Hi. My name is Annie. I am a compulsive overeater.
Interesting how my love of writing doesn’t help me out here! Thinking about myself, my childhood, my personal history really brings home why I don’t write non-fiction. It’s easier to “escape life” when the life I am writing about it is completely made up. When I have to write about something personal, something real, it’s hard. It is almost painful. I found myself writing things in my journal that I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone else about, things that I had pretty much forgotten about. Do I want to shine light into those dark corners and face those monsters? Not really. But I need to. If I don’t, I will never truly recover from this illness. So I guess I will take you with me on a little trip down memory lane.
In elementary school, I had a friend named Angela. She was a fun girl to hang around, and she didn’t tease me about having to be in church on Sundays or think it odd that I had no clue who Bon Jovi was. We used to walk to school together, and play together at recess. There is one particular recess that I remember more than any other. How we got talking about it, I’ll never know. But I was there, and so was Angela, and so was…someone else. I can’t remember who. Something was said about who was “Fatter”, Angela or Annie? Of course I said Angela. I mean, she was a big girl and I wasn’t. Was I? Well, this friend, the third person with us, popped that bubble for me. She said that Angela might be wider but that I was bigger out front. She made a motion at her belly, like she was imitating Santa or a pregnant woman and said that my belly was like that. We were in about fourth grade, which would make me 10 or 11 at the time. I never, ever thought of myself as fat before that. I’d seen fat people before, and I wasn’t a fat person.
At least, I wasn’t until that afternoon.
One of my main chores growing up was cleaning the kitchen. Everyone who knows me—well, at least everyone who has ever had to do dishes with me!!—knows that my bladder has always needed to be emptied before doing dishes. It was a pretty good bet that I would run to the bathroom as soon as the dish washing began, in hopes of getting out of the chore. It worked, sort of. I would sometimes get out of actually washing the dishes. But that didn’t keep me from drying them, putting them away, washing to counters and stove after dishes, and sweeping the floor. Hmmm…. Now that I put that all into words, I wonder if maybe I set myself up for MORE work with my little delay tactic… Anyway, I did like the times when I had the kitchen to myself. There was this little brown metal cupboard in the kitchen where my mom kept all the baking supplies. More often than not, there was a Tupperware bowl filled with chocolate chips in that cupboard. Funny, I don’t remember Mom baking a lot of cookies, except at Christmas time. But it seemed like there were always chocolate chips in that bowl. I remember using that bowl as a reward for myself—I’d watch the clock on the microwave and after so much time had passed, I’d allow myself to have a chocolate chip or two…or ten. Mom and Dad never said I could have them, but they didn’t say I could NOT have them, either.
Every Thanksgiving, Mom would go “pie crazy”. Apple pie, cherry pie, lemon meringue pie. Sometimes she’d make a chocolate pie, too. She didn’t make pumpkin too often, as not many in my family care for pumpkin pie. But almost always, she would have Cool Whip in the fridge to put on top of the pies. I loved that! I’d sneak a finger full of that white, creamy goodness every chance I got. And it wasn’t just the whipped cream that I put my fingers in. I LOVED to snitch the meringue off the lemon pie. I never thought anyone would care. After all, isn’t it the lemon part that people like the most? Well, Dad noticed. I remember being scolded for eating all of the meringue off of what was left of the pie in the fridge. Of course, I denied that I did it. Sure, I had taken some, but I hadn’t taken it all. Yeah, right. I don’t believe that now, and I doubt that Daddy believed me then.
Mom used to call me a little scrounger. After putting the leftover food into bowls and placing them in the fridge, I’d use my finger to get every last little bit of food out of the pans. Mashed potatoes, Hamburger Helper, lasagna. I told Mom it was because she was such a good cook. I loved her food and just couldn’t get enough. More likely I just couldn’t get enough because it was food and it was THERE. It was better for me to eat it than to let it go to waste, right? There were starving kids all over the world. It wouldn’t be right to let even one bite of food go in the trash, when it could just as easily go into my mouth.
There was even a time when my eating habits could have gotten me into a lot of trouble. Gosh, I cannot believe I am about to write this out here! I don’t think I have ever told anyone this, and I certainly don’t want to remember it. There was a party store—two actually—that I passed on my way to my elementary school. One of them in particular was very tempting. They would be busy in the morning, so it was simple to walk in, choose whatever sweet that I wanted, drop it into my bookbag or my pocket, and head out of the store. I had to have been in second or third grade then. This went on for a couple of weeks until I was caught. I remember the terror of that store clerk asking if I wanted her to call my parents or the police. I didn’t know which of the two would be worse. Since it was the first time I’d taken anything (or so she thought, and since she didn’t ask if I had done it before, I didn’t offer that information), she didn’t make any phone calls. But I was forbidden from entering that store for a full year. If she saw me in there again, she said, she would call both the police and my parents. I still had to walk past the store on my way to school and on my home, but I didn’t go in. When friends wanted to stop after school, I made excuses for waiting in the parking lot. Did this stop me from eating food I shouldn’t? Nope. And I still was sneaking food at home. But I never stole any again.