Home / Culture and Society / The Vicious Cycle of Eating Disorders and Body-Shaming, Part 1

The Vicious Cycle of Eating Disorders and Body-Shaming, Part 1

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I was nine years old when my eating disorder started. It started in January in Bay Shore, New York. It was the day my uncle put his hands and mouth on me. I was in the kitchen making Campbell’s Vegetable Soup to have with my cheese and salami sandwich. It was the last time there was ever a “normal relationship” between me and eating. I remember when he was done I ran into the bathroom, locked the door, grabbed a towel from the closet and puked. I was in too much shock to cry.

I was always the tall kid with long arms and legs. My mom’s DNA would ask my grandma if I was eating. She would get so mad at the idiots questioning her about my eating habits. She would answer in exasperation, “Yes, Diane eats. She eats whatever she wants when she is hungry, Ann.” I am almost sure my uncle’s wife was trying to compose herself by looking for a tranquilizer in her purse or she was uncomfortable with my grandma’s reaction to her ridiculous nonsense yet again eager to pop one. Aunt Ann said, “She is so skinny.” My grandma said, “She is healthy and she takes after me. If she wants spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast I make it, a cheeseburger, pizza, a hotdog, I make it for her. She is not going to eat because someone wants her to eat. You need to mind your own business and leave her alone.”

Everything changed after my grandma died when I was eight. My mom’s sister Elaine was married to a Westchester County police officer. She thought she had it made moving from the Bronx to Mount Vernon. I didn’t think so then and I don’t now. My aunt and uncle were buying a house on Long Island and my uncle thought it would be better for me to be raised in the suburbs than in the city. I don’t know how he convinced my grandpa to let me and my mom go out to the sticks and leave him and my other aunt behind, but he did.

I was not happy at all. I cried, screamed and had tantrums. I felt I was leaving my grandma behind. I didn’t want to leave my dogs behind. I didn’t want to leave my grandpa behind, and I didn’t want to leave my aunt behind. I didn’t want to live with my aunt and her husband. I didn’t like him. I didn’t like him at all. The abuse went on for years and years. My eating disorder grabbed me by my throat and ran rampant. I turned 10 years old six months later. I went through that summer chewing my food and feeding it to the dog. When my aunt caught me, she put the dog in one of the bedrooms or outside. I chewed my food and spit it in a napkin to throw away or sneak it to the dog later.

When my breasts started to grow I was horrified. I wasn’t one of those girls to wear a training bra. I went straight into a woman’s size and was bigger than my aunts and my mom. The summer I was 12 we were shopping at Modell’s for school clothes. My aunt made a comment that sent me falling deeper into the insidiousness of my eating disorder. She said I was “top-heavy” – all I heard was heavy. Which I took as FAT!

I was growing into my body and didn’t like the changes. I didn’t want to have woman parts. My uncle was doing unspeakable things to me with child parts. I couldn’t comprehend what he would do to me with woman parts.

My aunt went on, “Diane, don’t you want boys to notice you? Don’t you want a man to marry like I have? Don’t you want a man like your uncle to provide for you, to give you a house, to look good for?” No I did not. I sure as hell did not want a pig like your husband. I can get whatever I need myself.  She looked at my breasts and said, “Men love breasts. You know how your uncle is.”

I mumbled I had to use the restroom. I went to the snack counter bought a hot pretzel and a soda. I ate it and went to the bathroom and vomited it in the stall. I looked at my chest and wished them away. I hated them. I didn’t want them to be the reason more men would put their unwanted mitts on me. I purged the remainder until there was nothing to bring up but bile. Instead of going back to the dressing room I grabbed a few books to read and hid in the pet section. Of course, after a while, I heard my name over the store intercom asking me to return to the woman’s fitting room.

