Survival Methods and Eating Disorders ~ Part One

eating disorders, food addiction
food or weight disguised as solution

To introduce this series, here is a brief history of my belief system when it came to my body and my weight; I had conflicting beliefs about weight that turned out to be bi-polar opposites; I believed that being underweight or the perfect weight would keep me safe from disapproval, and I believed that being overweight would keep me safe from men and from sexual assault. For many years I lived in strict control of my body and weight, yet at the same time fighting both conflicting sides and pretty much staying a normal weight, except that I was obsessed with my body and my weight and never felt like it was “right”. I developed eating disorders. I was addicted to drugs by the time I was 16, all to do with eating disorders. I had a very big problem with bulimia, which was one of the many ways that I was able to live in both those worlds; eating to gain weight and therefore feel safe, purging to not gain weight and therefore feel safe, and every other eating disorder coping method in between. Forever.   

I am going to write a series of posts on this whole issue of eating disorders, weight gain, body obsession, weight control and how our belief systems get in the way without our realizing that those thoughts and beliefs are even in there. I would like you to read this first article keeping in mind that I am in direct dialogue with my own belief system and how my thoughts and beliefs are revealed to me during that process. You can use this same system to pick apart any other belief system you have hiding inside your head. Look for the little clues and how they pop into my mind.

My daughter and my husband came home the other night and told me that they had seen an old friend of mine. The first question that popped into my mind was “is she fat?” And even as a part of me was realizing that my thought wasn’t very nice, I also knew that I secretly hoped that she was. I hoped that she had at the very least gained more weight than I had since I had seen her in the 10 years that had passed. I had to ask them… I blurted it out “is she fat?” and they confirmed that she had indeed gained a lot of weight. And I was secretly trying to hide my grin. Several things were going on in my mind all at once but I was aware of this nagging question about why I thinking about her in this way.

When something like this pops into my head, I have simultaneous thoughts and in the past they served to pull me in lots of different directions most likely for the purpose of making sure that I did not figure out the roots of any of it.  The way that my survival mode has always worked for me is by trying to protect me from reality because when I was a kid reality was horrible. I am not talking just about events here; I am talking about accepting that I really wasn’t valued or worthy and what would happen if I was thrown away like the garbage I believed I was.  My mind developed coping methods to protect itself from accepting that and other realities and I developed a warped belief system and accepted false truths. I have come to realize that my coping methods developed to help me survive, but also that when I no longer needed them my subconscious was SO sure that they were the answer that if fought like crazy to KEEP those often self destructive survival methods in place. If I let one go, I grabbed another one like the life preserver that I believed it was. I was in a battle against myself. To make it even more complicated, the only way out of the maze is through exposing my belief system by picking apart each of the beliefs at the roots of the coping method ~ but again, since my subconscious really believes that the safer way is to avoid facing reality, (as it was when I was a child) and I am fighting to emerge from the cocoon of my survival methods and discover and live in the truth about all things because I KNOW that is the way to freedom, once again we have a disagreement going on inside.  

And we wonder why finding the ‘beginning’ seems nearly impossible. We wonder why we so often say that we don’t know where to even start. The answer for me was that there were MANY beginnings and all of them had their own start.

The thoughts and roots that I expose in this series about food addiction, eating disorders, compulsive overeating, bulimia, body obsession and weight obsession and the discoveries I will highlight in this series can be applied to any other coping method or belief system that you are trying to unravel. To get to the bottom of one string, I follow the clues. In this case one clue was in my thought process of why I wished my old friend had gained a lot of weight since I last saw her. The key was in processing what that meant to me and to listen to all the other thoughts that pop up to get me off the track, because each of them has a related yet different root attached to it. Separating each thought, and examining them on their own, and then later looking at them in relation to each other is like a treasure hunt. In time I cracked open the huge vault that was my complicated belief system, survival methods and escape modes and discovered the keys to freedom and truth.

Stay tuned for part two, where I will share the process that I went through and the questions that I looked at to realize that I think “fat” is a punishment and how I relate that to myself along with a few other beliefs that I had hiding in my head. (click here for part 2)

Please share your thoughts about this huge subject of weight, food and body issues.

Exposing depth; one snapshot at a time

Darlene Ouimet ~ Emerging from Broken

Related Posts ~ Sexual Abuse, Bulimia, and Eating Disorders

feelings about food and mixed messages

foundations of eating disorders and body issues

34 response to "Survival Methods and Eating Disorders ~ Part One"

  1. By: Cynthia Posted: 27th April

    I am 56 years old and 100 pounds overweight according to my doctor. I really don’t know how I look because I rarely look in the mirror below my neck and shoulders. If I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in a store window or see myself in a photo someone has taken I feel this aching pain like I’ve just been yanked out of hiding. I continue to feel badly for a few days until the feelings dissipate.

    I was put on a diet at age 10 because as my mother tells it “I was putting heaps on sugar on my oatmeal”. My aunt paid me a dollar for every pound I lost (a lot of money in the 60’s) and I believe I got $18.00. I didn’t diet after that until I was in my early 20’s and then I gained and lost tens of pounds over the last 3 decades.

    I understand why I must have gained weight as a kid; I was the middle child of 5 children that my mother had in 7 years. We moved a lot as a child because my father was in the Air Force. My father drank a lot and my mother screamed a lot. All of us kids fought too however as I was the fat one I got picked on a lot by all members of the family. I cried a lot as a kid and was told all my life that I was a cranky child.

    I have been in some form of therapy all of my adult life because I never felt I belonged anywhere or to anyone. I felt both invisible and that “I stuck out like a sore thumb”. I was a total people pleaser and that kept some people in my life for a while. I felt like I was looking for my mother in every relationship whether it was with a man or a friend. Eventually everyone left me in one way or another.

