Growing up I struggled constantly with my weight. I was the little fat girl, cute but chubby. In fact my father once told me, “you were fat from the time you were born.”
I ate because it was my way of nurturing and loving myself. But it was also how I handled stress in my life and when stress got amped up, I blew up.
The first time I ever really experienced this was in high school. I’d decided to go to a prestigious boarding school thinking that it would be ‘intellectually stimulating.” Well, I quickly felt totally out of my league and terrified. So what did I do? I ate. I gained like 20 pounds in a month. And that started my pattern. I’d experience stress, and eat it away. This continued through college until one day when I was about 22, I wandered into a feminine bookstore in Cambridge Mass and in the diet/food section found a book called When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. Let’s just say I devoured the book. She spoke to me- to who I was, what I was feeling, like she knew me.
She wrote about how as children we use food as love because we don’t experience love- our houses are violent, scary, unpredictable. She goes on to say that food is there when we’re kids but ultimately prevents us from having intimate relationships as adults (with ourselves AND others) and the light bulb went on.
The book laid out her plan which is a pretty simple one. Listen to your body. Wow, that was novel! I never even wanted to BE in my body! I hated it, it was ugly and fat… but I did. I started listening for the cues of when I actually felt hungry and full. Then she suggests you eat whatever you want – no way! She recommends this because the power of denial is so great. Think about it like a rubber band. The tighter you stretch it the farther it flies.
I knew it was the same for me with sweets, I’d seen it over and over again in my life. The more I denied myself eating what I craved, the more I binged when I caved. So naturally when I started it was, “Oh, wow, I actually feel hungry, let’s eat a chocolate cake!” which I would, until I was full.
That’s the first step, releasing ourselves from allowing food to have power or control over us. And I’m not gonna lie- mastering this took me 3 years but eventually I was able to be at peace with food.
The next step was to go under the surface. My food addiction was simply covering over all the emotions I didn’t want to feel. It’s identifying the triggers, the whys behind the actions. And truthfully, this is my life’s journey. We all have to learn how to live with discomfort without numbing it. And that is a lifetime of work.
Now when I share that I had an eating disorder, folks ALWAYS think I was anorexic. I have gone from being a fat person to a thin person- well to a satisfied person. And many people have told me I am the only person they know who has done this successfully, completely changed their relationship with food. I know it isn’t true. We all have the ability to transform our lives if we’re willing to do the work. That’s what this adventure called life is all about, right!?