Did I ever have an eating disorder?

The 90 million dollar question.  Did I ever have an eating disorder?   What is an eating disorder and who decides if I had one?   What is the criteria…and what was I thinking?

Here is my take on eating disorders and how they may have intersected with my life.

There have been several times when I have been suspected of having eating disorders which were were characterised by –

  • small figure or weight loss
  • not being seen eating by those who had concerns
  • consumption of alcohol (alcohol disorders are another issue)
I think there have been five main times that this was noticeable –
  1. My teen years – well thats almost a no-brainer – all teens have eating disorders dont they?
  2. My years as a chef and/or restaurant manager
  3. Hypothyroidism – Pre thyroidectomy
  4. My Solo Mum years ( there is more than one phase of this)
  5. My early widow years
So, where was I at and what was my thinking at these times
  1. The teen years are really odd because although I was slim (ok scrawny) I was actually eating lots. Packets of biscuits and sweet coffee at Michelles, crackers with cheese and chutney at Tullys, lollies before, during and after school,omelette for breakfast most days at home.  It was during these years that I started cooking more of the meals at home but I wasn’t eating it very often.  On reflection I can see that I don’t eat when the environment is tense or I feel unhappy – oddly enough this was often caused by my own behaviour and therefore I was essentially forcing ‘time-out’.  During these years I was also very active with athletics, harriers, hockey, orienteering and a milk run so I guess I was burining heaps of calories.  It was during these years that I had some counselling through our GP, which came back to bite me on the bum in a few years, and I discovered alcohol.
  2. Hospitality staff work when their guests are eating. You are really busy making sure all the guests are well fed, looked after and having a good time.  Therefore you work through breakfast, lunch and dinner and eat at morning tea, afternoon tea and supper.  This is still a major feature whenever events are on – I eat last (if at all) and generally not during the event. Hospitality staff tend to drink lots after work.
  3. When Riki and Alisha were small, and we were living in Napier, I was living on coffee, suffering weight loss, lack of sleep, stress intolerance and I could eat anything and not gain weight !!  I went to the same GP I had as a teenager and he told me I had always had issues (bite on bum) and put me on Valium…. health went down hill, ambulance called….and lo and behold I was diagnosed with an over active thyroid.  Hereditary condition with symptoms including weight loss, shaking, high blood pressure, rapid pulse…and intolerance to stress… exasperated by caffeine and Valium!!!  .  It was also noted that I had probably had this condition bubbling away since I was a teenager!!!!
  4. As a solo mum there was never enough money for plentiful food,  the children were always fed first and I had what was left. This is standard for any parent, to put your children first, I did eat but mostly a sparrows portion and not adequate for fat storage. I was on medication for my thyroid still but, as I couldn’t always afford to fill the prescriptions, my weight, moods and demeanour probably appeared much as one with anorexia.  Post thyroidectomy I still struggled as a solo mum with issues of loneliness and depression – but not eating disorders.   I also went back through the phase of not eating if I was feeling tense or unhappy.  Prozac (vitamin P) entered my life and no matter what I ate there was no weight gain.
  5. When my second husband was ill I was working full time, caring for him and raising three teenagers.  I didn’t have time to eat.  I was a full time carer and that role was far more important than feeding myself or shaving my legs or mowing the lawn. I was also being supported by vitamin P which meant that if / when I ate it had no impact on my weight. There were many times during Deans illness when we had sumptuous feasts – generally when we had family and friends come to spend time with him – and I was the hostess – hospitality kicked in and I ate whatever was left once the clean up was done.  After Deans passing I resorted to drinking a wee bit – possibly to the point of bordering on a drinking problem but not a eating disorder.  Drinking to forget and not taking time to eat.
Summary
  • I love food. I have always liked food although there were some things that made me gag – cabbage cooked to pink, brussels sprouts boiled to bitter mush, tough dry liver etc.  But as a general rule I love food.
  • Food is best eaten in a friendly, happy environment.
  • Some people stress eat…and others don’t. I don’t.
  • Hospitality people learn to work when everyone else is eating and having fun….and dine on the leftovers after the party is finished.
  • If I appear to have put on weight I must be fairly happy and have that thyroid under control.
  • I have consistently proven that I make bad food choices in relation to my health / weight.
  • If I sit and eat with you, consider yourself my friend.
  • i like alcohol – wine, scotch and cocktails – but not all together.
  • I don’t think I ever had an official eating disorder, but you may have seen it differently.
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