My Story: The Origin Of My Food Addiction- Part 7

As I stood there looking at the positive pregnancy test, I was overcome with emotion, excited for the joy to come, scared for the unknowns. Instantly in love with the tiny person growing inside me. But as I stood there, my weight was on my mind. Being overweight was not a good thing to begin with, mixing it with pregnancy was worse. As it was my doctor had been on me for years about PCOS and the risk of gestational diabetes. She had warned that if I didn’t lose weight there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant in the first place. Well, surprise, surprise.

I knew the risks and I was still excited. But as I stood there looking between my reflection and the test I swore, I was not going to be one of those people that gained a ton of weight in pregnancy and then blamed it on the baby. I was going to be different.

As it turned out, I wasn’t different. Don’t throw stones. The nausea set in almost immediately. I had severe nausea from dawn til dusk throughout the whole pregnancy. At first, I lost about 10 lbs. Eventually I discovered saltine crackers and orange juice settled my stomach and vitamin b suckers became a staple. As long as my stomach was never empty the nausea was manageable. Besides that, my regular bad eating habits of quick, convenient, mostly processed food did me no favors and the “eating for two” excuse came up more than it should have.

Over the first six months of the pregnancy I gained about 20 lbs. Then, between 6 and 9 months my weight shot like a rocket, up and up at about 15 lbs a month. 65 lbs in total before my first son was born, a healthy 7 lbs even.

I was amazed that within 7 days of giving birth 30 lbs came right back off. I never developed diabetes and everyone was healthy. I felt good, now that I was relieved of the misery of that much water retention and lumpy baby.

But those extra 35 lbs remained. I tried and tried but not diet did it. The exhaustion of the early days of parenthood prevailed. Before I knew it, I was pregnant again. Then, I ended up having back to back losses and the emotional derailment that goes along with miscarriage can be unparalleled.

Finally I conceived again and carried my Rainbow baby to term, gaining only 14 lbs in the process. Again, I lost 20 lbs immediately and by her first birthday, was pregnant again. Up and down. Up and down. Never sleeping. Another 25 lbs on and off. This time with the elevated weight in combination with my age, I didn’t escape diabetes. In fact, I was introduced to new complications, blood clots. The birth was really difficult, the cord was wrapped twice around his neck, his heart rate was dropping. My blood sugar dropped to 55. The doctor told me he had to come now! So I pushed and his face was bruised in the process, though at first I thought he had been strangled. He had NICU time, he was too big, the product of a diabetic mother and he couldn’t regulate his blood sugar.

Finally, two years later, my fourth baby. This time, more diabetes, more blood clots, and a placental abruption. Childbirth is not for the faint of heart…

All told, by the time I was ready to deliver my last baby, I had ballooned up to 282 lbs. It was misery. Everything hurt. I couldn’t bend over, I heaved myself around. I couldn’t sleep. My bones ached from the swelling. The tendons in my feet splayed to the point that walking caused bone to touch the ground and I could no longer walk barefoot, even to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I woke up that last day before a scheduled induction due to medical issues, so puffy and swollen I could barely open my eyes or speak through Goldie Hawn lips.

I prayed this would be the highest number I ever saw on the scale.

I had the baby and just like before, I dropped about 27 lbs in a week. I stabilized at about 255 lbs, a full time working mother to a 6 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old and a newborn in desperate need of her health and control in her life.

My Story: The Origin Of My Food Addiction- Part 6

The experience with Kenzie was a life altering point in my path. It brought into focus that this was a disease, not a tool kit for weight management to be dabbled in like much of my generation had experienced. Kenzie would end up staying in the hospital only another month before secretly grabbing her laptop and walking out in the middle of the night against doctors orders. She showed back up in Alaska about a week later but we lost touch. She dropped out of school, started working at the front desk at a local gym, and ended up passing from complications of her disease before we reached the age of 29. I still think of her often.

