I recently started really…deeply…thoroughly evaluating my relationship with food. I had gone many years being very strict with calories; grams of this, that and the other; what I am eating now, what I am not eating now…and then the pendulum would swing viciously the other way. My story was then, “not only have I fallen off the (restricting) wagon, but it is now doing laps over the top of me….thu-THUNK, thu-THUNK, thu-THUNK…” And what do we do when we fall off? We get right back on.
Right around my 30th birthday this year I started to get a little concerned with this cyclical behavior. I was becoming super obsessive with my food and meals. It was all that I thought about. Every day, all day. A big portion of my winter vacation to Hawaii was filled with guilt over the weight I knew I was gaining and why. I knew I was going to look back on my vacation and think, “the only thing I remember was constantly thinking about my weight and food.” That freaked me out.
Luckily, before I left for Hawaii, I had stumbled upon a “book club” for women where food and body issues were the primary topics of discussion. I was invited to join the group. I “hmmm’d” and “haaaa’d” over the invitation for about a month. I had done so many groups and none of them had helped me get to the bottom on my food, body and weight obsessions. But something was calling me to this group. I accepted the group invitation and found out which book they were going to read during the session. Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston. I brought the book to Hawaii with me for some “quality beach reading material” and to get a head start on the book. Picture this: Andrea sitting on the beach in Maui, birds chirping, waves crashing, whales breaching. Andrea sobbing. Yes, SOBB-ING. Cowboy hat on, sunglasses securely glued to my face, hiding it from the outside world. I was enamored, humbled, enthralled, saddened, enveloped by this book. Page after page: “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME!” , “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME!”, “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME!”. I had found my answer. Food was not my problem. What was going on in my head, heart and soul was the problem.
I joined the book club after vacation and at every meeting I started remembering every time over the past 25 years of my life when I felt let down, rejected, humiliated or misunderstood and had been unable to resolve it or handle it. I was always told: “You’re over-reacting Andrea”. “You’re being too sensitive”. “You are the reason for my problems.” Because I didn’t know how to control those moments, I learned to control the moments that I knew I had complete control over: when and what I ate. Originally it started out as, “YIKES! Freshmen 15!”, then it was, “I’m an athlete and I perform better at <this> weight and body fat”. Then dad died. Then some really F.U.S. happened with family. It was in these next years that I began developing and perfecting the ability to really ignore my feelings. It didn’t matter what happened to me or how I felt about it. No biggie, I’m over it. Moving on. But never really dealing. I felt empty; I was missing my authenticity, acceptance–I felt like I was living someone else’s pre-determined and scheduled life. But the emptiness too was to painful to deal with, so to fill the void and pack down those feelings so they don’t bubble up: enter food! Enter obsessive eating behaviors. When you gorge yourself, it’s really hard to feel anything but full.
I could go on about this for another 5000 words, but here’s the skinny (no pun intended): if you restrict, binge or otherwise obsess about your food, first, READ THIS BOOK IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston. Google it. Buy it. Now. And second, go back–way back. Start jotting some things down:
- How did your family treat you growing up?
- How did your friends treat you?
- Were you ever friend dumped? Bullied? Picked on?
- Did you always feel different than your classmates? Like you picked up on things they didn’t or thought differently than everyone else? Maybe you felt like you were always a few steps ahead of everyone else?
- Were you an athlete in school? Why or why not?
- What about college? Did you follow your passion?
- Are you following your passion now?
Bottom line: don’t just look at your plate to solve your problems. Go take a big long, loving look in the mirror (eye contact!) and then take a look at your heart. What is it telling you? If you listen to what it says (patience, kindness and gentleness with YOURSELF will go a long way here), everything else will then start making sense.
Namaste and Ahimsa,