    I have 2 really goods friends that tell me that I am a wonderful person and that I’m way too hard on myself. I believe them as I know I am kind. But when I’m alone in my home sometimes I feel that I’m still that unlovable little kid and I cry and try to reassure myself that I’m grown up now and I’m safe and everything’s okay. But I can’t comfort myself because I don’t feel safe or that everything is okay.

    Thank you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th April

      Hi Cynthia
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      I can relate to what you are sharing and I am glad that you are reading this website. There are HUGE amounts of information from myself and thousands of others as we journey on the path to healing together. The mother issue is the biggest issue. I too have used food to avoid the pain, to cope with the pain, to sooth the pain etc. Food helped me to avoid facing that I didn’t feel safe and that I didn’t feel like I belonged and that I wasn’t enough or lovable.. and food doesn’t work. I succeeded in reassuring myself when I looked at the roots of the lies that I believed about me because of the messages that I got about me. Seeing those roots and tugging them out, and gently preparing the soil of my life for growing something better was the foundation of my journey. 🙂
      Glad you are here, thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  2. By: sahitha Posted: 31st July

    I can relate very well to the conflict you mentioned about being optimal weight and overweight. I too grew up in a household and society that placed too much emphasis on external parameters like wealth and beauty.
    I love wealth and admire beauty but when a person’s whole value is based on how much they have earned or how beautiful they look, I think it is damaging.

    So I grew up comparing my looks to other women and continued this pattern well into my early thirties. I was good looking but I was not satisfied until I was the best looking in a group of people and constantly tried to analyse other women’s look and mine, picking out fine details like height, shape of eyes, body etc.

    On the other hand, I also had this broad definition of beauty which encompassed all skin tones, hair and body shapes. I did understand that beauty is more of a symmetry in a person’s external features rather than a limited set of desirable ones. So I found beauty in persons of all races, ages.
    Yet the sub-conscious programming told me I had to be better looking than everyone around me for me to gain acceptance. I am only now beginning to take control of this and define beauty for my ownself.

  3. By: Marina P Posted: 21st April

    Hi Darlene,
    That is wonderful! Getting over an ed is such hard work but so wonderful. Like finding space in ones mind for life in many ways.
    Well done.
    Thanks for the welcome and hugs back.

  4. By: Marina P Posted: 21st April

    ” I believed that being underweight or the perfect weight would keep me safe from disapproval, and I believed that being overweight would keep me safe from men and from sexual assault.”

    Oh my goodness!!!! It has taken me thirty years to figure this out. And I have not heard anyone else say this before despite being a member of an ed support site for years.
    I don’t have time to read through the responses now, Darlene but wanted to say thank you. I am almost totally recovered now and wish you healing with this.

    And I have just seen Mitz’s last response and this:
    “My mother started when I was 11 years old putting me on diets. The most sickening thing about it was that I was tiny for my age.” is exactly what happened with me! except it was fourteen and she put me on diet tablets too and I was already an AN weight.

    Thank you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st April

      Hi Marina
      Thank you ~ I have healed in this area. I still have to be aware of my emotions and of what I reach for to put in my mouth; I still have to listen to my body but things are so much better now!
      I am really glad to have you join this site!
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Mitz Posted: 14th December

    I realize this is a much older post, however, it triggered so many feelings, I just had to respond. Darlene, I was taught the same things you were from my mother and began believing at a very young age that my outward appearance should always be my number one priority. I heard a saying once… Some of us are nothing but dressed up garbage cans..and I must say that fit me to a tee!

    I noticed in a few of the responses to this that there are others whose mother’s made them believe they were not worthy of a relationship if they were overweight; no man would want them, etc. Man did that hit home!

    When I was 11 years old, my mother started dying my hair. She would change the color about once a month. I am from Cherokee Indian heritage, so my hair and features are dark. She had bleached my hair blonde before I turned 12.

    My father worked afternoons and worked most weekends so I really didn’t have much face to face contact with him. She would hide me from my dad when he was at home so he couldn’t see how I looked. She would pile make up on me, buy me padded bras and high heels, etc. Then would tell me not to tell my dad. Talk about being messed up in my thinking. Eventually, my dad would always end up seeing me and his expression spoke much sooner than his words and hurt even more. He thought I was a whore. My mother told me I better go along with whatever she said, telling him that it was “I” that wanted to dye my hair and wear the makeup and dress like that. At that time, my father quit hugging me. I don’t think he hugged me again until I was in my 40’s.

    My mother started when I was 11 years old putting me on diets. The most sickening thing about it was that I was tiny for my age. Heck, I was never able to shop in the adult section until I had given birth to my first child at 21 and then I was a whoppping size 0! Talk about being confused about eating. I was on some kind of diet my entire life. If I would gain one or two pounds I felt enormous and would starve myself, which I referred to as a cleansing fast, each time I’d do it. There were several occasions that people asked me if I was anorexic and I truly believed that I was not.

    My mother would ask me how much I weighed every single time I saw her. She said she was just afraid that I might get fat and no man would want me. So of course this became my belief system, which ended up creating a thinking process that told me to eat more to be safe from abusers. I like you, Darlene, would gain/lose gain/lose. Never happy either way. Never realizing that the core issues were so much more than my appearance.

    When I turned 40, I married a man, my current husband, who was/is 11 years younger than me. I can’t name the amount of times that she let me know that he was going to leave me, not only because of my age and I already had two children and no man wanted that, but because instead of being a size 3, I had become a size 5. Sadly, I believed her. Her way of convincing me was by telling me that she was the “only” person who would be honest with me. Thank God for my husband and his ability to convince me that something was terribly wrong with her ‘not me’.

