I’M NEVER EATING AGAIN!
With those words, my heart broke. I shared pictures with my children of what happens when men and women stop eating – pictures of people who had died from eating disorders, still believing that they were fat – or realizing that they were too thin, but physically and psychologically unable to eat because their digestive systems had been inoperable so long.
THEN I WON’T EAT FOR A WEEK.
This was going to take more effort than I realized. I thought that I had done my part to keep my kids healthy, to encourage movement and good nutrition, to not judge people based on appearances. The fact is, this is our culture. If we don’t look like the pictures in the magazine, we feel worthless. We are so caught up in this standard of beauty that we don’t leave time or space to consider bigger issues. Impatient, we look for a quick fix – skip a meal to lose a pound, skip three meals to lose three pounds.
When I was younger, I was proud of myself when I was able to ignore my hunger long enough for it to go away during the day. I hated the way food felt in my stomach (I still do), but I’d eat when other people were around because I didn’t want anyone to know that I had to work at being thin. I was shaky and anxious all the time, and I couldn’t sleep at night. My restrictive eating eventually led to binges too – always when no one was looking, and always leading to disappointment that I could no longer maintain control of my body.
I’d like to say that I’m better now, and in a lot of ways, I am, but the disordered eating patterns and obsessions are still there. I became a health coach to improve the way that I talk to myself, to develop healthy eating habits and to heal my digestive system so that I would feel more comfortable when I ate. Along the way though, I’ve also tried some diets that have triggered disordered eating patterns – elimination diets that are meant to be short term have led me down a rabbit hole of binges. I’m careful now not to be too restrictive in how much or what types of food I eat, but I still find myself binging when I’m stressed (or lonely, or tired….).
I’m obsessive about food and about the scale. Part of my healing has been to stop reacting as a result of the number on the scale. I no longer skip meals to try to lose weight. My target number has shifted from 110 to 120 to 130, but there’s always a target and there are still multiple weigh-ins each day. There’s still that feeling of not being good enough if I’m above the number, and the mentality that I will eat “sugar free,” or “gluten free,” or “grain free,” until I start binging on anything I can get my hands on.
I get really edgy when I’m hungry, as in I need food RIGHT NOW, as in I will die if I don’t eat RIGHT NOW and why can’t anyone understand that? Now there’s the added stress of feeling like a fraud as I’ve gained weight and my skin has broken out worse than I can ever remember. I’ve had a tough winter, though the weather has been mild and nothing terrible has happened. Really, it should have been an amazing winter – I’ve gone on a couple of warm-weather trips with family, I hosted Christmas at my house for the first time in awhile, and I’m enrolled in a few incredible trainings with kind-hearted people who have become close friends.
The thing is that this not-good-enough mentality plays itself out in a number of ways. I love what I’m learning as I train to be a yoga teacher and a restorative exercise instructor, but I feel like I should act a certain way and look a certain way and I’m just playing the part right now. When I signed up for the health coach training program, I wasn’t sure if I would work with others, but I realized that it’s through helping others that I feel best about myself. I know that I’m meant to be an “after” image – an inspiration for people who are finding their way – but I now understand after having the heartbreaking conversation with my children about weight just how important it is for me to be an inspiration of love for oneself instead of a perfect leader.
February 26 – March 4 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. “It’s Time To Talk About It” – for the sake of our children. Do you have a story to share? Learn more at nedawareness.org If you haven’t seen the documentary Embrace yet, please do! Learn more about the film here.