Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “humility”

Beautiful. But still not skinny

When I got my eating under control 13+ years ago, I expected to find my husband right away. I thought that the only thing keeping him away was my being fat. Because even when I wasn’t fat while I was still eating compulsively, any hold I had on staying the size I was was tenuous at best. I could always feel it slipping away. 

But when I put boundaries around my eating, and especially when I stopped eating foods I am addicted to, like sugar and carbs, I lost my weight, and it was staying off. And I wasn’t afraid of gaining it back. At all. I didn’t feel like it was a fluke. I wasn’t what they call “white knuckling” it. I was in a regular sized body and fully expected to stay that way. 
But he didn’t show up. For years he didn’t show up. I went on dates. I got pretty hair cuts from a salon. (The kind where you needed an appointment!) I regularly got my nails done, fingers and toes. I wore pretty clothes. For a few years there in the beginning I even wore makeup every day. (I would stop after about 5 years of having my food under control.) But no husband.
I went on dates. I went to bars. I talked to men on the subway and in Starbucks. But he did not show up. 
And then I quit smoking. And I gained weight. I gained a lot of weight. After the first 30 lbs, I stopped weighing myself. I had my food under control, but my weight was out of control. I was terrified. I was miserable. I felt betrayed by my body. But I kept my boundaries around my eating, even in the face of that weight gain and insecurity. 
And I thought “I missed my window. My husband didn’t show up while I was skinny. And now that chance has passed.”
And then my husband showed up. When I was not skinny. When I was, in fact, the heaviest I had ever been with my eating under control.
And I had to come to terms with the fact that being skinny was not what made me beautiful. And it occurred to me that having my eating under control is actually the thing that made/makes me beautiful. The clarity. The kindness. The confidence. The good judgment.
So here I am, a woman with her food under control, who is not skinny. I am fit, and present, and growing, and happy. And still in love with my husband who is still in love with me. He still thinks I’m beautiful. (I still think so too. Because…humble.) But still not skinny. 
And I am so grateful that I got to learn that lesson. That my beauty is not determined by my physical size. That my size is fine, whatever it is, as long as I have my eating under control. Because it was the compulsive eating that made me feel ugly and crazy and unlovable. And in having my food taken care of, I am showing my body that I love it. That I think it is worthy of love. And that opened the way for my husband. Love opened the way to love. Not being “skinny and perfect.”

Oprah, Weight Watchers, and the burden of being fancy.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about Oprah’s weight. Not because I give a shit about Oprah’s weight. Seriously, I don’t. But this is an eating disorder blog, and she’s Oprah with a new commitment to (and stake in) Weight Watchers. She’s one of the most successful humans to exist in the history of the world. And she has trouble controlling her weight. And, because she is who she is, all of the rest of humanity has a front row seat to watch, judge and ridicule Oprah’s body. (*shudder* Note to self: Never get that famous.)

I don’t know about you, but I really hate that new Weight Watchers commercial. It is the same “inspirational” music, and Oprah is using that same, low, soothing voice usually reserved for charity ads that begin “for just 70 cents a day…”

She says “Every time I tried and failed, and every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, If not now, when?”

Do you know why I hate it so much? Because I don’t believe her. Not because I think she is a liar. I don’t. I think that Oprah has become as powerful as she has by being authentic. But I can see the fear. I can see the resignation. She looks to me like she is essentially saying, “This time I really mean it!” And I don’t know who she is trying to convince, us, or herself.

Behind that “I mean it” is the assumption that willpower is what she needs. That this time she is going to be committed. As if she weren’t committed every time before that. But we all know that’s bullshit. Of course she meant it every time. Not being able to be in a socially acceptable body is humiliating. Even for those of us who are not scrutinized daily on the world stage. It is one of the hardest things I, personally, have ever dealt with emotionally and spiritually. I meant it “every time.” But if I went walking in to my next weight loss experiment with the food obsession still there, and no experience that it could be any other way, I walked in defeated before I even started. The fear of being broken was still there. It wasn’t until I experienced a sense of relief, the possibility of sanctuary from the obsession, that I first believed that there was a solution at all. (I didn’t experience that relief until I surrendered to both giving up sugar and carbs all together and putting boundaries around my eating.) And more, I have seen women and men who still continue to struggle with their eating, even after they have had a glimpse of sanctuary. This disease of compulsive eating is no joke. And I do not see that telltale glimpse of sanctuary in Oprah’s eyes in her Weight Watcher’s commercial.