For me, in the years that followed our interaction, I stayed true to my word for the most part. I didn’t go long long periods of time without eating, I tried not to throw up on purpose. But the unfortunate part was that to some extent, the damage had already been done. Sometimes I would eat and immediately vomit involuntarily. It started during college and got worse after I graduated, I began to suffer from extreme stomach issues. I would get sharp, significant shooting pains, diarrhea, indigestion, heartburn. I would be up all night writhing in pain on the floor of my bathroom, praying for relief, pivoting between sobbing on the floor and vomiting bloody, frothy vomit.

The next day I would wake up, (often still on the bathroom floor) feeling as though I had been in a boxing match. My whole abdomen would ache. I saw doctors, had an Upper GI, kept a food journal. I was tested for allergies, went back on the antacids for ulcers. I was miserable. I was newly engaged and my fiance was worried and, we were spending a ton of money on medical bills and getting no where.

About this time we started to prepare for the wedding, six months to go and the last thing on this planet I could imagine doing, was standing up in front of all of my family and friends looking fat. I resolved to lose weight before the wedding. Vanity is a powerful tool.

I started restricting again. I counted every calorie. I mustered all the will power I could and I cut out all dessert and I worked out hard. I worked out two to three hours on cardio machines every night. Before I knew it, the wedding was nearing and I was at my all time lowest adult weight, 175 lbs. I had lost 45 lbs in 6 months and was so stoked! I was still 10 lbs above the top of the “healthy BMI” for my height, but I’d take it. The wedding came, we said “I do” and headed off on our honeymoon. We ate like kings on our cruise (to Alaska) and by the time we got home, I could barely fit my wedding ring on! (This is mostly due to sea level swell- you people that live coastal lives have no idea how much water you retain). But the trend was set. I never returned to my “wedding weight”. It was like I worked so hard, got there, tagged the buzzer and pivoted and headed straight back up. I am pretty sure that week was the full extent of the time I got to experience “my slightly overweight” body before all the habits set back in.

Six months later I was standing on my bathroom scale staring 199 lbs in the face, holding a positive pregnancy test. Boom. Goodbye “Onderland.”

My Story: The Origin Of My Food Addiction- Part 4

By the time I got to high school I had a pretty versed and well established eating disorder tool set that I dabbled in often. Sometimes exacerbating my “symptoms” when things were hard, sometimes relaxing when things were going well, pretty much always tied to my emotions. During high school I stepped up my sports involvement. I played volleyball, became a year round cheerleader, did diving, and played tennis. I adopted a boyfriend cause and kept up a pretty diverse social presence all the while “controlling” my weight with these tactics. At some point during my sophomore year the use of diuretics (Exlax) was added to my my routine as well.

When I say “controlled” my weight, I don’t mean that I was thin or maintaining a healthy BMI. I was still between 20 and 40 lbs over weight, self conscience and struggling with my self image. But I was not at this point, obese. I think much of the reason for that based on the food I was eating was due primarily to the 2 plus hours of sports practice and gym time I was grinding out each day.

For the most part though I was happy and pretty healthy and look back at those days (about 180 lbs on my 5′ 8″ frame as some of the best shape and condition of my life.

Things were not great, but they were stable. However, my eating habits remained poor. Always over eating even though I tried to eat “healthy”. In those days it was before no carb diets really took off. There were low fat and “no sugar” substitutes deeply ingrained in my life and my family had a two batch or roughly 4 dozen a week cookie habit courtesy of my Great Aunt, who lived with us at the time.

“My you are getting fat.” My aunt would say whenever I walked around the corner. And yet, each week a new batch of sugar cookies or peanut butter cookies would appear and then disappear. All told over the time I was in high school despite the sports, my weight rose gradually until by the time I started college in the fall of 2004, I was just topping out at 204 lbs.

My Story: The Origins Of My Food Addiction- Part 3

By the time I got to middle school, I was not thin. I was however, feeling the effects of bulimia. My throat hurt all the time. My stomach hurt. My teeth were showing signs of damage from stomach acids and I was really self conscience of my breath. When I threw up, it was often accompanied by blood. But I remained fat.

