I was born two weeks premature and was the size of a spatchcock chicken. I was quiet, reserved and a well-behaved child. I slept through the night, I didn’t cry insistently and didn’t throw up on family friends like my sister.
As a young child I ate like I had a bottomless pit and was skin and bone, a little tomboy. At nine I had my tonsils and adenoids out and my life changed in the blink of an operation. The weight piled on and I turned into a volatile, moody little girl. My moods changed more often than the weather in Melbourne. My mom used to wait nervously to see what would walk through the door at 2.20pm each day after school. I was either happy, said, euphoric, melancholy and every other emotional adjective you could throw my way.
I was anxious, moody with low self-confidence and never felt pretty enough, clever enough, thin enough, funny enough … …. My disease which I didn’t know was a disease, was usually labelled/diagnosed as anxiety, depression, PCOS, borderline ADHD, workaholic, South African as you call a spade a spade and don’t mince your words.
My life was progressive – the highs and lows. The highs came from overachieving at work. The peace came from ingesting processed food and the lows came from despair – “I can’t believe I have done this again!” Sugar was a downer for me – I used to cry if I had too much sugar in my system and would wake up with a processed food hangover with swollen fingers and ankles. The physical signs were there, the mental signs were there however, I was in an eat, sleep and repeat cycle. It reminds me of the Britany Spears song “Oops, I did it again”… we both share the same line – just different addictions. I have binged / I have thrown up / I have gone off the rails, where has my will power gone? “I am a donkey brain” – was my favourite line to call myself stupid, in a comical way.
I have spent an extraordinary amount of money on either processed food or clothes – the number of times I bought fat clothes, gave them away, bought thin clothes then repeated the cycle and bought fat clothes again. I was CONVINCED each time I lost a major amount of weight it was for the last time…. “Oops I did it again”. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me – why couldn’t I stay on a diet, manage after the last weight loss surgery, have self-control; were did all my will power go? The pendulum of emotions was worse than the constant yo-yo dieting.
The financial anxiety and fear of always being in debt used to seriously drive me nuts. I earnt well but spent well…. buying presents for others, binge buying food, clothes, and shoes. It was always ok to spend a lot because EVERYTHING I bought was either on special or sale. Being in recovery – (my disease of processed food addiction) this is the first time I have bought food that isn’t on special. I now value my worth and what I would like to put into my body and if the food I need isn’t on special – I still buy it.
The signs that there was something wrong with me were always there – I just didn’t know what it was. I went from therapists to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, hypnotherapist – if it had an ‘ist’ at the end – I saw them, searching for endless answers and for the meaning of life – what was my purpose. Why was I dished out this crap where everyone else got a husband, children, dogs, house and garden? I was kind, generous, thoughtful, loving, funny however, I always felt I got the short straw in life. Why couldn’t I just be happy – my constant searching for equilibrium in my life – just to be happy and less erratic in my behaviour…. I really didn’t think that was such a big ask however, no one could give me answers, just f****** (expletive) CBT and tablets…..
When I immigrated to Australia at the age of 29 (three months until my 30th) which is a big deal when you leave your entire social circle back at home and turn the big 30! Talk about progressive…. I was overweight and did the diets and job changes and country changes and home changes but for what I was about to receive…. Welcome to hell.
9th December 2002 I was made redundant on my dads’ birthday. I thought it was great timing as I was scheduled to have my first lap band surgery the following week. My payout from this job paid for the surgery and then I had time to recoup and lose weight. I went from 143kgs to 78kgs – over the years I had the band replace once and the port replaced (this was three separate surgeries). My weight yo-yoed and I kept on playing with approximately 15 kgs – hey that is nothing compared to 60 kg! We forget that ‘normal’ people play with 2-3kgs…. 15kg was manageable for me. Eat, sleep, repeat… “OOPS I did it again!”
I had the lap band out as it was no longer working, I now had a prolapsed oesophagus which is why the weight was creeping up and up and I was back at 90kg. Surgery four was to have knee surgery as I was riddled with arthritis and damage from all the sport as a kid. Being overweight didn’t help either. The operation (on both knees) was a disaster… they failed and the pain was worse than before the op. I had to get the weight off my knees so surgery five was to remove the band and wait three months before I could have my gastric sleeve. I was made redundant in May 2012 from my job at 124kgs. Excellent timing as the payout paid for my surgery number six and I had time yet again to recoup and shed the kilos before finding the next job.
The weight flew off and I was feeling so much better and yes my new wardrobe helped with the confidence. I was strong, fit and had a full double knee replacement (at the same time) – surgery no. seven. I healed well, looked great and could walk again. Went into the family business and Eat, sleep, repeat… “OOPs I did it again.” At this stage Brittany Spears should be paying me royalties for making her song so famous. I put on all the weight again and the last resort was the gastric bypass – surgery no. eight. I had so much leave from work that I took a month off but of course went back to work after three weeks – I was bored so why not….
I was about 115kg and this time I got really thin – finally made it to 68kg – the lowest I had ever got to. I looked fabulous – work was good, life was good, and I was thin – I had FINALLY done it. All the fat clothes went out the door and I had a fabulous new wardrobe. BUT… Eat, sleep, repeat – “OOPS I did it again!” I remember the exact moment, place and thing I ate to break my diet – my diet of all diets was my ‘way of life’ NOT a diet…. Once I had that bite I was off the bandwagon and it all started again.
Then Covid hit and it certainly wasn’t kind to me or my butt. Working from home with no work-life balance, hitting the carbs and sugar I piled on my CC’s – Covid Curves. In one-year I put on 35kgs but I had it in hand, I had started to go to the gym and swim and was loving it. I was going to get the weight off with exercise and it was working……. Not.
I phoned an addictionologist (note the ‘ist’ at the end of the word) – a recognised specialist in treating addiction – specifically processed food addiction and had a chat. My goodness could this lady talk and talk and talk and talk and then some! I bought her book which I never read (and still haven’t)– that’s because I haven’t been able to read a book or magazine for the last 15 years but at least I bought it. I was so overwhelmed that she gave me 90 minutes of her time that I started crying – I couldn’t believe how generous she was with her time.
I said I would get back to her but of course I didn’t – that was in December 2020. I was walking the boys (my dogs), swimming, and convinced I was doing well… yeah right – I started binging on food that I had never even bought before. Custard and vanilla slices for goodness sake. The amount of chocolate, big bags of crisps as well as endless lollies and pizza – I don’t even like pizza!!! I reached desperation point. I was crying continuously at work, couldn’t function and had to spend an exorbitant amount on clothes AGAIN. Working in the corporate world meant I couldn’t get away with casual clothes – I had to look smart even though I was so fat….. again. I was a donkey brain and couldn’t believe it happened again….. Seriously! Eat, sleep and repeat “OOPS I did it again”…..with my natural high – my work.
If I ever doubted for one moment that I was a processed food addict I just need to look at the numbers game I played endlessly:
I lost and put on over 210 kg’s in 20 years
I have had over 13 MAJOR surgeries in 18 years
I have been hospitalised for a Panadol overdose
I have tried over 16 different diets and medications
I have worked for over 17 different companies in 32 years
And I’m not an addict???….. yeah right!
Have I surrendered? How can I not…!
Forever grateful to my recovery buddies I have found in P.F.A. (Processed Food Anonymous) and my ‘IST’ in my life – I am blessed.
Full name and home address supplied.