    My husband had gone to her home one day to cut her grass for her while my dad was having surgery and he came home literally shaking. She had told him that he could do better than me and that he deserved so much more. Asking him why he would want a fat wife, telling him that I was crazy. She encouraged him to leave me. He left while she was still talking and told me he never would be put into a situation where he had to be alone with her.

    Well I’ve gotten off onto something different..

    My whole point of this was that I can relate so well to ED. At this point in my life, I am 40 pounds overweight and as hard as I try, the weight brings on the feelings of being worthless.

    Part of me is so happy that my mother chose to leave my life because I don’t think I could ever let her see me this heavy. And that goes towards my extended family members as well that are on her side of the family. No matter what ages they are or were, they all maintained a very attractive weight and expected everyone in the family too as well. I remember the whispers about a couple of my cousins..just mean…about being the “fat ones”.

    I know I personally still need a lot of help in this area…

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th December

      Hi Mitz
      Wow. That is some crazy stuff your mom was doing! Although the details were different in my own case, I totally identify with the MESSAGE that our mothers sent us! That is what I had to heal from. The damage that message caused.
      And my mom did crazy shit with when it came to the men in my life too!
      So very glad you are here,
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Wendi Posted: 28th January

    thanks Darlene…oddly, makes me somehow feel good to know that it makes someone angry.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th January

      I know exactly what you mean Wendi!
      I think it is because we were so invalidated by that whole system and we learned was not to trust our own feelings. So it is validating when someone else gets angry. It means that we also can feel unjustly treated, that we were not crazy, that we didn’t deserve that! GRRR
      Hugs! Darlene

  7. By: Wendi Posted: 26th January

    Took me a while to get the courage to respond to this…but it has been gnawing at me. I have always been very thin…even at birth I was small, both my mother and father were also thin when they were young as well. However, I got so tired of hearing the comments about how skinny I was and how I should eat more and so on…it was very stressful and I developed quite a complex about my body and how sickly I must look based on what was said to my face, and also behind my back, but within earshot, even by the pediatrician. I wanted to be whatever I was supposed to be, but exactly what was I supposed to do to achieve it? For the most part, I did eat healthily, although I was never a fan of sweets and still am not.

    BUT, there is a bigger issue that began when I was very young…lots of trauma associated with being sick…stomach sick to be exact. It seemed to irritate or even anger people…and there were some pretty gruesome memories of times I actually was sick which I won’t go into out of respect for my feelings and also for any readers…but for me, it was very traumatic to be sick…still is. I consider myself to be a severe emetephobe…and this hinders daily functioning and also impacts my children and husband. It sucks, but I am learning to live with it…learning to accept what I cannot control and try not to worry so much about what MIGHT happen and just accept what is…today, now, in this moment.

    I got very sick when I was a teenager and the reaction to this by my family was not pleasant…I was threatened with a hospital for teens with eating disorders…I was petrified…there would be sick all around me! I would die if I had to go there, I just new it. I begged and begged for a second opinion…after a 2 hour test which I only needed a half hour of…found out I am lactose intolerant and the damage caused to my intestines by being sick for months and also the emotional issues…I have IBS as well. I was put through every possible diagnosis and test I can imagine on the way to this… I thought I was going to die…of some disease, or from starvation due to the months long liquid diet they put me on to keep me from causing myself to be sick… As a result, my fear of sickness just increased and went beyond to being afraid to eat, which did not help my weight issue already.

    As a young adult a therapist, who I explained all this to, said I needed to accept that I am an anorexic. I was appalled. She said I was other things too…and that if I wouldn’t take drugs she would not be able to help me. I can’t take drugs, I told her, they might make me sick and I cannot be sick…period. Got a new therapist and in time explained all this to her. She told me that being anorexic meant that I control what I eat…and that the body image is only one part of it, and not at all the only reason that someone might control what they eat. I can handle that…I do control what I eat and actually began to feel that while everyone else can sit and gorge themselves to feeling awful…I can feel the burn of hunger and keep on going…like it is some kind of super-power…

    I still have to force myself to eat…I know my body must have food. I do like to eat some foods. If anyone in this house has a stomach illness, or I even think it is likely they do…I do not eat…or I eat just enough to be okay. I’m serious, I don’t want to get sick.

    That’s all I’ve got on this 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th January

      Hi Wendi
      It is very devaluing to be ignored or to have people get angry because we are sick. Think about the message you got from that! This makes me angry! I have had a few things happen with my own kids that if I had ignored it they would have been seriously in trouble. When my oldest was a baby we were reprimanded for being so loving about all his crying… turned out that he had a blocked urethra (needed surgery at 5 months old) and they also found out that he had kidney reflux ~ major surgery when he was 5. So you know what it is like to be ignored or to be irritating to adults for that and my son knows what it is like to NOT be ignored.
      I have heard kids THREATENED about going to a hospital. That makes me very angry. these stories and these events have life long consequences! your illness was a burden? that is the message.. and there are lots of other messages that it seems you got that were wrong. These are the foundational things that later cause our adult struggles that I am always talking about. The messages that you got about yourself and your value that turned into your beliefs about your value. Those are the lies that we accept because we don’t know how not to accept them.
      Thanks for sharing this Wendi!
      These are really great examples of what happens. Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Jackie Posted: 19th January

    Where would you post on spouse abuse?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th January

      Hi Jackie
      I am not sure if I understand your question, but in my opinion, abuse is abuse, so you can post on any of the abuse posts that you would like to post on about spouse abuse. Read some of the dysfuntion relationship posts and see if there is anything that resonates with you in them. I hope that this helps. =)
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Amira Posted: 19th January

    ((((safe hugs))))) Jackie, Im so sorry you were treated like that. It takes time to figure out what is best for you and what is the right path to take in every area, just keep looking and trying things and seeing what you connect with and what you dont and examine why you feel that way about it, and trust yourself. That will help tremendously. I know its easier to say than to do, but you will be ok someday 🙂 There is a book called “the rules of normal eaters” by Karen Koenig, and it really helped me a lot to see how “normal people” eat, and feel and think about food, because I had no idea what that was like either.