I did gain some weight when we moved to Long Island. I did not know I was stuffing the abuse down. I didn’t drink or smoke pot to deal with my chaotic environment, so I didn’t realize food became my coping mechanism. I was less arms and legs and more boobs and curves. I was becoming more like an hourglass. Which I thought meant fat. And when my aunt started focusing in on my curviness I started to “perfect” my eating disorder.

She would tell everyone, “I don’t know who she takes after. If she watches what she eats and takes care of her figure she will have boys lined up around the corner. Her grandfather will have a shit fit and Charlie will have to chase them away.” I did not want any male attention. I was still playing with Barbies. I was just 12, for goodness’ sake. My aunt exclaimed, “You’ll be going to the seventh grade. You’ll be meeting new boys.” What, was she out of her mind? New boys? I didn’t like the old boys – unless they were willing to play hide and seek or go bike riding. And even that was pushing it. I just wanted to be with the animals and read.YTEMED

One Friday night when Mister Softee came around an older neighborhood boy asked to buy me an ice cream. He always looked at me funny. He would always come into his sister’s room to talk and show off. Whatever. He would ask us to come into his room and listen to music. He was a drinker and a pothead so I steered clear.

He said, “Hey, you ignoring me?” Nope. Keep your eyes above please. I answered coolly, “No, thanks.” His younger brother Jimmy pedaled over. He pulled out his Pac-Man wallet to buy ice cream and candy for himself and a Mickey Mouse cone for me. He looked at his brother with a smirk and walked away.

He asked if he could sit on the stoop with me. I said yes and we talked. His mother called from across the street that Dukes of Hazzard was coming on. He said he wanted to stay and hang out with me. Hmmm…He never missed the Duke brothers. His brother sauntered over and said he was going to miss it. He said, “I already told mom I was staying here with Diane.” Joseph looked at his brother, then me, then his brother, then me and his brother again while casting his eyes at me. He stood there. Uninvited. Jimmy said leave. Joseph said, “You can’t make me.” Jimmy turned to me and in a whine said, “tell him to leave.” I looked at Joseph and said, Do you mind? Your brother and I are talking.” He volleyed, “You’d rather talk to my brother? My little brother?” Jimmy interjected, “She thinks I’m cuter.”

NBIPI was totally thrown by this interaction. I thanked Jimmy for the ice cream and said I was going in. I stood up and went inside. My aunt started laughing and said it hasn’t even started. I went into the bedroom to read.

I went from bingeing and purging to learning the art of starving after my aunt made a comment that I wasn’t going to be able to eat whatever I wanted soon. She had to toss in that I had to be careful I didn’t end up as big as a house. WHAT? You don’t say that to a 12-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy, a 20-something-year-old, a 60-something or 90-something. You just don’t. It is wrong. It is wrong on so many levels. It is dangerous.

My disease progressed rapidly. I perfected starving the best. I was so caught up in my disease I did not see how dangerous all this was. I liked the control. I liked having control in an environment filled with pandemonium. It was my saving grace to focus on what was going in and out of my mouth. I needed to have something I was able to dictate. I did not realize just how out of control I was. Nor how it was destroying me.

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About Diane Morasco

Diane Morasco is a triple fusion ethnically – vanilla, caramel and chocolate – and creatively – designer, media proprietor and writer. Ms. Morasco was born in the juicy apple and with a panoramic view of the Hudson River still calls the city home. She is the Founder, CEO, Chief Creative Officer, and Publisher of J Fox Ink™ (JFI), Founder, CEO, Chief Creative Officer of Diane Morasco Enterprises™ (DME), which is the parent company of Morasco Media™ (MM), and The Book Resort™ (TBR). Ms. Morasco first cut her teeth interviewing the immensely talented cast members of Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Sons of Anarchy, as well as Kurt Sutter himself. She counts Ron Howard, Eddie McClintock and the Sons of Anarchy cast and team members for inspiring her to spread her wings into the film and television arena. She is the former Editor-in-Chief for Alwayz Therro Magazine, former reviewer for RT Book Review and still guest scribbles as her schedule permits for Blogcritics, Examiner, The New York Review of Books, and a sundry of periodicals. Ms. Morasco has a genuine fervor for animals, butter cream cupcakes, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Chicago Fire, Elementary, Castle, Major Crimes, Grimm, the beach, cinnamon gum, music, movies, shooting pool, hiking, Italy, HSN, QVC, and curling up near the ocean with a gripping novel !
  • Carole Di Tosti

