When I moved to Houston, Texas at 21 I weighed 70 kilos. I did not realize it but my body was in perfect shape at that time. Society was telling me it was not; when I look back at pictures I realize I was just fine. I was young and able to eat and drink anything till I moved to Texas and became aware of my “empty plate syndrome”, always trying to finish whatever restaurants offered me. And attending culinary school in Texas was also a weight-gaining experience.
I returned back to Europe after four years in Texas with fiancé and an extra ten kilos. Then I got pregnant in London and gained another ten kilos. I worked full time in kitchens as a chef but had a horrible pregnancy and could not continue work for the last six months of my pregnancy. I delivered a very healthy daughter in 2013, but retreated into severe postnatal depression: using sugar as a way to comfort myself and to stay awake, gaining weight and unhappiness. Soon after I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I would stop breathing in my sleep 30 times an hour. Finally I figured out why I was so super-tired. And I kept gaining more weight.
It seemed like I was stuck in a circle unable to be broken. After a three year long battle with mental health in London, I moved with my husband and four year old daughter to China 11 months ago. Finally I reached a point in my life where I have a healthy mental state – just not the healthy body to show for it. Topping the scales at 105 kilos; having breathing problems and not being able to keep up with my four year old daughter; having a hard time adjusting to being called morbidly obese by my doctor; these are facts that do not fit my self-image.
Food has been a red thread through my life, with a mother who loves to cook, and me becoming a chef. Food has been a part of me the last 15 years. I know how to make healthy food, I know how to make it taste great. But I can’t manage to have a healthy relationship with food. I eat very fast and eat a lot. All-you-can-eat dim sum is one of my favorites. And every time I see a jar of Betty Crocker chocolate frosting I feel that I should buy it and eat it, like I used to do in college – mind you, I was not even stoned. I know that I eat because I miss motherly and fatherly love, But I am an adult now and I can’t keep blaming them for my mental problems. I am a mother and want to show my daughter that we are in charge of our own happiness.
Forgetting the years that have passed and the health issues that have contributed to me gaining weight. Forgetting that I might weigh over a hundred kilos, but I did survive severe postnatal depression. I am still here, I did not give up and abandon my life. I stayed, I fought many mental battles over the last 3 years. I have explored places in my mind I would not ever want to return to.
Sugar was an arm around my body, giving me motherly love and energy to keep my eyes open, and not jump out of a window. Together with Zoloft, extensive therapy, crisis interventions, loads of chocolate, an ever supporting husband, and a very healthy, happy daughter I fought my way back to happiness. Happiness can be found in strange places, and health in even stranger places. Beijing makes me happy and I know it will make me healthy again too.
Pauline is a passionate international mother who wants to show that Beijing is not a unhealthy city, proving that’s it’s possible to become a healthy mother and woman, with the right support and resources. Mommy friends, colleagues, family, and now the rest of Beijing will be her support, proving that every mother deserves to have a healthy body and mind; tackling her own food issues along the way and showing the rough, the ugly and honest way she does this.