  10. By: Jackie Posted: 19th January

    Growin up in our home, we had a mother who would starve us at times, and gorge us the next. When we were starved, we’d end up goin to the dog food b/c we were hungry. Durin our times when we were fed, our mother would put a time limit on us to eat, then she would give us a huge plate of food. If anyone finished before the timer went off, we got our face slapped and another huge amount of food to eat again with timed limits. Our mother caught us eatin dog food one time and for a full week, it’s what she made us eat. It didn’t bother us to much b/c we were already use to eatin it by now.

    Today I struggle with bein fat, I think I’m to fat so I don’t eat all day until the night when it’s dinner time. Other times I feel myself strugglin to eat just a tad of somethin and then makin sure it is at the level it was so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I’ve suffered from bein anorexic before and now I’m not even sure food’s any good for me.

    Right now I’m tryin to lose over 50 bls so I won’t be fat anymore. I don’t know where I’m goin with this but I want to say I think I understand the rules of food. Ya just don’t eat much and all should work out fine.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th January

      Hi Jackie,
      I am so sorry that this happened to you ~ the food behaviour problems you are having now are a direct result of that child abuse that happened to you. I have behaved in all those same ways too, and talking about it like this does help.
      Thanks for being here.
      Hugs, Darlene

  11. By: Amira Posted: 16th January

    “Don’t worry Darlene – that was a wide open comment on my part. Not directed at you or any of the other posters. It was more at the fat-phobic society we live in. Not at you! 🙂

    What I was talking about was how my weight issues, over which I had only some control, was used against me as a weapon by my NMother, and a couple sociopaths in my life as well.

    Society ties weight & attractiveness to value as a person. Abusers just pick right up on that and whack us over the head with it.”

    Barbara–I am SO glad you posted this! I felt horrible that you might have taken my negative comments about overweight people and felt that I felt they were ok to have, I have never thought those were “normal” or “good” ways to think about people, regardless of weight. I only mentioned them to show that I had them and at one time thought they were “positive” but now, Thank God, I know them to be the lies that they are, and am working on not comparing myself (or anyone else) to those false beliefs! I did not mean to hurt anyone by my comments, and am so glad you didnt take it that way!!!

    Lisa–you wrote “I frequently go to the gym, give myself a really challenging workout, burn upwards of 450 calories and stop at McDonald’s ON THE WAY HOME!!! WTF?!”

    I can SO relate to that! When I was still trying to deal with only my weight issues and ignore the real things going on behind it (the insecurity, unresolved traumas, PTSD, etc.) I did the EXACT same thing, over and over and over and over for several years, and even in the psychiatric hospital, when they asked why I was there, I never mentioned my abuse history or anything else, I said “Im fat and I hate myself”, I never even considered that abuse and weight issues could possibly be related, because like you, I had never been overweight before, and I only gained weight AFTER the abuse stopped, but thats when the FEELINGS surfaced, which were the REAL PROBLEM!!!! It took me another three years to actually lose any weight without sabotage, and just yesterday, at the grocery store, my husband said to me “you need to keep losing weight, you are starting to look really sexy!” and inside I FREAKED out, because I am so afraid of if I lose the weight and become this physically beautiful person, that things will change and I will be more vulnerable to abuse or that people will treat me differently and pay attention to me and “notice me” and then want sex, even though I am married, and that I wont be able to say no (because Im insecure and afraid of men and would go along just so I didnt have to be hurt or whatever) and that my husband wouldnt understand and would leave me for “cheating on him” even though I didnt “want to” because Im not strong enough to say no and fight back or do whatever it takes to keep them from hurting me, so I must not love him or I would have done something to make them stop.

    So what did I do today? I ate half a cake, and three sodas and breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have been anxious and afraid and never want to leave my house again….all because MY HUSBAND, says I am starting to be physically attractive again! So I can totally relate, and it has NOTHING to do with weight and diets and exercise, fix your insides and the outsides will follow

  12. By: Lisa B. Posted: 16th January

    I am 5’11” tall and I weigh (as of today) 257 pounds. According to the experts’ charts, I am 100 pounds overweight. According to ME, I am 80 pounds overweight. I would probably be much heavier if I didn’t also SMOKE a pack a day! I have started and stopped many diets. I have done exercise plans and diets together and they have worked. And the minute they start working, I stop. If someone tells me I look great, or I’m really slimming down, or whatever, I almost immediately sabotage myself and never get back on track. I joined a gym on December 1 and was consistently going 4-5 times a week until this past week, when I didn’t go at all. As of today, I am down 3 pounds (was 260 last time I checked). I haven’t dealt with food issues at all. And they MUST be dealt with. I frequently go to the gym, give myself a really challenging workout, burn upwards of 450 calories and stop at McDonald’s ON THE WAY HOME!!! WTF?!

    I know how to cook (sort of), but I can’t be bothered, since it’s just me. (A high school friend I’ve reconnected with through Facebook is a chef and is going to give me a cooking/shopping lesson for quick,easy, healthy meals on Super Bowl Sunday, so let’s see how that goes!).

    I eat too much and I eat too fast. I probably eat too much BECAUSE I eat too fast. My brain doesn’t have a moment to tell my stomach that it’s full.