    I am really down with this, having similar experiences with older women who guided me toward body shaming/slamming and encouraging dieting at a young age. The end result was my internalization of emotional, negative self-abuse related to my weight and body image. Others I have talked to over the years have had this with relation to other issues. However, it is the way of the world for neurotic, damaged women to foist sub rosa through manipulative, brainwashing techniques their internal rage onto those under their power. Thankfully, one works through the problem years later. I have family still battling with the incredible damage done to them that they then cycled onto others. So, the cycle is first influenced by another women and then internalized unless expiated and/or exorcized.

    • Diane Morasco

      Thank you, Carole for sharing your experience with me. I am truly humbled. Sadly, it is the way of the world, but it can be stopped if we really stand up and say, NO MORE! And we need to unite as women to build other women, not dismantle them because their own house isn’t in order. While it is a blessing to work through our stuff as we get older, Carole, there are way too many for my liking who don’t have the courage to dig deep and address the painful lies they were fed. I want it to stop happening, so there is no need to work it out later. I just want to see growth in the sunlight and nourishment in the spirit and life to be embraced. Enough of damaging others because they are submerged in misery.

      • Carole Di Tosti

        I do too, Diane. That’s why I’ve written about these issues on my blog The Fat and the Skinny. I also have been working on a book about this, but I need to find the right tone. Some have suggested it should be funny. I feel there are so many misogynistic issues behind “WEIGHT” AND “OVERWEIGHT” that, I as you appear to feel similarly that the mores about fat in our culture, if internalized damage and the damage is NOT funny. Women’s eyes need to be opened and after that, they need to viscerally and organically believe in their beauty to call folks out on fat shaming/slamming. “Girl Be Heard” is one group that is working toward this. “The Biggest Loser” is a travesty; they spread the fascist lies about weight loss and body image. I could go on about this at length and will not do so here. If you are in the NYC area, we should probably chat more.

        • Diane Morasco

          Oh, Carole, this is nightmarish. It is NOT funny by any means. It is FATAL! Sadly, our society has become way too anesthetized to what is really going on out there. We are in a day and age of having a “tweet” mentality. If it is longer than a certain amount of words…buzz…zzzz…nothing gets absorbed. The damage is irrevocable and we need to SQUASH it with kindness, love and respect. If women aren’t lifting other women up, Carole, we are DOOMED! I am there with you to call it out. Loser is the biggest loser. Disgusting. We will talk soon. Thank you again for sharing with me. Enjoy your weekend!

          • Dr Joseph S Maresca

            The most important thing to do to maintain weight is exercise together with sensible eating. Look very carefully at how many sugar grams are in everything you eat.

            The food manufacturers do provide extensive labels of sugar grams and manufacturers like Pepsi are producing soda without the aspartame! Wow! There have been some important victories since Mayor Bloomberg tried to control the sugar content in the typical drinks we consume.

            I believe that food manufacturers should reduce sugar content by about 40% across the board. There are other natural sweeteners like stevia, cinnamon or anise. If you have money, the liposuction route may be helpful – particularly with stubborn pockets of toxic belly fat.

            Physicians will tell you that night eating is not good. Some people are best consuming the major amount of food for the day by 6PM. Supplements like Garcinia Cambogia can be helpful when combined with diet, although get your doc’s permission to use this supplement and others.

            This country needs to bring enforced gymnastics back to the schools at every level. i.e. primary, middle, high school, college and the workplace. When we start doing all of the above, the war against excess weight will be won.