I would like to tell you a secret.
I have eaten food out of the trash.
Yes. You read that right.
I have eaten food out of the trash.
You see, when I have been at my worst in terms of disordered eating, I would have, what I like to refer to as "last blasts," at least once a week.
If you don't know what a "last blast," is, it's basically a farewell party to all the "bad" foods you eat, because guess what? Starting tomorrow you are only eating "good" food, from here on out.
By the fifth, sixth, and seventh time, it's really just a form of bad theater, but somehow, the hope that you'll actually succeed this time, that this diet will be the thing you've been looking for, still feels really real.
But you never succeed.
Because diets don't work.
Because if they did work, you wouldn't keep coming back. And you coming back is what keeps them in their $60 billion dollar a year business.
And as I scrolled through the shopping list for whatever fad diet I decided was going to be my saving grace, I was elbow deep in the kitchen trashcan, fishing out a box of donuts, because if I was never going to have them again, I might as well have the last bites.
I've also hidden food. In closets. In my car. Or I've simply snuck food that was tempting me by being out in the open. A boyfriend goes to take a shower, the roommate goes to grab the pizza we ordered, and I make a mad dash to scoop spoonfuls of peanut butter into my mouth before they get back.
To some of you, this might sound fucking crazy, and you might be exhaling a sigh of relief, thinking, "thank God that's not me." And I agree with you. Thank God it's not you.
But for others of you, this hits close to home. And to those people I say, you're not alone, healing is possible, the road to get there isn't linear, but I know you're strong enough to do it. And I know that, because I was. Me, with my hands in the trashcan, me, crying while I scarfed down an entire cheesecake in a Safeway parking lot, me, eating a Costco-sized box of 100 calorie bags of chips before crying hysterically on the floor of my shower.
And, yes, the term for this is in fact Food Addiction, and yes, it is probably the least sexy of the addictions one can have, I guess. I mean, a perfectly shot montage of an alcoholic's adventures in New York or a drug addict's cocaine-fueled romp through Vegas probably looks way more enticing than a thirty-something woman sitting on the floor of her kitchen eating an entire loaf of bread. But at the core, they're all the same. And they're all really shitty to deal with.
The hardest part for me to deal with was the realization that diets weren't the answer. And even worse, I had to release this form of exceptionalism I had been carrying around with me, as in, "diets can't help people, but maybe this one will help me." I had to make myself part of "people," I had to get clear on the fact that I was part of the population for whom restrictive diets were not sustainable or enjoyable. And that was the worst feeling because, to give that up meant that I also had to give up the hope that came with each one.
And diet hope...that's a special kind of hope. That's a glimmering, gleaming, golden hope.
That's the kind of hope you can get lost in, build your whole future on top of...and yet, it wasn't getting me anywhere...and the only way out of the loop I was in was by tossing away the only part of this whole fucking cycle that seemed to make me happy.
Well...one of the only parts...Because I also really liked preparing for a binge.
I really did.
I loved going to the grocery store, or scrolling Grubhub, and meticulously choosing what I was going to eat for my last "bad" meal. French fries, burgers, pizza, nutella, that reeeeeeally soft potato bread, lofthouse sugar cookies, whipped cream, an entire bottle of diet Dr. Pepper (I know, it's weird that I only drank diet, right? I had this BIZARRE line of thinking, where I could justify eating to the point of sickness, but I would not drink regular soda) It was ritualistic. It was spiritual. And it was going to have to stop.
The question was: how? Because I knew by this point that diets didn't work, but I also didn't feel comfortable without some sort of structure, since food didn't quite feel...well...safe, yet.
The answer actually came from taking the time to analyze what I was going to miss most about binge eating. I wasn't going to miss the nausea, or the food hangovers, or feeling out of control. But I was going to miss the preparation and the blind hope of the next diet working that followed a binge. I was going to miss the rituals. The spiritual side of a self-destructive act. And I now had to create habits to replace them.
Oddly enough, something I had always hated the idea of became one of the key activities in helping me make the shift, and that was: meditation. Meditation forced me to get quiet and spend time alone with myself, which meant making time for my thoughts, and also sifting through them to get to what my body was actually trying to tell me. And what my body was trying to tell me was that it was tired of being bullied by me. It was tired of being the source of all my problems. Did I really think that the roll around my middle was the source of all my anguish? Was hitting a certain number on the scale really going to completely alter my entire life? No. So why was I treating my body like it was something not a part of me, and instead some issue to be dealt with?
Meditation. The quiet. The breathing. The watching of my thoughts like bubbles floating behind my closed eyelids, brought me back to myself. It made me realize that I had been turning my back on possibly my truest friend. And I had been treating her like shit. No wonder I was constantly searching for something sugary or fried to numb the pain. From then on, I promised that, even if I did have mean thoughts about my body (and, you know, old habits die hard, so...) I would take the time, find the quiet I had learned through my meditation practice, and reframe them into something kind.
Now, let me be clear, my body dysmorphia didn't just vanish into thin air. I still deal with disordered thinking. It's just that now, I am able to catch those thoughts and separate them from truth. Because here's something else: YOUR MIND CAN LIE TO YOU! Seriously. Look it up. Your mind has the potential to be a total asshole, and meditation was the key to developing a BS detector strong enough to untangle the ridiculousness of my inner bully from the brilliance of my highest self.
Also, I had to reframe my relationship with exercise. As the saying goes, "you can't outrun an unhealthy diet." And it's true. Not to mention, over exercising can lead to physical injury, as well as a type of exercise-related eating disorder known as: hypergymnasia (which sounds like a cool superhero, but absolutely isn't) And beyond that, I like moving my body. I like to exercise. But it was really hard to enjoy something that I was using as a punishment for what I was eating or as an activity that lead to eating something "bad" as a reward. I had to set clear boundaries with exercise, and cut the ties between movement and food. This lead to 1. Only doing types exercise I enjoy and 2. Being able to listen to my body when it needed to rest, which is such a blessing. Nothing is worse than jumping up and down with an injured knee because you're "outrunning" a brownie.
Okay, so with the addition of meditation, and the reframing of exercise, now, it was time to begin mending my relationship with food. And for the first time, there were no grocery lists, no restrictions, no food morality (labeling food as "good" or "bad") And no other bizarre diet culture accessories like eating at certain times, counting calories, measuring food, and on and on and on and on...It was just me and a mindset shift. It was realizing that deprivation does nothing for me and that if I stop listening to other people, my body knows the way.
Now, I didn't suddenly flip some switch and "cure" myself. It took gentle guidance. It took understanding food in a different way. It took understanding indulgence in a different way. It took shining a light on the moments I was using food to heal a wound that nothing edible could ever fix. It took rebuilding my relationship with myself body, mind, and soul, but with a foundation of self-love. And it reminded me all over again, why I had wanted to become a Wellness Coach in the first place. I wanted others to see themselves and feel true love.
Since you've made it this far, I'm going to assume that you and I might have a little common, and so, I'd like to invite you to join a group of incredible Body Love Bad Asses, and begin your own rebuilding. If that sounds like something that might light you up, take a moment to fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Vz98Dg7_VtOa5kCn_LtD96aZWWAROO-Qx5EVKGRaiUo/edit
I'm going to leave you with another poem by an incredible writer, Rupi Kaur. Her words were and are a balm to me, as I move through this journey of loving myself fully.
Til next time,
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