the stairs lest she be discovered. 

This has been going on for years and is quite exhausting, but such a big chunk of Marie's relationship with her husband is based on her secret relationship with food, that she feels it's impossible to change now without catastrophic results.

Is this normal?  It's certainly very common, there are many Marie's out there.

So, we can see that the idea of family meals at the table is a real struggle for some.  If you want to share your eating habits then put them in the comments box below.  I've written one example in there just to get you going.  They may be funny, weird, sad, mad or anything in between - it's your story... 

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6 comments

Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Big Bird's Story

Big Bird, just can't stop eating. She's intelligent and attractive and knows that she's ultimately going to kill herself with the amount of food she consumes. Her weight is up over 20 stones now, and she has a few health niggles. Her entire day is spent gorging stuff, from before breakfast, between meals and after dinner in the evening. An ice cream to Big Bird is a two litre carton of Ben and Jerry's, or Hagen Daz.

When she shops at the supermarket, she parks a little way from the other cars if she can. She buys a multi-pack of desserts, and her treat for doing the family shop is to sit in the car and devour the puddings using her hands as a scoop, one after the other.

Big Bird has never felt hungry. She says that if she felt the hunger pangs she hears other people mention, she would probably visit the doctor fearing something was wrong.

Her appetite is never satisfied and to this day she is searching for a way to find the off switch.


loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 6 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

i really like the idea of this hub.....thx 4 share


Agnelin 6 years ago

I started my bulimia 1 year ago accidentally. My mom n I were having lunch in a mall, a big portion fried noodle n a large cup of ice. I found my body was so sick when we're home. I made myself to purge, then I got better. Since that day, I can't keep my food in my stomach after meal n snack time, I always purge (4-5 times a day). I'm addicted. My friends told I got thinner n look more cute. I feel like this: I can eat anything I want n keep my weight without any effort, just purging. Now I'm 40 kg, 160 cm, 20 years old. I stay in 38,39,or 40 kg. My relatives n family comment, how can eat so much n keep thin. I don't tell them. They'll blame me because eating disorder is very rare in Indonesia. But I don't find anything wrong with my personality. I'm not perfectionist, not stressed, not depressed, not weird, n my self esteem is good. My body never become weak n sick because of my habit. So, do I have a serious problem? Should I tell anyone?


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Hi Agnelin, thanks for leaving a comment. Yes, I think you should tell someone, as you are very slender for your height. Part of you is obviously concerned that you may be harming yourself, as otherwise you would not have left a message. Your family doctor or nurse would be a good starting place. Unfortunately, if you continue, your body will become weak and sick. You are likely to have thin bones which break easily and you may well lose your teeth (from the stomach acid when you purge).

Hope you decide to get some help.


Ranga 5 years ago

Hi Georgina,

Today I stummbled across your glorious site!

Finally a place to reveal my RIDICULOUS eating habits!!

I'm 20 years old, female and am recovering from an eating disorder I've suffered with for the past 3 years.

In many ways it can be classified as 'Anorexia Nervosa' due to the very little ammount of food I permit myself to eat per day, but it's different in other ways too.

At 173cm I currently weigh 50kg. This is actually a drastic improvement as only a few months ago I weighed 46kg.

Like most anorexics, I have a list of 'safe' foods that I allow myself to have when the time comes to eat. These are foods that I personally know my body can handle, as I've devised presice serving sizes so my weight does not increase.

Unfortunetly this means that a lot of the food I would really love to be eating no longer makes it to my mouth. I cannot eat what my family do, or my friends do. Partly because I don't feel I deserve to, but also out of fear my body will hold on to all those extra calories it's not used to in order to repair the damage I've caused.

Because of this I have a very select list of food I feel comfortable eating.

For me, this means cereal.

Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for lunch.

But my abnormality extends much further than this!

Becuase I know that in any given day I'm only allowed to have an apple, diet yoghurt, small bowl of cereal (for breakfast), two small bowls of cereal (for lunch), and then a dinner of rice, beans and vegetables...I like to store up my 'meal tokens' as I call them.

Instead of eating breakfast when a normal person would, I stretch myself out till around lunch time when I'll permit myself to have the yoghurt and fruit I should have had for lunch. Then, at around 3-4pm I will have the bowl of cereal I was meant to have for breakfast. This sees me through until dinner time. Then (this is where my true crazy kicks in!), once everyone has drifted off to bed I will slowly and silently savour two bowls of cereal in my bedroom...thoroughly enjoying that 'full' feeling that I never achieve during the day.

This crazy behaviour is because I know that even if I become super incredibly hungry and need to eat something outside of my meal plan I will never EVER allow myself to. Even if I'm positively starving, I will push through it. So eventually I worked out that I would rather be hungry during the day than to go to bed on an empty stomache. It makes me feel more secure and safe knowing that this way I'm guaranteed to be eating less than my body needs to put on the kilos.

But this craziness does not come without a price. I'm constantly planning my day around food, and finding new ways to pretend I've had breakfast or avoid lunch dates with people. It's beyond tiring.

I'm trying to recover but It's such a long process especially when once these ridiculous patterns have been established.

I can recognise how stupid and dangerous my ways have become, but once something is becomes that ingrained in your everyday life it becomes almost impossible to change - just think about how hard it would be to 'naturally' eat the chips of your plate without any specific order! By the way, I completely understand this - as if my secret cereal eating wasn't crazy enough I even have incredibly rigid ways in which I eat it!! I begin from a certain side of my bowl, nibbling small mouthfuls at a time so to purposefully draw out the process.

People often mistakenly assume that anorexics loathe food, but I think the scariest part of all is actually how great the desire becomes. Afterall, it's that burning desire for food that sparks the initial fear of not being able to maintain an ideal body where we to eat whatever we wanted.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Thank you for leaving your story Ranga. It must be very tiring for you struggling with your eating disorder. Is there someone you can go to for help? On the positive side, well done for gaining 4kg and maintaining it.

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