July 4, 2010 a weighty issue
happy fourth of july kidlettes! hope the day is filled with sunshine, good food, and good vibes where ever you are.
a year ago i celebrated the 4th on a different continent. i think none of us in the group really cared about america’s day of independence. i don’t even remember what we did. i do remember drinking beer, though. lots and lots of beer.
but i digress. as i usually do. the topic i would like to discuss has nothing to do with the 4th of july. it has a lot to do with yet another revelation. let me start by saying whenever i encounter a problem in my life, i tackle it head on. and i mean tackle it. otherwise, the problem just sits in the pit of my stomach and acts as a producer of anxiety. the anxiety, at least in most cases, affects my sleep schedule, my appetite, my happiness and just generally my overall mood. sound familiar?
i bet! i also bet you know how miserable it can be to just sit on a problem and let it tear you apart. so that’s why i face my issues head on. i will literally sit and think (and think and think) until i start to see a solution on the horizon. for the majority of my problems, this helps a significant amount. i try hard to never find ways around my issues, either. i accept blame where ever blame needs to be accepted. i am 100% honest with myself — even if it hurts to hear. but that’s what i think the truth is for. the truth assists you in discovering the heart of the matter. it humbles. it remains steadfast in all situations. truth is a tool when used correctly.
and last night, i used the truth tool to my advantage. i pried open a memory box long-ago rusted shut. i brushed away the cobwebs and wandered backwards on my life’s path, truth in hand.
i often discuss my issues with eating and body-consciousness. like the majority of people, my struggles with body-consciousness began in my late childhood. i can honestly pin point the moment i started to associate the word “shame” with “my body”. in the fifth grade our P.E teacher weighed us for the physical fitness tests. i stepped on the white face of the scale and watched the number inch up, up, up before holding firmly at black shapes reading eighty. i peered down at the two-digit number for a long moment, etching it into my mind before my teacher ushered me off the platform. a sinking feeling grew in the pit of my stomach and my eyebrows knit together in unease. eighty? a few feet away a group of my friends circled together and as i approached them, their eyes betrayed the question waiting for me on the tips of their tongues.
“how much do you weigh?” one of them asked as i squeezed myself into the circle.
“eighty,” i said before adding quickly, “is that normal?”
“don’t worry,” someone else said. “chelsea weighs eighty-three!”
we all giggled in the mean-spirited way only girls can. for the moment i felt pacified, though the uncomfortable feeling still ached dully.
the uncomfortable feeling continues to ache dully. it pounded painfully in middle school, where i cried buckets over my “fat” appearance. it throbbed when i gained weight in high school. it nearly tore me in half when i gained more weight in college. the need to shed my skin and become a different person has always been there. but i never noticed how i really handled my body issues until last night.
before i dive into my revelation, let me preface by saying i love food. i have always loved food. i grew up in a family obsessed with food. my dad was a chef. my aunt and uncle own a produce company. family restaurants have come and gone. everyone knows how to cook. food brings us together.
last night, while i thought about this, i discovered the dark side of my family’s (and subsequently mine) food fixation. i come from a family of over eaters. we want to taste everything and, sometimes, we over taste everything. my family eats late night snacks they don’t need. my mom bashes her appearance multiple times a day (this was the foundation of my body image and self esteem. from my mother i have learned i will never ever EVER lament the state of my physical appearance in front of my children (if i ever have any)). no WONDER i developed an unhealthy relationship with food and my body. last night, as i retraced the steps of my past, i used my truth tool to see things i never might have otherwise.
i realized that, while growing up, i always ate more then my friends. always. i remember feeling hungry more often then not whenever i slept at friend’s houses and was always embarrassed to eat more food. apparently feeling judged for eating a lot has been an issue for me since my childhood.
while thinking back last night i remembered moments in middle school and high school where i went back for seconds and thirds and sometimes fourths while my friends ate only their firsts, if that at all. i was good at eating.
as i aged my parents relaxed their food rules. suddenly, i could eat dessert if i wanted to on a week night. so i did. i ate late. i ate huge portions. though i never did it too often, i still did it. cut to freshman year of college. i am utterly unhappy in school. i hate my environment. i hate that i have almost no friends. i hate my body more than i ever have. i hate my life, basically. so what did i do to console myself? i ate. i ate and ate and ate and ate. i ate until i tipped the scales at my highest weight ever. how did i feel? MISERABLE.
my struggles with overeating have always existed. the intensity of the struggle depends on one thing: my happiness. i turn to food for comfort and always have. i am not sure why i did not see this before last night. whenever i am stressed or bored, i eat. and i ALWAYS HAVE. i see this pattern in my parents. i see it in my aunts and uncles. i see it in my brother. food is a form of entertainment, a distraction from the real issue.
why do i over eat now? because i do not love myself. i do not (yet) fully appreciate the person i am. i over eat now because i restrict myself from eating a regular, healthy diet daily. i over eat because i feel unworthy (of friendships, relationships, happiness, and self-love). i over eat because i am lonely (let’s not even start on this topic). i over eat because food provides temporary comfort before making me feel like a failure. i over eat because i know it’s something i can do well. and i eat in secret because i am ashamed of my hunger.
can you believe that? ashamed of my own hunger? so what, i require more food to fuel my body? SO. WHAT. i feel like our society looks down upon those with an appetite and applauds those who do not eat a lot. or this is the thought i am projecting onto our society. regardless, my secret eating is most definitely powered by shame. i am ashamed of my body. i am ashamed of my hunger.
but that hunger makes me happy at the same time. it makes me happy to go to bed with a rumbling stomach. it makes me happy to know that today, i only ate a sandwich, an apple, a plum, two carrots, some hummus, a bit of roasted broccoli and a super small sweet potato (and a lot of those vegan brownies i just made (recipe soon) though i am in no way proud or happy about that. but hey — at least i didn’t eat the whole pan in one sitting. step up!) mostly though, it scares me that my hunger can make me both happy and ashamed at the same time.
last night’s yoga session broke my soul. i cried and cried and eventually had to pause the video to blow my nose. neesha, the yoga instructor, kept saying these little comments that were exactly what i needed to hear. they had so, so much to do with how i was feeling. mainly neesha stressed that we are not alone in our problems, that we are human and it is okay to not achieve perfection, a concept i find myself frequently battling. if you are feeling stressed or depressed in any way, i seriously recommend this flow.
so where do i go from here with all this new found knowledge? truthfully, i am not sure. i am not sure how to doctor the conflicts. but i know i am one step closer to wholeness. i feel it in my bones. this is so not going to be an easy recovery but i am fully committed to it. living each day in the shadow of food and body anxiety is not worth it. there is so much more to life then the size of your hips.