    But here’s the thing. I wasn’t always overweight. When I was a kid (even a young adult), I was tall and thin. I look at pictures of myself from back then and I cringe, because I THOUGHT I WAS A COW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My mother constantly told me how big I was…she didn’t use the word “fat”, but she made me believe that I was OBSCENELY tall…freakishly so. And my siblings did too (my sisters anyway). The funny thing is, that my sisters are both tall too…I’m the tallest, but they are both upwards of 5’8″. Would you believe that I didn’t even NOTICE that they were close to my height until LAST YEAR?! Anyway, I digress…again… 😉

    The dinner table was not a happy place in my house. I am reminded of a line from Pat Conroy’s masterpiece, “The Prince of Tides,” when one of the brothers is coming to dinner and says, “Why do I always feel like I’m getting ready to land on Normandy beach when I sit down at this table?” (not an exact quote). That’s how it was in my life. There was ALWAYS a battle at the dinner table. It got to the point that sometimes I would start the fight, just to get it over with…it was easier than sitting through dinner waiting and wondering when it would start and what it would be about.

    I was also the family garbage disposal. Anything anybody else (my mother or grandmother, that is) didn’t want to eat landed on my plate. And I was expected to eat it.

    I know that my smoking and my overeating are coping mechanisms. I know that I make myself fat so that I’m not attractive to men. I didn’t always. I used to want to be attractive. Until I was…then I didn’t want to be. I’ve never been with a man sexually without being drunk. And I’ve only been with two men even that way. Both one-night-stands, neither did I ever see again. I decided that I didn’t want to have sex only when drunk, so I just made the decision (not conscious, of course) not to have sex at all. I’m 42 years old and I’m practically a virgin. It’s embarrassing.

    I just wish I could figure out a way to get this weight off. I know I’ll have to decide that I’m worth it if any diet or exercise plan has any hope of working. But I’m not feeling very optimistic about it all. Every time I start one, have some success and then quit, I end up gaining back more weight than I lost so I have to dig myself out of an even deeper hole. I’m discouraged. I hate having to do everything alone, without support. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I can.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th January

      Hi Lisa,
      My eating disorder issues have evolved and changed over the years. (I suspect that it is to keep up with and actually combat my own new healthy belief system ~ something I am trying to articulate in this post) I didn’t used to be so effected by someone telling me that I looked great but then again looking great WAS part of my survival back then and I was dissociated, which in my eating disorders, played a big part. I became aware of “the minute a diet or exercise program works, or someone tells me I look great” ~ I stop ~ about 5 years ago. This awareness is actually one of the clues that I am talking about. I had to look at what I believe it means when someone says I look great. Where might that lead?? Your whole post is full of these “clues” and each one needs to be looked at the way that you are doing here and even deeper. But here is the thing about coping methods; they dissipate or lessen when we don’t need them anymore. For me, when it comes to this particular issue, I have to process as I am going through the process.. it is really complicated. I hope to expose a lot more of my own processing over the coming months. Hang in here!!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Amira,
      I can relate and understand everything you have shared here too. All of it. This is all tangled up with our false definition of love. People that have been abused (and not only sexually abused, this is the same for any kind of abuse) can come to believe that sexual attraction is the same as love. That sexual attraction is validation, but it isn’t. And validation might lead to abuse. See how mixed up it is in there? There are worthiness issues on the one side, and fear issues on the other side and all through that whole mix is the fact that we don’t trust ourselves. All of this stuff has it’s roots in how we view our own value. (or lack of it)
      That is what this series is about. All of this stuff.
      Thanks for sharing all of this Amira.

      To everyone ~ sharing in this way makes me feel naked ~ so I am sure that it makes you feel a little naked too, but if I can relate to everything you say, then there are millions of others who also relate. It is in sharing and in reading our own words, and being validated by each other, that makes such a big difference to the overall process here.
      So thank you everyone for sharing in such courageous depth that you do.
      hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Kia Posted: 16th January

    Ouch!!! I’ve had an eating disorder for close to five years now. My problem was the opposite of overeating though. I simply did not eat. I had not been one to gain or lose weight anyway, so I had nothing to lose when my problem started. I personally can pinpoint the exact day it started for me.
    For me, it all started the day the preacher (at my old church and home) started preaching at me and several other people by name in front of the whole church. He said things about us that were not at all true. It was a shot out of the blue – that is how much I expected it. From that day on, my stomach was rejecting food. To keep from vomiting every time I ate, I did not eat. It was the easy way to keep my Biological parents from asking me questions I was NOT going to answer and also to try to keep them off my back (the latter did not work). It was a super painful time for me. From that point on the emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse grew worse with each day. By the time I left with 2 of my sisters, one of them and myself were reacting to most foods and slowing wasting away to nothing. The people who took us in told us later that we were physically dying right before their eyes and it scared them. To this day, my reaction to stress or anything out of the ordinary is to not eat. And it carries through even when I am not stressed. I find it hard to eat, my body tells me that I’m not hungry or when I do eat the response is the need to purge. It is difficult many times to keep myself from it. Another reaction is my inability to eat the food I make. That makes me sick. And it is hard, because my sisters work and aren’t home much that they can do the cooking. Which leaves me not really eating. It feels like an endless cycle. But being pressured to eat doesn’t work either. Then I for sure can’t eat.
    I have been told to just get over it. It isn’t so simple for me. I can look back and realize that I was using my eating to be the one thing I could have control of. But I can’t find the other roots – they are buried pretty deep. Someone has told me that another root lies in my lack of self worth. I’m still chewing on that one.

