This Unending Emptiness
One of the things I hate most about being fat is the way people assume you eat massive portions of terribly unhealthy food on the regular.
It’s frustrating when you’ve struggled for so many years — perhaps your entire life — with obesity and weight loss to hear that so many people believe your struggle is in fact a simple one.
Like you’re merely too stupid or lazy to get it. Or that food is all you care about. You’re not fully human at that point but part beast or monster.
That makes it tricky to speak honestly about the realities of addiction or eating disorders like binge eating.
I have struggled off and on with both of these for 15 years. And I’ve wanted to write about it for a long time… But I’ve been hesitant and scared.
Eating addiction and binge eating are not simple afflictions, but we live in a world that sees obesity as a simple personal problem. A character flaw. A moral failing.
So the minute a fat person opens their mouth to talk about these struggles which go far beyond simple overeating, they run the risk of not being believed. Not being heard.
Being fat means you wear your “flaws” openly for everyone to see. And everyone has an opinion about how you came to have that body.
I have seen grown men tell their friends to avoid fat women because we “all have emotional problems.” That our only value is in being “an easy lay.”
I have had adult men and women argue with me about my experiences with sexual assault. They want to know if I was heavy when those things happened. They can’t comprehend how it happened at different sizes. Some argue that “no one wants to rape a fat woman” — so I must be lying or confused.
That’s the thing about being fat. You open your mouth and everyone has such strong opinions about it.
If you see me right now, in my fatness, you won’t know that I wasn’t always addicted to eating. I wasn’t always a binge eater. I wasn’t always battling depression. These afflictions are like an ocean wave that ebbs and flows — sometimes I’m drowning. Sometimes I’m alright.
But lately I forget it myself. That I wasn’t always drowning, that I used to have more a life.
This is how I got there.
After giving birth to my daughter in 2014, motherhood took a really large toll on me. Having a baby can be terribly isolating — even with support. As a single mom living in my ex’s state where I had no family or friends, I found it unbearable.
I’ve struggled with loneliness my entire life, but motherhood made me lonely in a way I’d never known before.
And while I was pumping milk every couple of hours and just figuring out how to take care of this new little human, my daughter’s dad was living with his new girlfriend and posting about their daily dates and adventures on social media.
I felt such an incredible… injustice that this man could walk into my life, turn it upside down, and walk out leaving me to take care of our baby alone. I felt angry that I couldn’t get him to understand what about it was so upsetting. He seemed to find my loneliness juvenile and selfish. Like I just wanted to ruin his new, happy life.
What I wanted was some kind of damn equity. Some acknowledgement that my needs mattered too. He came over on most workdays during his lunch and then for about an hour before he drove home… as if those 90–120 minutes a day made him a hero. As if I didn’t need more support or have a need to get out of the apartment. As if I wasn’t dealing with colic and sleepless nights alone.
When I couldn’t get what any mom needs — when I couldn’t find the connection with adults I needed to survive and not go crazy, food was comfort. It was my only comfort.
God, I hate saying that. I hate admitting that when I had no real friends around me as a new mom, I turned to food.
Because I’m not stupid. I know that food is not equivalent to relationships. It was a terribly poor stand-in for the connection I needed, but since I already had issues with food from childhood, it happened somewhat naturally.
During the pregnancy, I had gestational diabetes and managed the condition easily with a healthy diet. I knew that poor eating could harm my child. But once I began nursing, all bets were off. I was also ravenous all of the time and I didn’t feel like I could keep a lid on my hunger to contain it.
Some of it was hormonal.
But much of it was emotional.
It got to the point where I ate poorly just because I felt like I had nothing else going in my life. Like I deserved it.
I justified needing the serotonin boost I got from junk food. My ex justified it to me as well when I confided in him that I couldn’t nix the Oreos.
And I guess because I was already fat, I felt like I may as well eat like a fat girl.
This is what happens when you think of yourself as garbage and so you treat yourself poorly. Or let other people treat you like trash. Eventually, your routine behavior changes to match those expectations because you’ve grown to believe you really are just garbage.
Sometimes being fat is like that. Like part of you quits caring, quits struggling. No one sees it anyway. They already think you’re always stuffing your face.
