Ever since I can remember, my mother told me how overweight I was, and often called me a “hog” when I ate. By the time I was ten years old, I had enough, and thought if I lost weight, she would stop being so mean. I was wrong. That summer before I went into fifth grade, I starved myself. I also reduced the size of my stomach by drinking a lot of water before eating. My stomach shrunk so much, I barely could eat a couple of spoonfuls of food before feeling as if I was so full, I could barely move. The result was I simply did not want to eat often, yet I had to. Not only for my health, but to avoid my mother’s wrath. If I did not, my mother would yell at me, accusing me of wasting her money by not eating enough. I also had a nasty problem that stemmed from my “diet.” When I would eat, I would become extremely nauseous most times, and as a result, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom just waiting to vomit. This was another source of contention with my mother. She got mad at me for doing this. Yet, I felt there was no choice. I felt I could throw up violently at any moment. Even though I never did, I was afraid not to be in the bathroom in case this time was different.
I ended my experience with anorexia by forcing myself to eat again. I ignored the nausea, and “stopped wasting my mother’s money”. My mother’s comments didn’t stop though. Once again, she called me a “hog” when I ate, and said was “getting a little broad across the beam” which was her way of saying my behind was too big. I also felt that awful nausea for about a year before it finally went away.
My fight with anorexia was never discussed, nor was the sickness that followed. A doctor was never contacted, either. I was left to face this battle completely alone, and pretend I was normal so as not to upset my mother. As a result, I also went through a brief period of binge eating and making myself vomit in my early teens, and when my mother learned of my eating habits (she never learned I threw up as well), she was cruel again. I do not remember how though. I have blocked out many details of my life, and this time period was lost in the haze along with many others. I do recall, however, the shame of eating. I was shamed for eating too little, then too much. I was never encouraged to find a happy medium, or to eat only when I was hungry. Instead, no matter what I ate or didn’t eat, my mother insulted me for what I ate, and how much. I tried to make my mother happy by eating when she wanted me to, and eat what and as much as she wanted me to. Often, I still was called a hog, but I stuffed that pain inside and went on. I began eating more normal portions of food, yet I never faced what caused me to become anorexic in the first place.
In 1993 when I was 22, I lost weight. For some odd reason, I just was not as hungry as I had been, so I naturally ate less. The result was losing about ten pounds. I was proud of myself, so I told my mother this news. Her response was to say, “You probably have cancer and are going to die; that’s why you lost that weight.” Then she changed the subject. The result of her cruel comment was deep down, I felt I needed to gain it back to prove to her I was healthy so she would not have to worry I was sick. That was the day I began emotional overeating. For years, I did not even realize I was doing it, yet I was, and I packed on quite a few pounds. At my heaviest, I was about 50 pounds overweight.
My mother’s verbal abuse never stopped no matter how much or how little I weighed. Even as an adult, if I ate a meal with my parents, my mother wanted to know what I was eating, and often criticized me for eating something she would not eat, for me not eating enough or eating too much. She also tried to get me to eat constantly when we were together. Some things never change, I suppose.
Being close to God helped me tremendously to maintain eating in a normal way. He showed me that I am worthwhile, no matter what the numbers on the scale say, or what people say. He also showed me that my mother’s cruelty had nothing to do with me, but her own issues with food.
I never really faced the pain and anger I felt at my mother for her contribution to my battle with eating disorders until I was in my forties. Suddenly, it came up when I caught part of a movie about two sisters who faced anorexia. My own anger, hurt, shame and disappointment that I meant so little to my mother suddenly rose to the surface. I had to admit to myself that I am still angry. I asked God to tell me the truth about this situation, and He said that I did nothing wrong. What I did was normal under those abnormal circumstances. Children want to please their parents, and when their parents are like my mother (demanding to be pleased no matter what pain it causes), extreme things happen. He also told me my mother is wounded, and deep down, she thought my weight was a reflection on her. She refused to lose weight in spite of needing to do so, and she thought I needed to be thin to reflect well on her. Warped? Yes, but this is how God says she thought, and I believe it. It made sense knowing her and how she thinks. She also was projecting her problems onto me. My mother always was an emotional eater, and apparently she hates that about herself. By being angry with me about my eating habits, it let her be angry about hers, while accepting no responsibility and changing them.
Understanding these things helped me to realize that I am ok! I am not the horrible, disgusting person my mother always told me I was – I am NORMAL! I am normal for hurting and being angry that I was insulted for being sick. I am normal for coping the way I did in such abnormal, abusive circumstances, by developing eating disorders. I am also normal for how I felt and still feel about the situation.
I believe my story is painfully typical of a child abused at the hands of narcissistic mother. Narcissistic mothers think their children are simply extensions of them, so they must be perfect (yet not too perfect as to upstage them) and pretty (not too pretty, again, so they do not upstage their mother). I have heard of many narcissistic mothers who were incredibly cruel to their daughters regarding the daughters’ weight, even if she was a healthy weight.
Just because the daughter grows up does not mean this behavior stops. For me, I learned to ignore it. I very seldom ate anything my mother wanted me to eat, and I ignored her nasty comments about anything that I eat or my weight. I avoided conversations about food, cooking or baking with my mother, and seldom ate anything in her presence. I also asked God to remind me that I am not what my mother says I am, that I am more than numbers on a scale, which helps to keep unhealthy eating habits at bay
If you have gone through this sort of experience, please understand you’re not alone. You can heal from this! It is possible!