Childhood Obesity Leads To Self Hate And Eating Disorders

For my psychology paper I had to write about "the road to me". So, this is the paper that I wrote. You can read it if you want. I warn you, its really long.

            In defining myself on the simplest, yet most accurate terms, I would say that I am an introverted person constantly battling depression, social anxiety, and an intensely neurotic relationship with food. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most of my psychological issues stem from my unhealthy relationship with food.  I have experienced an array of commonly known eating disorders throughout my life, battling binge eating during my childhood, starving myself in my freshman year of college, and continuously fighting the urge to give in to bulimia. The problem, it seems, is not so much in my eating (although, as you will later see, the quantity of my consumption had extremely detrimental effects on my health), but the views which I associated with it. Initially, I saw food as a substitute for happiness, consequently consuming large amounts of it; it later became, in my mind, the cause for my suffering, fostering feelings of social anxiety and inferiority within me. I have since established that food is a necessary part of life, but often relapse into my past concepts. In writing this paper, I hope to help myself understand that my self-worth cannot be measured by numbers on a scale or morsels on a plate.

            As with most issues which progress over time, my problems with food were founded within my home. As a virtually single parent, my mother was presented with the difficult task of raising me, holding down a steady job, and simultaneously going to school at night.  Lacking sufficient nutritional knowledge herself, and having exposed me at a young age to a variety of scrumptious foods, this often meant allowing me to indulge tremendously at meal times. In my opinion, it was her own strained relationship with her mother and grandmother, in addition to the absence of my father within the home, which motivated her to bestow as much love and nurturing on me as humanly possible on me. She never chastised me about my weight, defending me when doctors or concerned neighbors addressed the issue.

            Yet, my mother was not the enabler that most parents of obese children are. Upon realizing the damage that my over-eating was causing, she enrolled me into fun physical activities such as karate and dance. By this time, however, I had already developed a negative sense of myself and my weight (through no fault of hers). I became discouraged by the fact that I could not keep up with the rest of the class and would quickly become winded. This changed as I grew accustomed to the regimes, however, and my self-esteem improved with every trophy, prize, or compliment that I received as a result of my efforts.

            The escalation of my weight and food crisis began in middle school. Around fifth grade I began to fully understand that not only was I alienated from my peers ethnically and religiously (I attended a Catholic school in a Polish neighborhood), but also physically. I was the last person picked for games like tag, kickball, and dodge ball due to my lack of stamina, and was usually relegated to the roll of the fat, unpopular, or less attractive person (such as Eric Cartmen from South Park) in games requiring imagination. Even dancing became a burden to me, as I would often be heckled during my performances in the school’s talent shows.

            As I grew older, I found it harder to make and maintain friendships. By eighth grade I lost three friends to the lure of popularity. My friends quickly learned that they too would be marginalized if they continued to hang out with “the fat girl.” Thus, having barely any acquaintances and being the largest girl in my class (with the exception of a wealthy German girl whose father owned a series of breweries and was therefore able to buy friendship), I was often singled out as a target for ridicule. To this day I can still recall incidents when I was publicly humiliated with stereotypes of overweight black females.

            I responded to this trauma by channeling my pain and frustrations through food. I fell into a vicious cycle of eating to cure my depression, then falling further into depression as my size increased. Going clothes shopping was a disastrous event frequently ending in tears. I was ashamed by the fact that I could not wear the clothes meant for my age group and was forced to shop in the same section as my mother (the plus-sized “Woman’s” section). Because of this, whenever we went into Macy’s I would ask her permission to purchase a bag of cookies at the built in bakery. To avoid another bout of tears she would sometimes agree, yet always made me pay for them. I suppose this was done to make me question the logic of yielding a portion of my $20 weekly allowance for a sugary treat; given the choice, however, I always opted to buy them.  For me this was a means of escapism. Retreating to a corner behind a clothing rack with my paper bag, I always felt happiest.   

            Between junior high school and my freshman year in high school, a typical day of eating for me consisted of one of the following:

Breakfast:  

  1. Four strips of turkey bacon, two scrambled eggs with two pieces of American cheese, two pieces of toast with about two table spoons of  butter, and a large cup of orange juice
  2. Bacon, eggs, about three cups of grits with half a stick of butter, toast, and orange juice
  3.  A large bowl of cereal or oatmeal with added sugar, toast, one to two hard boiled eggs, and orange juice
  4.  An omelet with two eggs, two pieces of American cheese, three pieces of ham, and toast

Lunch:  Left-overs from dinner

Snack:

  1. Two thirds of a roll of cookie dough
  2. A large slice of Etymon’s chocolate cake and almost a pint of vanilla ice cream
  3.  A black and white cookie
  4. Three to six chocolate chip cookies

