I know that there were a lot of posts on the site for a while that focused squarely on the ticking down of my body weight. I felt responsible to report every aspect of this journey, a weekly (or bi-weekly, depending on work) journey to self where I tried to exercise it off, diet it off, and put myself through some REALLY punishing rigors. The efforts worked: I’m down 80 lbs from my original weight, give or take this week’s bout with gastroenteritis.
Which, per this post, may or may not be the last time you see me mention a number associated with my body. Ever again.
Someone joked this week, upon my release from the ER, that I was “one stomach flu away from my goal weight” a la The Devil Wears Prada. I really wish that reference would die. It’s always a little more true than you’d like it to be and we all sort of laugh it off in that top-breath way, like we hope no one ever notices a secret longing for it to be somewhat true.
I hit a point a couple of weeks ago where I had to step away from the workouts. It got to a point where there was too much focus on the number, the size, what I looked like. I caught myself having to recount the number in polite conversation, but the ending had to be the photo of my stomach on the Internet where I underwent a thermal skin tightening procedure. I take the full blame for that: I stepped right up and let a very honest goal turn into a circus. I’ve since put the top hat down and backed away from the tigers and clowns and really focused on this last bit of body mass that seems to eluding my efforts.
We all understand the concept of plateaus, but I’ve hit these weights before and smashed right through them. What was different this time? And why have I, AGAIN, found myself in some crazy cycle of weight loss? I stepped away from the Foursquare check-ins and the constant attempts to push my body into harder and harder workouts that would claim to get that weight right off of me, and I sat back and just thought about it: what was keeping me from losing the rest of the weight?
And then it dawned on me: I’m keeping myself from losing the rest of the weight. Because I use food in ways that prevent me from achieving my goals, and at the end of it, happiness scares the shit out of me because it can be taken away.
Food and I have had a very long and complicated relationship. As a kid who had to spend a lot of time alone and bouncing from one place to another during divorces/relationships/remarriages and the like, I learned to use food as a soothing balm and a punishment. It’s a complex relationship that began a very long time ago, but the withholding of nourishment gave me control when I didn’t have any, and the feel-good feelings of comfort foods were used to soothe my feelings and replace love. Having a great day? Let’s get some popcorn saturated in butter! Not having a good day/you think that something bad is about to happen? Let’s throw down a giant bowl of mashed potatoes. Did that guy not call you? You’re too sad to eat…for the next three days.
See the pattern? Happiness arrives: I eat. I sense happiness may be going: I eat more. Happiness goes: the food goes with it.
As I sat back and reflected on these 30+-year-old patterns, it was like coming face-to-face with the bogeyman under the bed, the crazy monster in the closet you’ve always been afraid to face. I am an emotional eater. I have always been an emotional eater. I had just never really thought about it as a pattern. As an adult, I faced even more trauma and the use of food in this manner became even more prevalent, even more scary.
But there’s a difference now, a change in myself that I hadn’t detected this time: I love myself more now that I ever have. I want to give myself a chance to just be happy, regardless of the scale or the size of the pants.
I have a great desire to stop the cycle of violence against myself, I don’t want to repeat the patterns that were taught early and reinforced often. I have a chance, even at this later stage of the game, to change it…to be healthy all the way through.
And so, I decided to stop buying diet books and trying new workouts and the insanity around trying to hit a certain dress size. I just don’t have it in me anymore. I just want to be healthy. I want any and all relationships that have anything to do with pain to stop. All of them. Painful workouts, food that makes me feel like crap in an hour, people who reinforce negative views I have of myself…they all go. That’s the new diet: cutting out the pain. If it hurts immediately – or will cause pain eventually – I don’t do it.
That’s why there haven’t been new posts on the diet, and that’s why I don’t really talk about the number on the scale so much anymore. Because I’ve realized that as a grown woman, the cycle of abuse ends with me, and that includes beating myself up about the number on the scale, then snatching it away from myself with the wrong food. I’m just done.
And you know what? The clothes I want to wear fit me just fine. I stepped back from the diet books and unfriended a bunch of jerks on Facebook. I stopped entertaining negative comments (two of which came disguised as birthday wishes, if you can imagine.) The diet is Life, Pain Free. And so far, I really like it.
I’m writing this in hopes that anyone feeling that loop of insane diet fever, the quest for the dress or the goal of looking hot for someone else will just stop. Those of us who can’t find a diet that works or a food pattern that will help us achieve whatever the wild ideal we have in our mind’s eye might just need to stop, put the books down and take a hard look at the ton of pain we’re carrying around. Drop that. You’ll feel lighter within minutes. Your stomach will stop bloating because you’ll look at the cookie and the apple and the choice won’t be which is the better option, but the question will come up, “Am I even really hungry?”
My choice is to heal the emotional hunger for a while. I’ll still be working out, I just don’t want to go to such extreme, painful measures to achieve anything anymore.
The Pain Free Diet. Try it with me. Let’s see if that works.