Rebellion and the Games They Play

This summer I have had the awesome opportunity to lead some ladies from our church through a book called Journey to Healthy Living written by Scott Reall. It's not really a diet "how-to" book. It's more of a "this is what society says and does and this is how we have reacted to it" regarding weight, body image and self-esteem.

I have felt really stuck in my journey for some time and it has occurred to me that, internally, I have put a lot of pressure on myself, and in turn feel less-than because, you know, I haven't lost any weight. And even though I have told people I am still working on getting normal with food after a lifetime of abnormal, and that losing weight has not been my goal, for now, I have inadvertently allowed negative thoughts in regarding this very personal battle.

I liken it to the little voices in our heads that are so quiet we don't even know what they are saying, we are so used to the negativity that we don't recognize the lies they are telling. No one did this to me, I did it to myself. Pressure. Expectations. What are they thinking about me???

Bottom line, this is a huge, enormous struggle. Both inside and out. And I'm still in the middle of it. And I allowed myself to think that "others" were thinking I should be further along than I was. That there should be some visible evidence of this change. Emotional change cannot be seen. And I've tried changing all the outside things (restriction, dieting, monitoring, food logging, etc.) that I almost had to just lay all of that down for a while and just live. Just be normal with food.

This past week specifically, I read two of Geneen Roth's blog posts about eating. If you aren't familiar with Geneen Roth, she is a pioneer in mindful eating. You know, not restricting what you eat but dealing mindfully with the why behind why we eat the way that we do. She wrote an amazing book, among many others, entitled "Women, God and Food". I highly recommend it.

Anyway, I posted Geneen's thoughts on our Journey to Healthy Living group because they just resonated with me and I didn't know if they would resonate with others, too.

The first one was about treating ourselves with tenderness regardless of how much we weigh. I know five years ago I was in such a place of really hating myself. I was depressed, I felt alone, ugly, and thought the only way out was to have a medical intervention, and even though it was not as drastic as it could have been, it was a big deal. And I lost weight. I thought that once the weight came off I could deal with all the rest of the junk but, until then I would just be sad, depressed, anxious, fat and unable to change. I was unable to change on my own.There. That would do it. I am 5 years later weighing about the same I did before the medical intervention. 20 pounds less, to be accurate. And I also know that you can't hate yourself into positive change. I lost a lot of weight, but the intervention I chose was not enough to keep the weight off forever. Initially the weight returned because I started overeating and abusing food 6 months in. I had no clue that I was sabotaging myself. I lost 70 pounds in the first year. But as suddenly as I started losing weight, the weight loss stopped. I didn't gain but I wasn't losing anymore.

The last three years have simply been me gaining weight back slowly. I got into therapy to figure out what in the world was going on.  I knew something wasn't right.It was then I learned of all the shame, guilt, depression and even a little ( a lot of) hate I had poured on myself through the years because I struggled with my weight.

The past two years in therapy have been a journey of struggle. Struggle to want to lose weight, but to also be free from the power of food in my life. And so, even though there will be moments like last year when I was really trying to just eat clean, eat mindfully and be free and it would work for a little while....invariably I go stop and go back to weighing the same.

As frustrating as it is to still be fat, to have no outside change in my body for at least a year, their have been triumphs in my life unseen. Unseen by others, but I am still trying to drink them in. One is the freedom with food. I have always a grazer. So not grazing all day is a huge accomplishment that needs to be recognized. Being able to look at food with neutrality and not in the context of being bad or good. Being able to know that I can enjoy a bite or two of something and thoroughly savor it and enjoy it and then be satisfied is a huge accomplishment.  Even indulging in eating dessert first and being OK with that is an accomplishment.

Or eating a candy bar in front of others. I did that last weekend and I did not feel one bit of shame or guilt. I was hungry, I didn't want to wait and order food from the late menu at the hotel so I grabbed a candy bar. And it was good. And I enjoyed it. And the women I was with at this conference have loved me enough where I am that I didn't feel one sense of judgement from them or me. Heck, I'm not even sure anyone of them even noticed what I was eating.  It seems permissive and counter-intuitive to losing weight when you just eat whatever, but it was a process that I had to come to and go through. And one day in the future I will be able to apply what I have learned when I get to the point that I love myself enough to start making more disciplined choices.

That's why Geneen's second post especially resonated with me. Here is a LINK  to her complete blog post, but the part that resonated with me was the fact that she stopped dieting. It's how she ended her struggle. It's how my therapist talks about ending the struggle with food. It just seems.....well, counter-intuitive to eat a brownie and ice cream for dinner (as she mentions in the beginning of her post).

Here's the part I loved and needed to hear:
My response is always the same: Once we are adults, it is not anyone’s job but our own to monitor what goes into our mouths.  It’s not that nutritional and medical information is not necessary or helpful; it is.  It’s not that loving friends and family are not necessary and helpful; they are.  But when it gets down to the particular foods you choose to eat on a given day, you are the boss.
Why?  Two reasons.  The first is that unless you begin claiming that right for yourself, you will spend your life eating cottage cheese in front of people who think you should be eating cottage cheese, and brownies and ice cream when you are alone.  You will spend your life as a child who is either obeying authority or rebelling against it, never taking the power that is yours.
The second reason is that as loving as any intention from a caring friend or family member may be, it is misguided.  When someone else comments on what you eat or how much you weigh, it evokes shame, and after working with tens of thousands of people over the years, I can say with absolute certainty that shame does not ever, under any circumstance, lead to long-lasting change.  Shame only leads to more shame, more hiding, more sneaking, more bingeing.
I have spent a lot of my adulthood rebelling against authority in the eating department. And it all started in my adolescence. And even though I knew in my head I was really only hurting myself, it was a difficult cycle to stop, and still is. I still rebel. So, as much as I would love to have lost weight by now, if I am going to make lasting, permanent change, I have to give myself time. And be okay with that time. And to acknowledge where I have come from and where I am going and the small, wonderful changes that I have made the last two years.

And it's also OK to acknowledge that you need help. That you might need more help. My metabolism is pretty much ruined over the weight loss and regain game I have played the last 10 years. I'm not getting any younger and neither is my metabolism. That can be extremely frustrating, especially when attempting to eat in moderation and you feel you are, yet you can't lose weight that way. It's a real bummer.

I would love to be like Geneen and lose the weight in a year and never look back (she had 50 pounds to lose). But, I'm not. And I'm not going to shame myself into thinking I need to be in a different place.

Each time I try to speed up this process I am met with my own resistance and subsequent failure or setback. The only difference is now I don't condemn myself or shame and hate myself. I just try to love myself, be understanding and keep going.

This is a little insight into my personal journey. Why this is so hard. Why I would love to be wearing a size or two smaller, but to recognize that I am several "sizes" smaller in the emotional healing part of this journey. And that is just as awesome. And it's important to recognize and accept that this is just part of the journey, I can attempt to avoid it, go around it, starve it, monitor it....whatever....but I want lasting change. And Rome wasn't built in a day, as they, here's to one more day. One more change. One more step in the right direction.

I raise my glass to me...and to you.

Let's just celebrate the journey. (even writing that is hard!!!)

OK, let's recognize it's a journey and as long as I (we) keep going we are moving in the right direction.