Friday, May 27, 2005

History Vomits Itself Up

And so it begins. My chubby nine-year-old niece is being sent to her first dietician. I want to grab onto her parents with such force that I knock the sense into their flabby heads. I want to scream ‘Nooooooooooooooooooo’ in a way that echoes perpetually in their silly skulls. Bright, funny, loving, my niece is a delightful child. She’s reliable, mature for her age, and, as her family perpetually tells her, she’s the ‘Good One’. So what does she do when she doesn’t feel like being the Good One?


I’ve seen her overeat when she’s anxious, bored, frustrated, tired, upset. I’ve seen her sneak food. I’ve heard her mother telling her she’s not “allowed” ice-cream after dinner. I’ve heard her father say, in front of her, to her mother “Your Daughter is eating chocolate again”. I know the signs, and, sadly, I can predict exactly what’s going to happen. There will be some success with the diet. At first. She will be a Good Girl and eat her 30 grams of cereal and grapefruit every morning and she’ll lose weight. Everyone will approve and compliment her. The diet’s a success. By Golly, she’s CURED!

But no one will ever address the real issue of why she overeats.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she’ll start to gain weight. More than she lost. Her parents will tell each other “Your Daughter is being bad. Maybe she needs a new dietician?”.

By the time she’s my age, she’ll know the calorific value of everything from a jellybean to a piece of bitter gourd. But she won’t know what to do when she’s alone and sad and the compulsion to consume an entire tub of ice cream consumes her. It won’t matter that she knows the glycemic index of a carrot when she’s ridden with guilt and disgust at herself and her body. No dietician will help her deal with feelings of emptiness that can only be filled with three Kit-Kats, a jumbo size Crunchie and an entire packet of Oreos eaten in quick succession.

I wish I could go back to five minutes before I went to my first dietician, aged nine. I wish someone could warn me that I was heading down a path that would end in anorexia at age ten, a lifetime of deprivation followed by bingeing, and a never-ending battle with my weight. A battle that is narcissistic and dull and exhausting. I wish someone had asked me why I overate. Like my niece, I was The Strong One. I was robust, reliable, bright, mature, trustworthy. I wasn’t allowed to be vulnerable or weak. I wish someone had helped me address the issues behind my eating instead of putting me on a diet. But as I see my niece standing on the precipice of the same destructive pit I fell into, I shout out to her parents not to push her over. But they won’t hear me.

I can only hold out helpless hands and wait at the bottom with three Kit-Kats, a Jumbo Crunchie and a packet of Oreos, ready to catch her.


Blogger Ova Girl said...

Oh my god. This is horrific. How awful for that poor child and how awful for you to see history repeating itself. I was quite blown away by this.

Great post. Horrible horrible subject.

8:35 am  
Blogger Suz said...

In the sea of adults betraying or about to betray her, your niece is lucky to have you.

1:26 pm  
Blogger shlinki said...

wow. that is a very moving post. i am so glad your niece has you.

3:50 pm  
Blogger Lin said...

YidChick, beautifully written post with such care and concern for this little girl. It blew me away. That child sounds smart enough to sit down with you and listen to the facts. Let her know she has you.

1:06 am  
Blogger Nico said...

I completely agree with nana lil. (Warning: assvice ahead!) Take her for a special trip, just the two of you, and talk to her! I think if she knows she has you to trust and to turn to she'll be so much better off.

6:22 am  
Blogger Yidchick said...

Thank you all for your caring comments. Am taking your advice on board :-)

10:52 am  
Blogger granny p said...

Got to this via ova girl and dotty nana - what bells. (Also writer - also compulsive eater in my day - and on days... still when empty page/screen is bigger hole- harder to fill than empty stomach.) Poor kid. Hope you can help.

6:58 pm  

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