A few years after I moved out of my parental house my then partner and I got a pair of fancy rats. Gorgeous little critters. Moira and Oisin – soon dubbed my pair of little klouterkabouters or climbing gnomes, because before you knew it, they would be up in the curtains. Gosh, these things could climb!
They were so much fun. I would carry Moira with me when I went out and about. She was either on my shoulder, of if she wanted to retire, in the pocket of my hoody, of if I wasn’t wearing one, in my bum bag. It was so cute, having a little rattie face poking out of my hair, or out of the slightly unzipped bum bag.
Contrary to popular belief, rats are incredibly clean animals. They will wash themselves several times a day and are very careful to keep their coat, paws and tail clean. They are also very careful with what they eat, because unlike other mammals, they lack the ability to throw up, should they have eaten something that’s bad for them. If a rat ingests something poisonous, the only way to get rid of it is to digest it – and fast.
In short: rats look after themselves. And in this Year of the Rat, I am going to take a leaf out of their book.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but in the run-up to Christmas I put plans in place to help me notice when I fall into emotional eating (behaviour), and to identify the thoughts, emotions and sensations that I experienced prior to doing so. The idea behind this is to spot the pattern(s), and from there, to develop an action plan.
Just the conscious commitment to dealing with my relationship with has had a positive impact. I genuinely have a problem with sugar. If I even take a little bit of a sugary food, my body immediately goes into overdrive and tells me I ‘need’ more. I tell it to shut up; I’m in charge. And it feels good.
No more. Treats were compensation for care giving failings in my childhood. It was as much about making my Mum feel better about having put me through another ordeal, as making me feel better for having braved it. After every hospital appointment it was soft ice cream, and whenever I was hospitalised I got Kinder Chocolade and other sweet treats, along with comic books. I had piles and piles of comic books by the time I was 9 years old. I also was grossly obese for a girl my age.
School nurses, my pediatrician and the GP kept pointing it out, and I did get referred to dietitians from time to time. Mum would come with me, but inevitably she would take the advice given personally and get offended. She would have a half-hearted attempt at preparing meals in accordance with the diet for a fortnight; a month at most, and that was that. Before I knew it, I’d be offered sweet treats again – and what 9-year-old says no to that?
I lived my life like that for more than forty years, and I’m done with it. I don’t need food to fill the whole left behind by abandonment. What was lost can never be restored, but I can tend to the scorched earth of my childhood and work it. It is fertile ground, and I will turn it into a garden of love.