  14. By: carol Posted: 16th January

    i have always had weight problems, i dont gain or lose weight very easily but at 5ft tall im pretty grateful for that.
    as a child i was always called skinny ribs or other names like scaby due to my excema, so i have never wanted to be fat. the only place i was big was my ankles which where chuncky. i was always told id grow up to be like my nan who at 4ft 11 and had a behing ya could rest a tray on i didnt think so. apparently my mother had a real job to get me to eat and once she found something i would eat id be given it till i stopped eating it. this is bore out by the way at 18 i was livin on 4 ice lolllies and coffee a day. i go thro stages where i eat certain foods constantly then stop n switch to a differnt food n then swap back. i was only 6 1/2 st. when i met my hubby and am now only 7 10lb and even when i dont eat for days my weight is stable aroung this level. i think it is all down to control as to what i put into my mouth and what textures i can cope with on my tongue. i can ignore both hunger and full signs from my stomach andhave to make a conscious effort to eat enough for my body to function on a daily basis. i think the fact that food was made into a battle ground for me has made it so much harder for me to understand the need to cook and eat correct food.
    i have many memories of being sat at the dinner table all sunday afternoon because i couldnt clear my plate and would gaga on the cold chewy meat til i started taking tissue to the table n spittin it out n flushing it away. i also remember going to my mothers mothers on holiday and her putting 3 sprouts on my plate even tho i toldher i wouldnt eat them. i was sat there at that table till i wetn to bed and was given em for my breakfast. i hate sprouts with a passion because of her.
    i havent done this to my daughter. i have givven her choices and options. i have made her try but not forced her to cleaar her plate or stay at the table when she was to young ot understand the rules about table manners n stuff. yet i know this is how my mother didnt do it to me when one day when my child wwas 18mths old, my mother wasnt happy that my child wouldnt stay sat dwn to eat her food, and started to ,make an issue out of it. i asked if that was how she did it with me and maybe thats why i have some many problems with preparing/cookin food and eating proper meals

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th January

      Hi Carol,
      Thank you for sharing some of your history. There are so many “clues” in what you have written and I am going to highlight how I looked at those clues. With a belief system it is never about just one thing.. there are always many things. There are good feelings and bad feelings and all kinds of clues that play off each other and hide within each other. Sorting it out by looking at the clues is how I was able to get to the bottom of the issues with each belief system that I have re-wired and change the basic belief.
      Sharing this stuff this way is great for everyone because when you write it all out, you get to “see it, feel it and reveal it” and when others read it, it reminds them of the way that they felt, processed, and developed the beliefs around the issues. Very cool stuff going on in this blog!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Barbara,
      OH GOOD.. LOL Thank you for posting this. You are very right that abusers pick up on the visible signs that victims display, and they also have no trouble picking up on low self esteem of any kind no matter “what” someone looks like ~ and yes, they use it to their own benefit.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Kia,
      I have had many different varieties of eating disorders also and come to see them ALL as symptoms from similar roots and I also know that the keys to recovery are not in the details of the symptoms themselves, but in the belief systems about our self worth and how food applies to it. I am going to try to highlight this through this in a more detailed way through this series. This isn’t easy for anyone. None of these things ~ or getting to the bottom of then are easy. Being told to just get over it is like being discounted. (again) In my case, self destructive behaviours are all rooted in my lack of self worth, but by the same token, all my recovery has been based on replacing the lies at the base of WHY I had such low self worth.
      Thanks for being here and for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Barbara Posted: 16th January

    Don’t worry Darlene – that was a wide open comment on my part. Not directed at you or any of the other posters. It was more at the fat-phobic society we live in. Not at you! 🙂

    What I was talking about was how my weight issues, over which I had only some control, was used against me as a weapon by my NMother, and a couple sociopaths in my life as well.

    Society ties weight & attractiveness to value as a person. Abusers just pick right up on that and whack us over the head with it.

  16. By: Barbara Posted: 15th January

    this issue is hugely triggering for me as it was one of the things my NarcissistMother held against me

    My late dad was 6’5″ and I was always very tall and thin. My mother would harp on me to loose weight because I was “so big” according to her.

    I have also struggled since the age of 9 with PCOS ( My Nmother blamed me for having this genetic disorder and was VERY vocal about her DISGUST with all my symptoms, how much stress this caused HER, how ‘no man would ever want me’ and the daily “You’re a freak!” After my children were born the weight gain symptom kicked in very quickly and I am now morbidly obese, through no fault of my own. My NMother made it very clear she was disgusted with me, didn’t believe I had PCOS, blamed me and so on…

    In 1999 a very good article, in which my endocrinologist was interviewed, came out in WOMEN’S DAY magazine. I got a copy and later caught her reading it. Darlene, I literally SAW her energy and ‘self’ physically DEFLATE. There it was in black and white that she could not deny – that it was NOT MY FAULT. After reading that article she didn’t speak to me for 3 days. When she finally did it was to BLAME me for not ‘getting it fixed’ (wtf? You can’t FIX it!) a lot sooner. Of course no apology, etc.

    Now I am still obese. Before I left my abusive spouse I had a marriage counselor tell me ‘no one can love a fat person.” It was one of the most harmful things I’d ever heard from a “professional.”