Dinner:

  1. Chinese take-out: A small order of won-ton soup (appetizer); An egg roll, three to four spare ribs, sesame chicken, shrimp fried rice or low mein, and a Sprite or Pepsi
  2.  Two to three slices of pizza with sausage or ground beef and soda or juice
  3.  Spaghetti with ground turkey meatballs and a piece of garlic bread
  4. Pork chops (marinated or fried), mashed potatoes and corn
  5. Fried fish, plantains, and corn
  6.  Jamaican takeout: A large plate of curried or stewed chicken, two plantains, and rice with beans
  7. A large turkey burger smothered in ketchup with two to three  strips of bacon (sometimes), a slice of American cheese, and fries(sometimes)

Dessert:

  1. A large bowl of ice cream with banana
  2. A bag of Peppridge Farm cookies
  3. A slice of carrot cake

            When personal WebPages were first introduced I began redirecting my melancholy feelings towards the “emo” sub-culture (my generation’s response to “goth”). It was the first in a long list of extreme attempts to find acceptance among my peers. My first website was shrouded in dark imagery and poetry, in addition to posts containing vast amounts of self-hatred and negativity. In short, I maintained my old methods of coping with my emotions, while adding an element of moodiness and occasional self-harm.

            The progressive arguments with my mother (usually characterizing the “teenage” phase of life), in combination with my weight related stress, caused me to spiral further out of control. I began to cut myself, varying the locations of the marks to hide the evidence. At the same time I added the aforementioned “snacks” to my already enormous calorific intake, using the three hours before my mom came home to sit in front of the television or computer and gorge myself. Sometimes I put off or skipped homework assignments in favor of this indulgence.  Moreover, I quit dance class and thus had no means of exercise other than struggling to go up and down the stairs at school.

            My obsessive overeating finally took its toll in my junior year with the development of a pinched nerve in my lower back. I was working in a daycare center when I felt the first warning ****** in my leg. Attributing the pain to an overactive cramp, I took two aspirins and continued about my day. However, a few weeks into summer vacation the pain became so unbearable that I could hardly get out of bed without assistance. Finally, my mother bought me a four-pronged cane and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. The first physician we went to couldn’t find the cause of the problem, but confirmed that it had something to do with my excessive weight. After receiving diagnoses of a strained muscle and Sciatica, I was finally told that I had a pinched nerve in my lower back. By then I had upgraded to a walker, quit my job, and was completely stationary, excluding the few exercises mandated by my physician. My eating habits were severely suppressed by my lack of mobility.

            When school started again I was given an elevator pass and told that I would have two sets of textbooks (a set for school and a set for home) so that I did not have to carry them around with me to class. Transportation was a nightmare, as I was forced to take either the express bus ($5; $2.50 +school card for students) or Access-A-Ride. I found that my temporary handicap provoked extremely malicious behavior in some people. One woman nearly knocked me out of my walker when boarding the express bus, and then became obnoxious and disorderly when my mother confronted her about it. Another time the bus driver saw me attempting to cross the street and promptly pulled away from the stop. My experience with Access-A-Ride was not much better. The employees were often rude, loud, and non-too-gentle with their passengers (including the elderly). This treatment partly motivated me to get well.  After receiving two Cortisone shot and making frequent trips to a physical therapist, I was finally able to rid myself of the pinched nerve.

            Sometime amid the physical crisis my mother, at my request, set up an appointment for me to see a social worker about my psychological issues. I was not impressed with our first session, feeling the lady treated our meeting more like a gossip swap than anything else. She was quite verbal in her reactions and very expressive with her features. I decided to skip the next meeting, telling my mother that I’d forgotten we scheduled a session for that day. In truth, I felt my time could be better spent once more eating my problems away.

            Two of the most notable events in my life up until now have been my high school prom and graduation. Meant to be celebrations of all the hard work which we’ve accomplished as seniors, my happiness was overshadowed in the moments preceding these events by my inability to find a date and a dress. After days of combing through stores all over New York City and returning empty handed, I became so withdrawn that I considered not even going to my prom. It was only due to the motivational words of my mother that I was moved to continue my search. Eventually I found a dress (though much planer than I intended) and made the decision to go with my best girlfriends in a limo. I had a good time, though I felt extremely self-conscience and never took off my shall for fear of exposing the fat on my arms while dancing. Similarly, I had difficulty finding shoes for my graduation due to the wide width of my feet. I ended up wearing a pair of white espadrilles a size larger than natural.

