The past three months have been a muddy, murky cesspool of stress and anxiety. I’ve held my tongue, stopping short of saying All The Wrong Things. I’ve played it small for a while now, knowing the words I would say would only perpetuate arguments and/or attacks, both within my home and outside it.
So, I ate my words.
I am an emotional eater.
“You’re wrong,” turned into tater tots. “I can’t believe you would say that to me,” became bags of candy. Debate night stress was bathed in ice cream, negative tweets and blog comments aimed at wounding my soul manifested as take-our bags stacked like a fortress against the outside world. I felt I could not speak, so I ate.
I’ve been doing this since I was young. My parents would get into horrible fights, relatives touched me without my permission endlessly, so I would seek solace by sneaking cookies and tablespoons of butter dipped in sugar into my bedroom at night to soothe my anxiety. Stay quiet, do as your told, and it’ll be over quickly. So, I was quiet. Food became my solace.
Until the weight gain jokes started. “You’re not missing any meals, are ya?” said one of my great uncles as my father paraded me around at the holidays. “Oh my goodness, when did you get so heavy?” said my grandmother, meaning well. Which shifted the pendulum in the other direction: I stopped eating almost entirely.
This seesaw of eating and deprivation continued into adulthood as I stuffed secrets of abuse and assault down with loads of pizza and alcohol. As a matter of fact, alcohol washed everything down with a soothing numbness that still gets me a little misty-eyed. It was magic until it wasn’t. It helped me keep all those words down… until it didn’t. The magical quelling of my anxious feelings, those words bubbling up my neck until the wine washed them down — it was magic until it became a necessary medicine. Which led to sheer madness until I stopped five years ago.
In these five years of sobriety, I’ve gotten quite clear about the reasons I drank — hereditary, emotional, physical. I was soothing the terror that started when I was young. It was a means to wash down all those secrets and words. In the absence of alcohol, my old friend Emotional Eating stepped right up to the plate to help me stay quiet and play it small. It thought it was keeping me safe. And so, it started again.
Inevitably, when none of your clothes fit and you’re sitting in a cesspool of secrets and takeout containers, you reach The Choice: start saying the things you need to say, or continue seeking places inside your body for them to hide. Your hips get stiffer, your arms and legs swell. I’m talking about the moment where you look at yourself in the mirror, like I just did last week, and realize that there’s nowhere else for these words to be packed and shifted around. I’m out of room, and it’s getting heavier. It’s not about fat, and it’s not about the scale. Quite simply, playing it small and trying to stuff myself into the corners of my body instead of expanding and taking up room in the world isn’t working anymore.
I’ve decided to start talking.
I have this crazy theory: the insulation stuffed between my skin and bones is not about what I eat. I swear, even though I’ve just listed a litany of quite literally the Dietician’s Most Hated List, it’s not about the food: it’s the WAY I eat it. I use it to swallow sadness. I stuff down disappointment. I bury anger. I order salty-sweet concoctions to save myself from unleashing all that fury and truth below. If I don’t start talking, I will never stop eating. And I’m full.
I’m going to start talking. I might not ever shut up.
Just over the past weekend, I’ve had so many hard conversations with people it has blown my own mind. I don’t hesitate now. Rob Lowe has this awesome quote in one of his books (I think it’s Love Life) when he talks about how he’s stayed sober (his books are amazing, by the way – I’m not doing them justice by pulling this one quote.) He essentially said it’s his competitive nature that does it for him: if it’s between him drinking and you getting what you want, you will lose every time. I like that. I’m applying that to pretty much everything now. I’m only a few days in, but I dig it. It works. Thanks, Rob Lowe. Thanks.
Also, look at that: three pounds are just gone. Poof. Three days of speaking up, and I believe my theory has worked. I’ve been craving vegetables and healthy food. I ordered a salad today, and my Seamless delivery guy looked genuinely confused. He’ll adjust.
I haven’t adjusted my workout schedule, by the way. I still work out five days a week for a minimum of an hour. But there’s not enough cardio to burn off secrets. You can lift enough weight to tone off words. They just don’t budge.
Because the more I talk, I stop owning other people’s pain. People shove their issues off on each other. Hurt people hurt. I’ve taken it for a considerable amount of time because for a long time my survival greatly depended on it. You know what? It doesn’t anymore. Buckle up, buttercup. Here comes the truth.
Boundaries, people. I’m talking about boundaries. Instead of building them with takeout containers, I’m building them with words and actions. All the words I never got to say? I’m saying them. I’m not cutting carbs; I’m cutting the crap.
This is not about me being fat or skinny. This is about me feeling good about myself and not trying to make myself sick trying to make other people comfortable and happy. If I stay the same weight speaking my truth, fine. I’m not changing anything else except speaking up. Let’s just see what happens.
Because in my closet is a leather jacket I’ve been dying to wear. Dyyyyyyyying to wear. And I can’t right now because I’m too packed down with words. So, I figure the more words I say, the closer that jacket is to helping me unleashing my own little rock n’ roll fantasy. And right now, those words I don’t say, those secrets I’ve been stuffing and washing down, those moments where I try to be the bigger person by occupying my mouth instead of speaking up? They’re in my way of a whole life I want…and that leather jacket.
They lose. I win.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some words I need to get off my ass.