Some how I became “friends” with a boy in my class who would come to be my protector, though looking back, at a cost. Under his wing, the bullying stopped. I began to play sports and enjoy some success and my confidence grew. In 7th grade I made the “A” team in basketball. First string. But I was competing with girls who were better, who had attended camps and clinics. I felt a deep need to look like them.

Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that throwing up after each meal hurt too much. If I just didn’t eat at all, it wouldn’t hurt and the end goal would be the same. An anorexic was born. I plotted and planned. I was sneaky. I found a book in the school library that was about a girl with anorexia and I followed it like a manual. Avoiding meals, feigning illness, shuffling food. Eating a bit and then using my napkin to spit it out. I made it 17 days without so much as a bite. I lost 30 lbs.

My art teacher stopped me after class one day, took my chin in her hand and turned my head side to side.

“Uh hum, Missy. You better be careful. You are getting skinny.”

“Skinny”. I thought, I am doing it.

The next day however, my bubble was burst when my coach sat me down and told me she was moving me to the “B” team. I didn’t seem to have the same stamina I did earlier in the season. I was crushed. I went home to find my dad was making a big batch of kinildri, a dumpling soup where the dumplings are packed with ham, turkey and salami. So much salt. I ate 6 bowls of it.

After 17 days without anything but water, my digestive track revolted. I was struck with severe gastro-intestinal distress. I will spare you the details, but I am sure you can imagine.

Later that week the team had a pizza party in my coaches classroom. Pizza, chips, soda and movies. I sat in the dark, depressed at the turn of events and ate delicious, doughy, Pizza Hut pizza. One slice after another. 16 slices in total.

At 12 or 13 years old, this is the first time I can remember gorging myself like this. 16 slices of pizza is A LOT for anyone, much less a young girl. There may have been candy and other treats there as well. But the pizza is all I can remember. That, and feeling better.

My Story: The Origins Of My Food Addiction- Part 2

By the time I was about 8 years old, I was the subject of relentless teasing for my size at the small Catholic school I attended. I was quiet and stayed in my shell, afraid to draw attention to myself. I was sad and painfully aware of my weight problem. I was the “fat kid”.

At some point my mom mentioned an article she read that reported a “famous gymnast” had died of complications from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. I didn’t know what she was talking about and she explained that tragically, this gymnast had a disease where she thought she was fat and either starved herself or threw up after eating in order to control her weight. I asked how and she said they stick their finger down their throat. Looking back on it, I imagine my mom was talking about Christy Henrich, former US Olympic Gymnast who was only 60 lbs at the time of her death.

I am positive this off the cuff remark from my mom was mentioned in passing and had little bearing on her, I would be shocked if she even recalls the conversation. But it’s funny how some things we stay will stick with our kids. I did not hear “disease”, “tragic” or “death”. I heard, “weight control”. And suddenly something in my little brain snapped and a “blue print” was born.

I don’t even remember what I ate the first time I tried it. But I remember realizing how easy it was to gag myself. It worked! And just like that, new habits were formed. I started throwing up after meals. Sneaking into the bathroom to rid my self of whatever devil treat I had just consumed. This was before the days of smart phones and internet searches. My skill set developed on trial and error.

Within a few months I would regularly binge and purge everyday. I was only about 9 years old. My mom eventually took notice. I complained of stomach aches constantly, (a reasonable excuse for the need to vomit after meals). I would vomit blood and had constant heart burn.

Eventually I went to the doctor and had a barium test. I was diagnosed with stomach ulcers and prescribed Zantac. The Zantac calmed the pain and the “stomach issues” covered the lie. I lived this life through middle school. Still fat, but not so fat that any “childhood obesity” interventions would come. I loved sweets and would eat and eat.

“My, you are getting fat”. My great aunt would say.

“You had better be careful, that’s a moment on the lips, and years on the hips.”

A long road a head was forming.