Shedding the past and embracing the new
My journey in my physical body has been a tumultuous one. Its been a rollercoaster of epic highs and epic lows. I’ve diagnosed myself with the myriad of disordered eating patterns out there , and I have gone on countless diets and plans, points, and “detoxes” all with aims at fixing what was wrong, because I was broken.
This started in childhood, before I had the agency to make healthy choices or know what to do with emotions. Food was always in plentiful supply and it was something that gave me comfort in ways that nothing else could. Me feeling shame for my body also started early. Unfortunately my home environment was one where I was ridiculed by the ones that were supposed to be a child’s softest place to land. I was shamed and bullied for eating and being fat, by the very people who provided the drug of choice. Its been decades of unpacking this shit show that has been at times my achilles heel. But today, I am happy to say that things are shifting. I no longer will feel shame for my journey with my body… Today I will no longer hide in silence with my experiences.
I know the exact moment of reckoning for me. I saw this photo:
And knew I could not continue with life as it was. It was in this moment that I knew something HAD to change, little did I know that EVERYTHING was going to change. Not long after that photo, my unravelling started with immediately losing 150 lbs, in the form of a husband. I could not ignore the truth, that I could not remain in my marriage and needed to leave. Looking back it was the scariest time because I was making drastic changes, that would implode the carefully constructed life that I created, albeit rather mindlessly. I could not hide from the fact that the weight was my coping strategy and that I was not paying attention to the right things. I was using food to numb out from the pain of my life, and I could not continue living this way.
It wasn’t long before, on my journey of reconstruction that I became this person:
And got a shit tonne of attention from everyone, wanting to know my secret, and people randomly telling me how fabulous I looked. Sure I soaked up the attention, and needed it at the time because this was in the height of rebuilding my life. What others didn’t see, and what no one knew… it was at this time I was so messed up emotionally, that I was essentially starving myself. To be fair, I didn’t consciously acknowledge that I was restricting myself from eating and I don’t think I was punishing myself. But I was still acting as mindlessly during this phase as I had previously when I was soothing with food. I was still so disconnected with my body and with food. I was furiously striving to rebuild life as a single mother, and my achievement, striving, perfectionist side took over. I was not going to fail. Looking at the picture, I was happy, but it is like layers of the lotus. Until I started looking at the deeper layers, the patterns, the emotions remained the same.
But as those who are familiar with the weight loss roller coaster, of course the weight came back. For anyone interested; I felt as fucked up emotionally as a size 2 as I did when I was a size 18. I was always under the illusion that when I lost the weight I would feel better. But nope, that was not what I experienced. Yes I shed those pounds, but my self esteem, confidence, and thinking were just as fucked up.
So instead of returning to diets and spending more time on the weight rollercoaster I decided to apply mindfulness to my eating and tried to bring non judgmental awareness to my eating habits. Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God was instrumental in helping me uncover the decades of unconscious patterns that I linked with food and emotional comfort. It was probably one of the most painful unfolding I undertook. Facing the emotional pain that I was suppressing was excruciating, and I had nothing to numb it. I had mindfulness techniques but that allows the pain to be there, in all its glory. The following years, I was more conscious about my emotional connections and the way I used food. Some days it was easy to stay present, other days I quickly slipped into old habits.
While the food thing was on track I was not able to include exercise into my routine. See I didn’t know how to exercise without an all consuming hatred for my body. It was flagellation for all the food I consumed and it was never a positive experience. I would get obsessive, like a dog with a bone and over commit and over train. It was All or Nothing for me. I didn’t know how to be moderate in my pursuits. So most of the time after a couple of months, I would hate it, and couldn’t continue the unrealistic pace, so I would give up. I detested exercise and movement.
So for many years I functioned with a low simmering hatred with food and exercise. Never really feeling it was a good thing, but wishing I could just forget about it all, FOR GOOD. But alas, we need food to eat, so it is not something that we can avoid. Still I had an unhealthy relationship with food for many years and as a result my weight continued to fluctuate functioning as an emotional barometer with how well I was managing my emotions.
In the last 2 years my relationship with food, with emotions, with movement and my body has been changing. Which is why I am writing about this, now. I feel like I am finally loosening the noose on my unhealthy patterns. In no way do I think I have turned the corner, and I will never struggle with food again, but I can tell you I have changed my associations with food, my body and movement, in what feels like really positive, empowering ways.
I have been trying to make more healthy, less processed food choices, and have changed the way I eat. I recently have made the decision to commit to a plant based lifestyle because of the research I have done as well as the impact that it is having on my body. It hasn’t been as hard as imagined. The preferences I had for food, were primarily emotional, not actually in response to my body.
What I notice is my body really enjoys the food I am eating and cooking. My body, my digestion, and energy is responding positively to the changes. Now when I have eaten something that my body doesn’t like it react immediately. Like today, I had peanut butter (sadly not all natural, as its’ not available where I am living), but immediately my body reacted and I realized she doesn’t like it. Which was surprising to me because I hadn’t noticed before, but realistically it’s probably because I wasn’t paying attention, or it was clogged with all sorts of other stuff that it was overwhelmed.
My relationship to movement has changed as well. I have been doing a home yoga program daily for the past couple of months, and I have noticed a tremendous difference in my flexibility, and ease in my body. I am not as stiff and sore, and I crave movement when I have missed a morning practice or when I’ve been sitting too long. I am paying attention to how my body feels and how it responds to moving, vs HAVING to work out as a punishment. I am really enjoying feeling strong in my body, and an increasing trust in my body that I can do things. There is a new appreciation for the way my body is responding and moving, that has never been there. It makes me excited because these changes feel deep, they feel like the shift into a lifestyle and not just something I am doing to lose weight, or to measure my enough-ness. I cannot even begin to tell you what this shift feels like, however I can say it is EPIC!!!!