    I don’t like the way I look. Even when i was thin I didn’t. I wasn’t that ALL AMERICAN PRINCESS my NMother insisted she SHOULD have had. Now the fat seems to insulate me from others. We must try to remember sometimes fat is NOT the person’s fault. We are a looks oriented society who loves to place blame. Remember: There is a human being in there and usually a painful story as to how & why they got that way.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th January

      Hi Amira,
      Thanks for sharing this story. I can really really relate to it as well. I didn’t just have one coping method, I had many and they all meshed together, played off each other, took turns sometimes and that makes recovery from all of them hard. But not impossible! In the next couple of posts in this series, I hope to shed some light on the thought patterns and how I figured out smaller details in order to realize where some of the conflicts were that kept me stuck.
      I am looking forward to your thoughts in part two.
      Thanks for being here! Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Barbara,
      I think that this issue will be hugely triggering for a lot of people that read it. It is very hard when someone has a medical condition like you have ~ the world does not understand ~ I hope that you understand that these articles are about the thoughts that I have had inside of myself that confuse the issues I’ve had and others who post are trying to sort our their own thoughts, feelings and struggles about it. I am only saying this because I am unsure of who you were addressing when you said “please remember that there is a human being inside ..” and I hope that you don’t think that anyone here really thinks that overweight people are any less valuable then anyone else, because that would never be the truth! Everyone has equal value. I hope that I did not offend you with my blog post.
      I hope that you are able to read the following posts.
      Hugs,, Darlene

  17. By: Amira Posted: 15th January

    Wow Darlene, the only difference in that post from my story is pretty much the bulimic aspect of it. I was never one to purge, because in my head, not eating was ok, but purging meant I had an ED…and for me it was a direct result of being told that my entire worth as a human being was in my body (and by extension sexuality). Not exactly in those words, I think the exact words that I heard every single time I ate a meal, for probably 25 years, were “dont eat too much, because if you get fat, no man is ever going to want you and if you have one, they will cheat on you and/or leave you, and you need someone to take care of you, so you have to be careful about your weight” and I was normal weight as a child, but when the abuse started (around age 9) I started to gain weight, not to the point of obesity, but on my tenth birthday, my little sister’s friend made fun of me because I got a pair of jeans for my birthday, and they were a size ten, and she joked that I was “wearing double digits on my first double digit birthday, and that I was too fat” and then I just stopped eating except when other people were there, and then it was as little as I could, which was easy since I had five to seven siblings eating the same meals (depending on which relationship my mom was in) and this went completely unchallenged because it was accepted that I needed to be thin, so not eating to lose weight was seen as a “good” thing.

    The next time I remember anything being totally related to my weight, other than the comments that had become routine, was when I got to be a preteen, and was growing and changing, I needed new clothes, and it was the one time in my life that I remember doing ANYTHING alone with my mother. She took me shopping for clothes, and was so happy that I looked cute in my clothes and that I was so skinny and she let me pick short skirts and tiny tops to show off my body, and that was all encouraged. So then any doubt that I had about my worth being in more than my looks, was erased.

    So I realized that my family was happy with me when I was thin and dressed provocatively, and so were other men/boys (as confirmed by repeated sexual abuse throughout my childhood and the rest of my life into adulthood, which I assumed was “love”) and I never even had heard of an eating disorder until I was probably in my late teens, then I heard about anorexia and someone that I knew (I have no idea who it was now) told me how those girls are “not pretty, and boys dont like them because they are sick” so I got the message that being too thin was as bad as being too fat….and even though I did all the things that those “sick” girls did, I was ok because I wasnt that thin…and that defined my life for decades. I never thought for a second that I had a problem with eating disorders, I thought I was “normal” and that other people who ate whatever they wanted and/or were overweight, were “weak” and that I was better than them because I had never been really overweight and I had no problem getting/keeping men in my bed.

    So I was extremely controlling about my food, but I still “ate normal” around others to put on a good impression of myself, and “being normal” was an obsession of mine. I used street drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, over-exercise, starving, coffee fasts, smoking, anything that I could find that would make it easier to stay thin…and only when I stopped doing those things and got a new group of friends, where eating and being slightly overweight was accepted and even encouraged by the men, did I even consider eating the way I did to be “not normal” and since “normal” was my obsession, when I got married and my husband (who was overweight and is an emotional eater) took me out to eat all the time and cooked for me and made food a central focus in our life, I ate to make him happy, so he would love me and want me, and all those other things that were so ingrained in my mind….so I started to gain weight, and got severely depressed about it, and it snowballed, and then because I had no idea how to cope with emotions without drugs or promiscuity (which i wouldnt do being married) I ate, because even if I hated myself, that was “ok” to others, as a coping method. So I gained 100 lbs, and then my husband told me that he was “no longer attracted to me because of my weight”(which was just part of the problem, the real issues were a result of my extreme mood changes, suicidal depressions, inability to be a productive wite/mother, but it took a long time for all that to surface after the initial comment) so that for me, meant that I had failed as a human being, because my sole purpose for existence (in my own mind) was to get/keep a man happy and if he wasnt attracted to me sexually then I was a failure as a person and there was no reason to exist.

    So I cant even explain the depth to which I hated myself (and my body) after that moment….and I did everything I could to try and lose weight, out of fear of losing my marriage, and nothing worked, because the weight was just a symptom of much bigger problems….and I started despising food, and eating, and anything even remotely connected to the two…and it wasnt until about six months ago maybe, that my husband asked me one day “why do you hate food so much?” and said that he could taste how much I hated food, in the things that I cooked for him, that it tasted bad to him because my attitude towards food and cooking affected the way things tasted….and thats when it all kind of came out, and I realized that I wasnt “normal’ or “better than other people” or any of that, and that I was sick and did have an eating disorder of some kind (the fact that the only food I have ever considered acceptable to eat without strict rules was plain raw vegetables was not enough of a clue…LOL!) and then I went to a dietician and have seen her twice a month for 3 months now, and doing that while working on the false beliefs of needing to be physically and sexually perfect to be loved and accepted as good enough, has made me see that I am indeed a loveable, worthy person, just by virtue of breathing….although I know that to be a true statement, its still not a heartfelt statement to me, but I do know that the other beliefs are NOT true, and that if I keep working, I will eventually see my true worth and value as a person, on the inside as well as my outside, and as a result, I have lost almost 40 lbs…but that has brought new challenges on its own, because now I am losing weight and becoming more “attractive” physically, and want that to continue, so I am constantly fighting against wanting to starve and over-exercise to make sure that I dont lose this momentum…which is just as dangerous…so its hard work but I know that at the end of it all….Im going to be ok, and I know that Im not alone, and that is a good feeling, albeit sad.

