10. Does anyone in your close family have an eating disorder? If so, do you think it had an impact on you developing one?
Trigger warning: Mentions of fad diets, eating disorder behaviors, and one calorie count.
The more I think about it, the more I believe my mom had a binge eating problem. And before I was born, she engaged in a lot of, crazy fad diets that I can’t help but compare to eating disorder behaviors. One of which was a fast promoted by Oprah in the 80’s. (Very similar to Medifast.) After my mother’s untimely death (from cancer), my dad and I were cleaning out her closet, which held a multitude of sizes. It was then he filled me in how my mom lost a tremendous amount of weight through a medically supervised liquid diet, then gained it all back. And though I held my tongue, a part of me wanted to shout at my dad, “WHY WOULD YOU LET HER DO THAT?!”
Over the years, Oprah has certainly done a lot of different diets. But for anyone wondering if Oprah ever did Medifast, I’m quite certain the answer is no. Back in the 1980s, Oprah did do a diet that, at the time, was quite similar to Medifast. But that diet was actually called Optifast and it is owned by a different company.
The big similarity between Optifast and Medifast is that both, back in the 80’s, were essentially liquid diets. This lead to very fast weight loss, not only for Oprah, but for lots of other dieters as well. Oprah lost about 65 lbs in just a few months. But you may have noticed — she gained it all back. This is typically what happens to a lot of dieters who follow very strict and very low calorie such as Optifast. In fact, the diet is so strict that it really requires doctor’s supervision in order to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients that you need and aren’t doing any damage to your internal organs.
I didn’t notice any “behaviors” the years she stayed at home with my siblings and I. But then again, I was very young. But when she worked, first in a hospital, then as a teacher, she had a tendency to skip breakfast, not pack a lunch, then return home starving and graze the entire night. I’m not sure if this is an eating disordered behavior, but I began to behave in similar ways at the beginning of mine. I would skip breakfast and lunch. I couldn’t get out of eating dinner with the family. Sometimes I ate as little as I could get away with. Occasionally I would purge that small amount. Others, I wouldn’t be able to stop eating once I stopped and I would binge. I remember sometimes skipping breakfast and lunch, refusing my mother’s meal, and eating fruit and ice cream as my sole nutrition. My justification to myself was that I was still eating fewer than 1,000 calories for the day.
Later on, my mom confessed to me that eating was one of the few pleasures she had in life, and that’s what caused her to overindulge. This is definitely a form of disordered eating. As a child, food was a comfort for me. It’s possible I was anxious, just not yet diagnosed, and consumed large amounts to quell it. I’m sure some of this comfort eating was a learned behavior from my mom. But the restricting may have been too.
When I entered treatment and was prescribed a meal plan, my mother’s refusal to eat regular meals trigger frustration, resentment, even anxiety. Before my first day of partial hospital, I was forced to eat breakfast beforehand and she refused to have any before meeting with the staff. Her stomach growled audibly during the evaluation, and I just about lost it. I know I was being irrational, but I still experience these mixed emotions when I think about her resistance to normal eating while I was trying to learn it for myself. I don’t think I ever truly have.
I don’t think I’ve eaten “normally” since I was 6 or 7 years old.