I thought to myself… I’m already fat. And I don’t don’t deserve better. I have no friends and I just need to make it through the day.
I needed to do whatever I had to do to be a good mom. Because I was constantly aware of what I didn’t want to do — I didn’t want to be one of those moms who blamed their child for their unhappiness. Or who took frustrations out on their baby.
Food was a way to compartmentalize my feelings. To give my baby everything she needed emotionally from me and then comfort myself without too much of a hassle.
And our life was constantly in flux — we moved something like 11 times in the first two and a half years. We lived in Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Whenever we lived with other people, I was more likely to eat meals but sometimes hid food and ate in secret.
Living with my daughter alone meant that I just quit eating meals and grazed when it was convenient.
Cooking meals, taking showers, and healthy self-care habits were luxuries I couldn’t afford. Quick junk food was always the easier option.
And now it’s my normal.
Now every time I try to quit my bad habits and get my eating back under control I find myself… consumed by a growing emptiness.
It’s embarrassing because you’d think the weight gain, discomfort in my clothing, the heartburn, the fatigue, the brain fog or even depression would be enough for me to say: I don’t want to live like this anymore.
Well, on the one hand I don’t want to live like this anymore. But I’m also very used to being uncomfortable. I’ve spent most of my life in some kind of pain — physical, emotional or otherwise.
Pain from PCOS, lipedema, endometriosis. Pain from abuse and being overweight.
I would be willing to bet that most people dealing with obesity know what I mean — they know what it’s like to live in discomfort.
Maybe at times, that’s all that’s really familiar for us.
So it’s not easy to admit or talk about, but despite my unhappiness and discomfort, there are these moments when I feel like there’s no amount of food that can fill up my stomach.
Some days… nothing is ever enough, and that scares me.
And I feel this desperation like if I just decide upon the right food, I’ll feel full, or happy and satisfied.
I can’t pamper myself like I used to in the days where I was just a single working woman. I can’t do weekly acupuncture, can’t go to the spa, and I don’t live across the street from a farmer’s market anymore.
My life has taken a serious downgrade to exist as a single mother, and I’m just trying to cope.
I still find the emptiness shocking.
I don’t understand how I can eat and feel nothing. Like I didn’t eat at all.
I know that when I eat I’m often trying to chase a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that I cannot get from food. Yet I don’t stop the effort.
It’s all humiliating when I try to talk about it.
It’s hard to admit that I buy too much food and hoard it. Or that I even waste it because it felt good to buy it, but I didn’t actually eat it.
Like everyone and their mother, I’ve tried Keto.
But I still can’t shut out the urgency to fill a void in me. I end up wanting to eat like two pounds of meat a day and lose no weight.
Two years ago now, I had a Dexascan to learn my true basic metabolic rate.
As in my body naturally burns about 650 calories on its own everyday.
Which makes sense considering I’ve only ever lost a lot of weight eating next to nothing.
But along with the diagnosis of lipedema, I didn’t feel empowered.
I felt betrayed by my body.
Like what now? I can gain weight eating like my toddler.
Like what’s the point of even trying?
I don’t know.
Some days I eat nothing. Other days I binge. Still other days I eat like any other “normal” and healthy person.
I read about hunger. Try to remember a time when I didn’t feel so alone. Try to picture me at my best self and what that best self needs.
But the emptiness isn’t anything I can even completely explain. It simply never stops… until I give into a binge and feel like utter shit. Oh, there’s the fullness. But even that is so fleeting.
This description above is by far the worst my food issues have ever been, but lately my binge episodes are fewer and further in between.
I know there’s a chance I can get better and recover if I focus on non-food needs. Making friends. Having a life outside of work and momming. Feeling proud of myself for something more than motherhood.
I’m trying to get myself back on an eating schedule. No more starving and binge cycles. Focusing more on plant-based foods and convenience foods that are actually healthy.
Also, I’m ditching my scale and tracking my results with a tape measure and the fit of my clothes instead.
Looking into getting a new metabolism workup done that uses multiple testing methods. Trying to focus on whatever positive I can.
So, I am trying to manage the emptiness as best as I can. Even if that’s not saying much at all.
This Unending Emptiness
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