Stuffed like a turkey

Ruti Chang describes how her parents’ desperate attempts to ‘fatten her up’ ruined her health.

I suffer from multiple food intolerances caused by constant and extreme measures to try to ‘fatten me up’. Eventually my condition became life threatening and unresponsive to treatment. A naturally skinny, pasty child with constant infections throughout childhood, I spent my younger years on regular doses of antibiotics. My parents had blamed my lack of health on a lack of flesh. They believed that the more carbohydrates and sugar I ate, the fatter and healthier I would become.

My regular breakfast would consist of three fried dumplings, full fried English breakfast, yam, green bananas and a pint of milk which would growl alongside broken biscuits. My plump Jamaican father could no longer stand the cultural humiliation of his ‘lazy’ skeletal child. Her trembles and exhaustion would be overcome by stuffing more food into her.

Having read about them in the media, my parents decided that I must be suffering from bulimia or taking slimming drugs. I had no access to drugs, no knowledge of diets and had never heard the words ‘anorexia’ or ‘bulimia’. Nevertheless, all privacy was taken from me, diaries were read, bags were searched and still – finding no evidence of this ‘trendy’ condition, they continued their constant bid to turn me into a dumpling. I was simply there to be stuffed.

Chocolate filled pastries, bars of chocolate and kilogram blocks of cheese were added to my ‘menu’. I ate constantly: sugar, chocolate, cheese, cakes, pastries and loaves of freshly baked bread drowning in butter. The resulting bursts of energy were followed by coma-like sleep always preceded by bouts of shaking or fainting. Sure that this was all part of the imperfection of being skinny, I did as I was told and ate more.

I awoke in hospital one day covered in a thick red rash. I had suffered a massive seizure in the street. My body had simply gone into shock. From now on, cheese, flour or sugar would all trigger seizures as well as digestive disruption and outbreaks of scarring skin reactions. My over-active pancreas was manufacturing excessive amounts of the hormone insulin leaving my sugar levels depleted. The effects of constant overload and depletion of fuel had in turn triggered an ‘electrical storm’ in the brain, explosive reactions of intolerance and convulsive seizures.

My medication-resistant condition became severe and life threatening. My brain became scarred and injured by random seizures and I was later diagnosed with epilepsy.

Thankfully, at that point, I was prescribed a diet restricted to flour-free, sugar-free foods with high levels of fat and protein and very small amounts of carbohydrates (the ketogenic diet) along with a collection of new medications. I remain only 49kg in weight – dress size 8.

I would very much like to make contact with anyone who might have had similar experience. Please contact me c/o Foods Matter, 5 Lawn Road, London NW3 2XS, or email:

Ed: See also Ruti's article on the Ketogenic Diet.

First published in 2009


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