Old Habits Die Hard

Do you think you ever really let go of old habits?

It’s no secret I struggle with food. I’m pretty open about it and people look at me as if to say “it’s just a choice, make it”. I know what I should do, I’m aware of how it works. Sometimes it feels like my brain has its own opinion on the matter.

When I was a kid I hid food. I’m not entirely sure why. Money was tight, life was chaotic, who knows what goes through a 3, 4 or 5 year old’s mind when they decide to hide a bowl of cereal in their dresser drawer or half of a sandwich in their closet? I became cognizant of the “issue” when I was in the 3rd grade and our weights were put up on the weight chart to show how we’d grown. There weren’t many kids who came close to my weight.

My dad would tease me by calling me Miss Piggy, and the kids at school were not much better.  In the 6th grade my teacher joined the banter by referring to me by a name that combined mine with that of an animal that a boy in class came up with. When my mom complained after hearing me crying in my room one night.  I was further ridiculed for not being able to take a joke.

I remember standing on the pitcher’s mound of the kick ball field while one of my classmates ran through the list of my flaws while he praised his girlfriend as she sat on his lap and smirked at me.  Ooooo, what a sweat victory that must have been.  Why I stood there and listened, I couldn’t begin to explain. Yeah, yeah, it was 25 years ago let it go. The problem is that I still stand there and listen. Only now, sometimes the asshole sitting on the kick ball is me.

When I was a junior in high school the Air Force recruiter told me I would be put on a special diet for fat girls and everyone would know about it and I would be mocked openly until I dropped the weight.  (What I wouldn’t give to be that weight today. Okay, there are some things I wouldn’t give.)  I never joined the Air Force but I did learn how to purge.  It started with laxatives but they complicated my evening runs and I’m not sure my friend’s moms appreciated me stopping by for those kinds of visits. I moved on to a favorite spoon handle or my toothbrush. It felt so amazingly awesome to have control over something in my life. It lead to controlling the food I put in my mouth…or didn’t. I loved to feel that ache in the pit of my belly when I went to bed. It meant success. Because I cycled through phases, the weight loss was never alarming so no one got concerned. I got a pass.

I yo-yoed through the cycle into college. One of my dorm mates brought up at a floor meeting that she’d heard someone throwing up in the shower. It lead to the discovery of ipecac syrup and drives out on the back roads behind the college and strategically planning my days so that I missed food service hours. It turns out that she had heard one of the girls who would later be one my best friends.

I’m not sure what happened. What switch flipped. I was befriended by a girl in health and development who was recovering from her own even deeper version of my struggle. I wonder if watching her and hearing her story made the light come on. Her sadness about being infertile because of the abuse she put her body through and how she had to monitor the amount of miles she walked in a day because her impulse was to not stop walking.  I started seeing a counselor at the school.

During the chaos in those days I would eat then release it. Now I just eat and it never releases. It sits there. It reminds me. When I see myself I see all my failings. All of the things I can not control. All of ways I’ve been hurt and disappointed. All of the things I will never be or didn’t do.  On a bad day the urge is front and center in my mind. Poking me. Pushing me.

I wonder if it will ever go away. The struggle. The stuffing of feelings and emotions. The hiding.  Even if I lose this weight and run these races, will I ever see myself differently?

I wrestle with how to explain it to my 11-year-old son who told me about a group of girls at his old school who would gather after lunch and purge.  He asked and I was honest and then he looked at me like I had 3 heads. Why would I do that?! If you’ve never been there will you ever get it? What if you don’t get it even after being there?

Today I attempted to over restrict my diet.  In the end I ate poorly when I finally gave in. I made a comment regarding something I had eaten  on a friend’s Face.book page as a joke. It got a response from someone that brought up my defenses. Not because she was attacking, she wasn’t.  Her comment made complete sense and it’s something I know. I deleted my reply to her comment because to other people it’s all excuses.  Maybe at the heart of it all, it is. To me it feels like a battle that on most days I’m not sure I’ll ever win.

This post makes me feel really vulnerable and completely exposed.  It is not a space I feel comfortable in. Maybe it will help a few of my friends understand my crazy when it comes to this “thing” I’m trying to do and my defensiveness.  Maybe in the end it will help me. My brain will spin wondering who will discard it because it’s all stuff I should have moved past, who will try to figure out the name my teacher called me and who will remember it…and will they laugh? Who will take a step back because all they see is crazy, who will be mad because I posted it at all, and who will nod their head because they know ?  We all have struggles, this is one of mine.



Filed under Random Bits

6 responses to “Old Habits Die Hard

  1. Kevne

    Thanks for sharing Jess. It’s a hard road you are on, but it’s so worth it. Keep up the good work with your training, and setbacks you may have are far better than not trying at all.

  2. Mallory

    Psalm 139:14 reads; “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well.” In the original Hebrew text, the word ‘fearfully’ means: with great reverence and heart-felt interest and respect. The word ‘wonderfully’ means: unique, set apart, uniquely marvelous. WOW! No wonder the psalmist bursts out with exuberant praise in this verse. He realized the great love and concern that went into his unique and very individual creation. According to this Scripture, you truly are a Master Piece! The next time you have the temptation to ask the Lord, “Don’t you care what is happening to me?” Remember this verse, because the total truth is that He cares and loves you with an acute intensity that cannot ever be measured.

  3. Lisa

    Jess – There is one last option in your last paragraph that is not included. There are those of us that do not understand it completely, but try, and wish we could be of more help in the matter.

    The raw emotion you still feel over this (past and present) is very apparent in your words and I can tell this is something you really struggle with. We all have our different battles. By nature, I tend to want to be a “fixer” but I have no idea what advice to offer you to fix this one. It hurts me to see you hurt, but in the end, I think it is a beautiful gesture for you to open yourself up to those that DO understand it so they can seek comfort in knowing, at least, they are not alone. We all benefit when we find that common thread. Overcoming these beasts in our lives is so much easier when we can see we are not the only ones facing them.

    Bravo to you and all the “unheard turtles” that stick their necks out!

  4. Bridget

    There is another one last option in your last paragraph that is not included.

    I’m Sorry. There was alot between us at one time both good and bad. And when I look back I always remember you with a smile in my heart, but I know that I was not always remembered with good memories and I still don’t know what some of those were. But I know I was not a great help in your struggles, and I am sorry I was not a better friend to you. I always Love you.

    Let’s always talk grapefruit and orthopedic shoes…….

  5. Amanda

    Thanks for sharing. It’s hard to expose what we hide so deeply inside. But at times putting something “out there” is more therapeutic for the writer than the readers.

    In this case, I hope that it helps you in this journey more than anything. Your true friends will not discard it, nor step back. We’ll just step closer and be grateful that you felt comfortable enough to share.


  6. Ugh you’ve had a difficult journey with weight/food. I’m sorry 😦 My best friend in HS did the purging thing and it was difficult to deal with for me… I can’t even imagine how hard everything was to go through for her (and you).

    I do think people can let go of old habits. It’s so difficult and I have more than a few I’d like to let go of but haven’t ever been able to. But there are some… negative… habits I’ve been able to kick. I still think about them sometimes but (usually) easily choose not to.

    Sending *hugs*

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