Today I want to just briefly touch on vanity and how getting my eating under control shifted that for me.
When I was eating compulsively and fat, I hated myself for being fat. I thought about my body constantly. It took up a corner of my brain every waking moment starting from the time I was maybe 9 or 10. And at the time, the 80s and 90s, through to the mid 2000s there was a lesser, but still huge diet industry. There were Jane Fonda workout tapes and home exercise equipment setups. There were shakes, and pills, and meal supplements in the form of chocolate chews.
And I was fat, and hated my body, and thought that there was something so incredibly wrong with me that it was inalterable. I believed that I had a willpower problem. I believed that I had a morality problem. I believed that I had a broken body and a broken soul. I knew in my heart that I was being punished by God.
When I was 28, I put boundaries around my eating. I did it to prove that it would not work. I did it to show that even if I did everything I was told to do, it still would not work.
I also want to note that I had done everything I had been told to do before. And it had not worked. I went to doctors and nutritionists, like I was expected to. And there I was told to moderate. I was told that I should eat a cookie. But only one. And I had never ever been able to eat only one. More proof of my moral failings.
I did occasionally have something like success in my early and mid 20s. Certainly the diet industry would say I did. I could manage my eating and workout. I could get down to a socially acceptable weight for a limited amount of time. But I was always miserable. I was obsessed with eating and also with not gaining weight. I was obsessed with putting the food in and also getting it out, before it showed up on my belly or thighs. I was a laxative abuser, an exercise bulimic and eventually had a short stint as a regular, old fashioned bulimic.
But at 28, I agreed to some guidelines. To weigh my food. To only eat 3 times a day. To give up most sugars, grains, and starches. And I felt a pathetic combination of smug and sad, because I had tried everything else and I could not imagine this would work. Because I could not imagine anything would work. I was irrevocably broken! Couldn’t everyone understand that and leave me alone?
But, of course, I was wrong. And it worked! I limited my food and I was able to do it continuously, even though I had never been able to before! The answer was sugar. That when I ate sugar, I could not stop eating sugar. When I gave up sugar, I ceased to crave it. It turned out that I was (am) addicted to sugar. It is a drug for me. So when I gave it up and it stopped having a hold on me, the weight dropped off and I was skinny and now considered really beautiful by the world’s standards. And I loved it!
And I learned then that different kinds of stress affected my weight. I found out the guy I was seeing was not as interested in me as I was in him, and I gained weight. And then my beloved grandmother got sick and was sick for many months before she died and in that time I lost weight.
After that I quit smoking. And that made me gain the most weight yet. And then after 3 years, that weight just fell away, and I got back to being quite skinny. And then the political climate in the US shifted. And I got stressed out in a whole new way. And I gained weight again.
The whole time, I was maintaining my eating boundaries. I was not eating more. I was eating the same. And sometimes even less! And my weight still fluctuated.
When I was eating compulsively and eating sugar but in a body smaller than the one I currently inhabit, I was still miserable. I still felt ugly. I still felt broken. I still felt fat! But in getting my eating under control, I stopped feeling fat. I stopped hating myself. I stopped feeling broken and pathetic and hideous. It was the eating, and not the body, that was making me feel the way I did.
With my eating under control, I don’t hate my body. Whatever body I happen to be in. When I am chubby, but have my eating under control, I still think I am beautiful. I still think my body is beautiful. I still like myself. And I can see that people find me attractive. It does not matter what my body actually looks like. And I can tell you that was unexpected.
Today, when I look at a picture of a model or see an actress on my TV, I am not comparing myself to her. I am not thinking about the ways that I can wrangle my body into “behaving.” I am not thinking about my body at all. And that is a miracle and a gift I have no interest in giving up.