FYI, I Ended up Buying the Fresh Step Crystals
Many of you know from previous posts that I was the proud owner of an eating disorder from the ages of 15 to 32. I eventually checked myself into a hospital for two months to get the care I so badly needed.
I came out after two months, not fully healed (the eating disorder would come and go for the next few years), but having hit a rock bottom to which I could never return. I spent years following treatment applying what I learned in my life, forgiving myself for mistakes, wondering what cruel joker invented human-hood, and always moving forward.
About five years ago, I finally ceased to need my disordered behavior. The binge/purge cycle is incredibly violent and impossible to do once you learn to love yourself.
But. Healing from an eating disorder and having a healthy relationship with food are two very different things.
I never get the urge anymore to throw up my food. But I do overeat all the time.
I made the decision four years ago, after having gained weight from my first two pregnancies, that I was finally going to teach myself to have a healthy relationship with food and my body.
At times this has been like running 18 miles while naked and wearing platform heels: exhausting, painful, and incredibly vulnerable.
I’ve disliked myself and given up wearing cute clothes in favor of black stretchy pants and t-shirts just about everywhere I go, I’ve fought with myself about doing Weight Watchers, which has helped me lose weight in the past but also turns me into Royal Bitch #1, and I’ve questioned whether I will ever get my shit together again.
But at the end of the day, there is a reason that 97% of people who lose weight regain that weight…and often more.
The reason, friends, is because being overweight has nothing to do with food.
Nada, nothing, zippo.
I’m not sure why we have such a hard time understanding this.
Food is just a mechanism that we use to deal with something internal that is broken.
Making the decision to stick with myself and prioritize a healthy relationship with food and my body over the size of my jeans has taken me to some interesting places.
First, I’ve learned to be okay with my body at its current size. This took some time and to be totally honest, I still struggle here and there. (I’m looking at you, mirror next to the treadmills at my gym.)
But in many ways it has been a blessing—my worst fear has come true and I haven’t burst into flames. I’m actually happy. That’s freedom.
And while I might someday lose weight—simply because I do not need as much food as I am currently eating—I have to let my body be in control of that process and its timing. It’s not up to me. What is up to me is continuing to choose peace and sanity in each moment.
Second, this path has meant letting myself eat whatever I want without judgment. As in, “It’s 8 am, I’m in Target, and that bag of donuts looks like a good idea for breakfast.”
Here’s the biggest break from conventional wisdom: if you’re going to binge eat, start naming it (“I’m purposefully buying this bag of donuts and going to enjoy the hell out of it as I comparison shop for kitty litter.”) and then eat without shaming yourself.
Of course, this is not what many doctors or health coaches would recommend. But I’ve been through enough to know that unless someone’s addiction is life threatening, telling that person to stop doing the very thing they are addicted to is basically asking them to double down.
It doesn’t work.
What has worked is taking shame out of the equation, removing the forbidden nature of any food, and lovingly giving myself permission to eat what I want. Weirdly, this has allowed me to recalibrate and create the sane relationship with food that I never developed.
For the first time, I am able to hear my body tell me what feels good and what doesn’t. For much of my life, I never really cared what my body had to say about anything.
And now I actually know that it doesn’t want donuts all the time.
It does sometimes. But definitely not all the time.
I didn’t figure this out by putting my mind to it.
Because, you guys, being on this path has led me to my biggest ah-ha moment of all:
Like so many others, I was overeating because the feeling of being uncomfortably full was so much MORE comfortable than the alternative.
Overeating allows us to focus on feelings of discomfort and self-hate, which are actually far preferable to experiencing the much more difficult feelings that live in our bodies (heartbreak, feeling unlovable, anger, rejection, grief, past abuse, etc.)
Our obsession with telling overweight people in families, in doctor’s offices, and in public, that they simply need to stop eating so much and exercising more is completely useless:
A. OH MY GOD. THEY ALREADY KNOW THAT.
B. You’re adding to existing shame, which only makes people go home, hide under the covers, and eat a buffett. Trust me.
C. Most importantly, you’re addressing the wrong root problem.
If we really want to solve our struggles with food, we need to start asking different questions:
– What is the cycle of overeating and then hating yourself for it allowing you to avoid feeling?
– In what small ways can you choose to feel peace instead of engaging in this endless cycle of eating and self abuse?
– Once you have identified the feelings you are terrified of feeling, what is one small step you can take in that direction?
You don’t have to be overweight to benefit from these questions: if you’re struggling with any cycle at all around food or body image (restricting, hating your body, telling yourself you’ve been “bad” if you eat something), these questions, with a little tweaking, get at the same root: what are you not dealing with that your cycle allows you to ignore?
For that matter, these questions work on any cycle of behavior and self-hate (overuse of technology, drinking, spending, wearing plaid pants, etc.).
I still have work to do around food, but I’m not afraid of the process anymore. What I desperately wish, however, is that we would be able to have a different collective conversation about food and body image: one that allows us to talk openly and honestly about how we use these pieces in our lives as cover for something that runs much deeper.
And then we could support each another to feel what we need to feel without judgment—just love and healing
It is these conversations—not the latest fad diet or health tips—that I believe can lead us to true health.
Be well, you guys.