  18. By: Chel Posted: 15th January

    I was taught that fat people are stupid and weak. Thankfully I only had a true eating disorder for 2 years. I look at overweight people and automatically assume they are less intelligent than I. Every day, multiple times a day, I carefully look my body to make sure I don’t appear to be getting bigger. Both my parents (whom I no longer speak to) are very thin and always have been. They barely eat. My family was not low-income, so there was no reason to eat mainly soup. When I got a job I started going to fast food joints every day because I was so hungry at home. I now have a baby girl and am so afraid that I will not be able to communicate with her that healthy is all that matters and weight doesn’t matter.
    I feel like you. The other day I saw a woman I don’t particularly like. She had gained so much weight in the past 2 years I barely recognized her. This made me feel superior. I immediately realized how wrong this was, but still could not help feeling relieved.
    Thank you for your posts, they open me up.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th January

      Hi Jasmine,
      Thanks for sharing your history with this whole thing. This topic is huge and I look forward to your take on what I have to say as I proceed with this series!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Lorraine,
      I can relate to what you have said too; my feeling about coping methods is that freedom to me means not constantly controlling ~ it means not even thinking about it anymore. It means body acceptance no matter what weight. This is what I aim for and I have parts of it now. I look foreword to your thoughts later in the series too.

      Hi Chel,
      I have so much to write about this whole thing, but I could not post all of it in one blog post. I am not getting at feeling superior, although what you have posted is such a good example of how the belief system forms. You were taught that fat people are stupid and weak. You were taught that ~ so that was your belief system. I hope that you continue following this series.

      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: Lorriaine Posted: 15th January

    This is a huge issue with me. I was always slender until I started to dissociated and then the weight began to pile on. As a professional therapist I would buy nice clothes and I always thought I looked good so it did not concern me that I was three sizes larger then normal until the dissociation started to come to an end, at least people were no longer popping in and out of me, my insiders that is. So that is when I discoverd much to my dismay how huge I had become and it took a couple years as I was dealing with sleep deprivation from hypervigilence, for me to take any action on reducing my weight. I started to starve myself and got down to a size 8 which is comfortable with me. But then I started the cycle of binging and starving and binging and starving and began to gain weigth again. I am now taking control to try to eat normally and healthily, meals, with protein bars for snacks, and no nibbling at night after 7pm. so I have been doing this for three weeks now and still sometimes just forget to eat and have to catch myself so that I do eat, so it is something I am constantly aware of.

  20. By: Jasmine Posted: 15th January


    Again, another issue close to my heart.

    I never knew when did my struggles with food started, but all we (my parents and I) knew that I started to gain a lot of weight between the ages of 2 and 3. Nobody can confirm what caused it, but I can only guess that it was as simple as my sister coming into the family as a sickly child for a number of years, and I always had to “give way”, not “bothering” mummy with my needs/wants, and feeling like I’m not important. I supposed it does sound common, but my little mind could not register it. Hence, food was my best friend.

    Of course, this was just a guess. We all like to attribute our experiences to various causes, don’t we?

    But what was sure was that I never stopped gaining weight. Whenever I was unhappy, I eat. And boy was I always unhappy. To add to the equation, my mum is someone who is very particular about weight and body image. Hence, my weight gain didn’t sit in well with her. She constantly reminded me (even in public) that she is ashamed to have a fat daughter like me.

    When I finished high school, I was obese with a BMI of about 30. I relented to a slimming programme just to stop my mum from ever nagging again. With all the horrible crash diets (vege sticks as snacks, regular meals of vege without oil and salt, no carbs and fat…), I lost more than 40 pounds in 6 months. My menses went off within the first two months, but it didn’t deter me. The gynae put me on hormone medications, which didn’t work…but only made me gain weight. When that happened, I “lost control”. I became so obsessed with food that every day during classes, I would sneak out to the cafeteria for a meal, knowing that Mum has prepared food back home. I would sneak snacks to my room, eat in secret, then throw the wrappers in the bin and covered them with paper.

    When I came to another state to study, I decided that it was my time to “gain control”. I had normal breakfast and lunch, but “breakfast meals” for my dinner. Soon, I even forgo breakfast and was just about to skip dinner as well, when I realized that my textbook calls this “eating disorder”. I brought this up to my clinical psychologist expecting her to be surprised, only to hear her say… “I knew it all along. I just didn’t want to bring it up because I knew that you won’t be able to handle this with so many things already at hand.” followed by a very anxious tone, “But doesn’t it affect your health?”

    That was a few sessions before termination. Naturally, we didn’t have enough time to process this in therapy. I went to see one of my lecturers, the only ED expert in the country – a health psychologist. Nevertheless, “recovery” is still almost impossible due to the lack of practitioners in this field.

    One thing that surprises me, though, is that as I begin to gain more control over my life…my control over food lessens. Yes I still count calories, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore (I tried purging, but stopped after a few months). My upbringing made me a “perfect candidate” for a “full-blown” eating disorder, and it’s only a wonder that it didn’t happen (yet). Yet again, I don’t need to have a full-blown ana or mia before doing something, do I?

    Eating disorders are so very complex.

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