This is quite a difficult question to answer but I feel it is important for me to articulate why I’ve come to this choice, at this time in my life.
The fact is I have always struggled with my body weight as soon as I hit puberty and if I am brutally honest, I developed issues with food before then. None of my family have issues with food and their weight, just me. So why me? And why surgery?
Looking back now I think my issues started with food when I was around three. As a child I never liked my mums cooking, from my recollection it was very rice and stew based due to my mother’s upbringing. I remember being unable to swallow the chunks of stringy meat and sucking the juice out of them but not being able to swallow the actual fibre, my father can even recall bathing me at a young age and finding that I had been storing the meat in my cheeks all that time… unable to swallow it.
Aged 9 I became a vegetarian, and was happy to avoid meat completely, yet for me and from my perspective food didn’t get any better. Every day I would ask when I got home from school ‘what’s for dinner’ longing for the day my mum would occasionally say ‘macaroni cheese’ and I would love that meal. More often than not it wouldn’t be and I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. I remember endless mound of dry rice and Quorn in some kind of sauce. I came from a house where you didn’t leave the table until you had eaten all of your food (normal for the time) and that would sometimes make things really hard for me. Often, I would go to bed hungry.
My dad even as a child used to call me thunder thighs, I am sure he meant it as a term of endearment but I recall thinking even as I young child I was ‘chunky’ or heavyset. Looking back at photos now and I actually wasn’t, but my perception of myself even from a young age was changed.
I can remember my mother telling me at the age of around 10-12 – ‘If I could give you one gift, it would be the gift of grace’. I remember this again reinforcing this idea of being a chunky, ungainly, heavy child.
Things changed as I got older and went to senior school. We were given money to buy lunch and suddenly I had control over my food! I would not eat for the majority of the day having a packet of chips for lunch to tie me over and on the way home I would often spend the rest on a chocolate flapjack or a packed of Haribo sweets and eat them at home while my mum was working so I knew I wouldn’t go hungry that evening. I remember at times sneaking downstairs a night and stealing whole tubes of Pringles and eating the whole tube in bed to myself. Thinking back my parents must have noticed but nothing was said. Oddly I never really gained much weight during this time, until I went to university.
I would like to make it clear I don’t blame my parents nor am I angry at them for how they brought me up and if any of the comments or behaviours contributed to my unhealthy relationship with food. I was very much a loved child and I know they parented in the best way they could, sometimes even with the best of intentions we still impact on our kids…
University gave me absolute freedom with food, and a lot of students go mad when suddenly they can drink unregulated and unchecked by their parents. For me it was food, drink has never really enticed me but freedom around food did and I slowly gained more and more weight.
During my second year at university I was walking home from lectures when two boys pointed and laughed at me about my tummy and size (I was a size 16 at the time) and I remember going home red-faced, mortified about what I had just experienced, the shame was just unbearable. For me that was a tipping point… For three months I barely left the house, but to get food. I developed high anxiety and became so sensitive to people looking a me that I hid away, and just ate. I think my house mates were so caught up in their own lives that maybe they didn’t notice and even if they did, they wouldn’t have known what to do.
One day my mum called and ask how I was and I just crumbled, everything just poured out, apart from my shameful experience with those two boys. My parents were great and gave me the option of either leaving uni or having counselling and trying to see it through which they would help fund with me. I chose the latter and after a poor experience with a uni therapist I found a private counsellor I connected with and did three months’ course work in five weeks and made into my third and final year. I never told my therapist about the experience with the boys either as I found it too embarrassing to articulate at the time. Had I have told her therapy may have taken a completely different route but that would be a whole other story.
By the end of my third year, I managed to graduate, I hated my degree by the end and just wanted it all to be over so I could get out into the big wide world for a fresh start. I was also by that time in a long-distance relationship with ‘G’ who lived in Plymouth. After dating for only 6 months we agreed that after graduation I should move down to Devon and we would rent a flat and for me that where I felt finally my new life would begin. It felt like a fresh new start where I could leave awful negative experiences behind and look forward to building a new life in a new city….