Now HERE’S an eating disorder in the making….

Note: I copied this verbatim from the current magazine.  It’s a British publication, so if you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry.  It’s a “real-life” magazine, not a tabloid or anything like that.  They pay “real” people for their stories and publish them, usually for a small fee (£500 per story is about the average).

Stop Turning into Me

Sherrell Whittaker

 Originally published in That’s Life magazineIssue 44   

She chomped on the grape happily.  “Good girl,” I smiled to my three-year-old daughter Laura.  “Now try some apple.”

I was determined to give her the healthiest possible diet.

“Don’t end up like Mummy,” I’d say.  “Promise you won’t get fat….”

At 29, and 5 ft. 5 in., I was nearly 30 stone [420 lbs.].  I’d been overweight all my life.  Some children are born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  Weighing in at 11 lbs. at birth, I joked mine had been covered in chocolate.

By school age, I was crazy for sugar, crammed down choc bars.

And as I puffed up like a marshmallow, my parents begged me to cut out junk.

“Nag, nag,” I thought, raiding the sweet shop for a sneaky fix.

When classmates labelled me Fatso, I’d laugh – pretend their comments bounced off my blubbery layers.  But by 19, with no boyfriend, I felt marooned in my 25-stone [350 lbs.] mountain.  So I consulted a GP.

“This should help,” he said, scribbling out a prescription.

Stop eating, it read.  I fled home in tears, humiliated.

Yet the shock tactics had no effect.  Over the next four years, working as a care assistant, the scales crawled upwards.  I tried diets, would lose a stone or two.  But my willpower always wavered.

At 23, I met Martin, 31, a refuse collector.  He was lean, muscular – but savoured my voluptuous body.  Desired at last.  We got engaged the next year.

“Contentment’s fattening,” I decided, when my elastic waistbands pinched even tighter.

We both wanted babies, but concerned pals issued warnings about how being overweight could affect fertility.  So I chucked away my contraceptive pills a month before the wedding.  But then I fell pregnant at the first pop.  I was nine days gone as I married in a size-30 gown.

Laura was born, 7 lbs.  “Perfect weight,” I glowed proudly.  I vowed I’d never taint her sweet, pure body with rubbishy food.

So today, clearing up after her fruity feast, I thought: “She’ll never be a chocoholic like me.”

 Only, now I was a mum, my size was scaring me.  I worried about diabetes, heart disease, strokes.  Fat could kill. 

The thought of leaving Martin and Laura made my throat constrict.  But still I couldn’t shake off the habits that had held me in their grip for three decades.

Driving home from the supermarket, I’d make sure Laura couldn’t see, and then gobble down handfuls of sweets.

Two years later, her innocent face etched with puzzlement, she asked: “Why do the boys in my class call you Fatty?”

Fear ran a freezing finger down my spine.  Would calling me names lead to her being teased, bullied?  If my weight made Laura suffer, I’d die of shame….

“They’re just being silly boys,” I breezed.

But later, when I was alone with Martin, I wept out years of suppressed tears.  “I can’t live like this any more,” I wailed.  “I want a gastric band.”

His brow crinkled with concern.  We both knew that the surgery could be risky.  But it was the only way to spare my daughter – and save myself.

This time, my GP saw true desperation.  I was referred for surgery five months later.

A silicone band reduced my stomach so only a tiny amount of food would make it feel full.

I could consume nothing at first.  But soon I managed sips of soup, mini amounts of mash.

Delicate eating, bird-like picking…. My old appetite – that mighty, ever-needy force – was gone.  Over the next 20 months, I cast of 18 stone [252 lbs.]. 

I shopped for jeans, cutaway tops, and little black dresses.

“The clothes of slim women,” I rejoiced.  “Now I’m one of them.”

Only, as I deflated to 12 st. 10 lb. [178 lbs.], I noticed Laura changing shape too.  “Just puppy fat,” I told myself.

But by nine, her school shirts strained tight.

The bullies pounced. “They call me Fatso,” Laura wept.

Old scars tore open.  Different generation, same cruelty. 

School acted swiftly to stop the taunts and I made doubly sure Laura was eating well-balanced meals, limited treats to one a day.

But I found sweet wrappers, empty crisp packets under her bed.

Cunning – like I’d been. 

“Stop!” I cried, “before you turn out like me.”

I wanted to keep my child on a pedestal.  Fat had blighted my youth.  I couldn’t let it ruin hers.

She still loved her fruit and veg, but two hours after a huge meal, Laura would whine: “I’m hungry.”

I had to break the pattern, gave her friends’ mums strict orders not to give her chocolate.  I restricted burger-bar visits to once every other month.

“It’s not fair,” Laura would moan.

Guilt burnt like acid indigestion.  Poor darling, this is my fault, not yours.  I saw my compulsive eating as a genetic disorder.

I wanted Laura to learn moderation.  Yet I was a poor example, nibbling fairy portions because they were all I could fit in my cordoned-off stomach.

Despite my efforts Laura still found ways to smuggle fatty foods and by the age of 12, she was struggling to fit into size-18 skirts.  I’d hear her puffing up the stairs.  Her energy was sapped, her spark quenched.

If she was naughty, grounding was no punishment – just an excuse to lie on her bed.

She was 14 when I heard a howl from the bathroom.

I found Laura standing on the scales – self-disgust contorting her face.

“I’m 15st 4lb [214 lbs],” she roared.  “You’ve got to help me, Mum.”

“I’ll do anything,” I murmured.  “But you have to want to change.”

“I do,” she gibbered.  “I don’t want to get like you.”

The words I’d longed to hear.

The following month, I escorted Laura to a slimming club.  We learnt how to weigh food, count points.  Laura would fill up on grilled chicken, boiled spuds….

Burning with motivation, pounds began to drop off and her old confidence seeped back.

“I’m not even hungry, Mum,” she declared jubilantly.

 Her appetite reduced – the gluttonous dragon slain. 

Whereas I was still paying the price for a lack of self-control.  I underwent and bum and stomach lift, and then contracted MRSA.

Once fully recovered, I had further surgery to remove excess skin from my bust and sides.

Now, I’m a size 16, but I still have to live with swinging batwings and loose-fleshed legs – problems Laura will never need to face.  Today, 13 months into her regime, she’s 5ft 6in, 11st 10lb [164 lbs], a size 12 to 14.

“I’m so proud,” I tell her daily.

I encourage her exercise program, prepare every meal with precision.  “Like a personal trainer,” friends tease.

In our own ways, but together, my daughter and I have broken free from our shared curse.

My gorgeous girl is back on her pedestal.  And this time, it’s not cracking under the strain.

This girl is only 15/16, and already she’s been subjected to her mother’s disordered eating (it sounds to me like she had an actual, diagnosable eating disorder that was simply ignored by her doctors) and self-hate.  On top of that, she was subjected to what could be tantamount to emotional abuse.  (Although I certainly wouldn’t say that the mother had the intention of emotionally abusing her daughter; it all stemmed from her own self-hate and disordered eating.)

Somehow I get the feeling that, a couple of years down the line, we’ll be seeing this poor girl in a follow-up story with a headline something along the lines of “How My Mother Caused My Eating Disorder.”

Sad, really.