            Freshman year was the turning point in my relationship with food. By this time I had become fed-up with my lack of a social life and decided that if I was going to be a “curvaceous” girl, I would at least be presentable, if not stunning. With this thought in mind, I went into my college experience hoping to find a wealth of intelligent, open-minded, and accepting people, as I had seen portrayed in films. It was at the Penn State Schuylkill Haven campus that I became disillusioned from my ideals.  Here the main staples of college life were sex, parties, illicit substances, and sleep. My refuge from all of this was a small cluster of friends which I had met at FITCAP on my first days on campus.  One girl in particular played a significant (though unwitting) role in the formation of my new relationship with food. Though I initially continued my horrendous eating habits at college, I became intrigued by her confession that she’d lost a significant amount of weight in her last year of high school. I was at first skeptical about her claims, until she showed me the pictures of her prior to her rapid weight loss. Having obtained proof of her miraculous transformation, I pleaded with her to let me in on her secret, to which she responded that the key was diet and exercise. My past experience with dieting (for I had attempted it on my own numerous times) commonly ended in weight gain and lowered self-esteem. However, with her assistance I was able to slowly work my way into the world of weight loss. I went with her to the gym for at least a half hour to forty five minutes every other day and ate the healthy pre-packed meals she brought with her for lunch. She encouraged me and gave me advice and tips which slowly helped me to lose the weight. We began our program in mid-January; by mid-February I’d lost 10 lbs. Yet, although I was making progress, I felt as if the weight was not dropping fast enough.

            Around the same time I discovered a group of blogs which addressed the issue of weight loss. The first site I stumbled upon was a hilarious account of the vicissitudes of dieting experienced by an older woman of about 40. I found it to be very entertaining, and could relate to a lot of the issues she brought up. However, I was unable to reconcile the generational differences between us. Upon further searching, I found other blogs written by girls within my own age group who were struggling with weight loss. I began to explore the new community, religiously reading and commenting on each post. Though the girls were much smaller than me, I felt greater empathy towards them than I had with the previous blogger. I was soon inspired to create my own webpage to keep track of my progress. I posted my stats (Height: 5’1.5; Current Weight: 215lbs; Lowest Weight: 215lbs; Goal Weight: 120lbs) and photos which highlighted my areas of concern. I remember the rush of excitement I felt when I received my first comment and follower. With each subsequent addition, I felt as if I was becoming a part of that community.

            I quickly learned that these sites were about more than just weight loss. Most of the girls promoted eating disorders (specifically bulimia and anorexia) as a way of life. Yet I did not care. Through these sites I was introduced to a number of weight loss tactics which I promptly put into effect: The “2-4-6-8” diet (200 calories the first day, 400 the next, etc.), the “ABC” diet (Nutritional intake ranging from 0 to 600 on a given day), fasting (short or long term starvation), purging (eating and forcing yourself to vomit), etc. I was both amazed and inspired by the amount of control these girls had and revered them for it. Following in their footsteps, I lost another 75lbs by the end of the school year.

            When I returned home for the summer my mother immediately noticed the change in my diet and overall demeanor. I ate significantly less than normal (even by healthy standards) and worked out whenever I had the opportunity. Unbeknown to her, I would not eat at all on the days when she was not home and would sometimes store food in my room to make her think that I had eaten. Eventually we came to a truce. She agreed to get me a gym membership if I agreed to increase my calorie intake. Though it pained me to relinquish the self-control which I had acquired, I agreed to her terms.

            Exercise soon became another outlet for my weight loss obsession, continuously increasing my regime until I was averaging 5,000 calories burned within a week. Yet my intake was only a little more than half that amount, resulting in numerous injuries and dizzy spells. The knowledge that I was changing campuses the following semester increased my desire to be skinny. I wanted to make a good impression on my peers.  My summer internship with my father presented many obstacles to me in that he would often insist on taking me to lunch. It was at this time that I discovered a miraculous solution to this problem in the form of bulimia. To balance out my desire to eat normally and even indulge, I would gulp down large amounts of water with each meal and purge.

            Upon arriving at the Berks campus I have made every effort to relieve myself of my current eating disorder, yet I continue to struggle. Within less than a year I have managed to go from a size 18/20 and 215 lbs to a size 0 or 1/2 and 110lbs.  The accomplishment of my goal has left me with a feeling of emptiness and sorrow. With nothing to cling to or obsess over, I feel lost and unattached.  My mind often lingers on the failures accompanying my success. Not only has thinness failed to acquire companionship for me, it has also failed to boost my self-esteem and self-image. Instead of feeling security and relief in my new body, I remain extremely self-conscience and hypersensitive.

MyWorldIntheDrain MyWorldIntheDrain
18-21, F
Feb 9, 2010