...Speaking generally, while living for months in an Antarctic hut, it is a splendid thing to have more than the mere necessities of life. Since one is cut off from the ordinary amenities of social existence, it is particularly necessary that equipment and food should be of the very best; in some measure to replace a lack which sooner or later makes itself keenly felt. Explorers, after all, are only mortal...

Sir Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard

I found it interesting that an Antarctic explorer would think of food as social compensation. Food has more than one purpose or meaning, and some of its value is psychological. This supports the idea that eating can occur for emotional reasons, or to substitute for something we lack.

At what point does a compensation become something we cannot control? We may not even know what it is we are trying to address as we acquire additional symptoms or problems through the compensatory behaviour.

..Sometimes it can feel like a burden to have to concentrate on food, especially when you are trying to get away from being so obsessively involved, but in fact the only way to get through the obsession is to use it...

Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue

I began to have trouble with my eating patterns at age 13. At age 14, I had a brief period of normal eating, (a few months), but after that period, I have never again felt 'normal' in the area of eating.

When I was younger, I think addiction is a good way to describe my relationship with food. I did not know how to stop at an appropriate amount once I started eating. I was not able to eat normal meals, shop normally for myself and while others seemed to find it easy to tell what their weight was, I had no idea what my 'real' weight was, as it was always changing. It is assumed that women lie about their weight, but when it came to me, it was impossible to choose a weight that best summed up what my weight was. My weight was never constant, and even when I gained weight back, it was never exactly the same each time (and it did not always increase each time beyond what it was previously). It really did depend on a lot of factors. If people asked me what I liked to eat, or what I ate normally, it was always an incredibly complex question for me to work out how to answer.

It's not just a case of feeling guilt over sneaking an extra dessert or a few extra pieces of pizza - it's difficult to explain the feeling of having no control, that if you eat one bowl of cereal, you will keep eating until the whole box is gone. You know you don't need it, you don't actually get pleasure beyond a certain point, and yet you continue. But it's not just occasionally this occurs, it is every day that you battle an incredibly strong urge, more than once a day, and in many cases thinking about food for most of the day, and what you should eat, what you are likely to eat if you binge, how you can compensate for what you've already eaten. Every part of life is affected by this preoccupation. There is incredible stress until you are able to eat, and then incredible stress related to loss of control once you eat. There is no peace. It messes with digestion and moods, as well as the ability to concentrate. Tight clothes which are a result of weight gain or eating too much in one sitting, can make it more difficult to participate in regular activities without discomfort. Self-esteem plummets as you realize that you cannot control yourself, and that you can see no real excuse for this inability other than lack of willpower or character - and this attitude is reflected in the opinions of others with whom you come into contact.

The problem is that if you have a lot of time on your hands, no one to call, nothing to do, no responsibilities or obligations, and nothing that you can really identify that you want to do, and nothing that you can find a reason to do - waiting for the next meal may be difficult if you are a compulsive eater. It is difficult to wait for the hunger signals if all you can think of to do is eat, if your attempts to stall - read, write, watch a movi.e., etc, cannot ultimately change the fact that although you may be able to eat 'reasonably' for days, in this circumstance, it is a tremendous act of will not to give in and eat compulsively to fill time, and eventually willpower runs out. And if the goal is not to find enough willpower to change your habits, but to change your thinking and your life, you still have to have enough of a base to start from, and realistic potential areas of expansion into life.

For me, the struggle is becoming less about food and more about alcohol - most of the time my eating is not excessive, and I make conscious efforts to try to cut back on it to allow for alcohol consumption - I use alcohol in ways similar to the ways I used to use food. Rather than have junk food, when I am alone I now have a preference to prepare/cook myself a meal (not an excessive meal most of the time) and have wine with it, drink some wine while cooking, then some with, and then the drinking is excessive later. When I was young, there was no way you could have told me that alcohol would take over for food. I just could not imagine having control over food unless I was very strictly in control - in a dieting phase. I sometimes had a brief time once I had achieved a certain degree of weight loss in which eating seemed to have become somewhat normal, or that at least gave me a hint of what it could be like, but these times never lasted, and once I lost control it was impossible to get back, usually for another year or more, even though I was always trying to get it back, was very aware of the passing of time and how important it was not to put things off, or be discouraged, but to keep trying to change.















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