You may have the assumption that Oprah’s wealth and influence would make her weight loss journey easier. But from personal experience, I will tell you why I believe the opposite.

I have a very close friend who has boundaries around her eating, and has for over a decade. She is a very gifted singer and performer. She is a world traveller. She has friends in high places. She’s fancy. Now, she’s always fancy, but I have found that when she is feeling fancy, that is generally the most dangerous thing she can do for her food boundaries.

Because it takes a level of humility to say that you cannot control yourself around food. For Oprah Winfrey, it would mean the woman who flouted the conventions of race and gender and overcame a difficult childhood of abuse, would have to say that she couldn’t stop eating. She had power to change the world, but not enough power to step away from the chocolate cake. (Hey, Oprah, I don’t know anything about building a 3 Billion dollar empire, but seriously, it can’t be nearly as hard as stepping away from the cake.)

I don’t know Oprah at all, obviously. Not even a little bit. But I am going to guess that she does not have a “weight problem.” I am going to bet she has a food problem. And I am going to bet she is addicted to sugar and carbs. Because seriously, think about how many pounds of fruits and vegetables you have to eat to be overweight. And what’s more, how could a woman with enough money to buy several small countries not buy everything necessary to maintain a healthy weight? Personal trainers, cooks, dudes in suits and sunglasses with earpieces to guard the refrigerator, the freezer, and the cupboards where the cookies are kept. OF COURSE SHE CAN! But who is going to stop Oprah Winfrey from eating the cookie? I don’t care how crisp your suit is. If Oprah tells you to stand aside and get out of the way of the white chocolate macadamias, you are going to damn well do it. Because she is Oprah. Duh.

My point is that nobody is going to humble Oprah except Oprah. And if you were arguably the most powerful woman in the world, it might be a little scary to humble yourself. I am going to guess that she did not get where she is today by giving up her power. But I know first hand that power, or willpower, isn’t enough when it comes to eating. I know that it doesn’t matter how stubborn, strong, or committed you are. When the cookies and the cake are calling, if you have never experienced the possibility of peace around food, there is no escaping.

I wish Oprah the best. But I don’t expect Weight Watchers to be the cure for what is ailing her. And I hope that she can experience for herself the paradox of humility as power. Because if there is anyone who can lead by example and help people (especially women) be free and peaceful around food and weight, it’s Oprah. Duh.

Egos or I go. (Yes, I am aware of how bad that pun is.)

I had another week of intense feelings. They are still not my favorite. I didn’t want to eat this week.

I ate my meals. Because it’s part of my boundaries. It’s how I roll, if you will. But it was not easy. It was not fun. I did not enjoy it.

As a compulsive eater, it is rare to not want to eat. I usually love every bite of my meals. Sometimes I’m even a little sad when they end. But just like how I feel doesn’t change whether or not I eat more, it doesn’t change whether or not I eat less either.

My boyfriend had some things to point out about me and my behavior this week. He wasn’t wrong. And it was hard to hear.

Look, I know that I write a lot about making changes to myself and being a part of the solution. Yadda yadda yadda. Of course, what I write is true. But for the most part I am writing about it after the fact. After I have already done the hard part. That might make you think that kind of thing is easy for me. Perhaps you are under the impression that I am naturally humble.

I’m not. At all.

I do the things I do because I want things. I want peace. I want to be in a great relationship. I want to be a person I like and respect. I want to sleep easily at night.

But I have an ego. And it really wants to argue. It wants to make excuses. It wants to manipulate and put others on the defensive when it feels threatened.

It is work not follow my ego. It is painful. It is uncomfortable and humiliating. I do it, even though it is not easy, because I want to be happy more than I want to be right. Or seen as right. Admitting I am being a jerk sucks. And I will have to do it again. And again. Until I’m dead. Because I don’t imagine I will ever entirely rid myself of jerkiness.

I only know what I want because I have my eating disorders under control. Because I am sober from sugar. Because I eat my committed meals, whether I want to or not. I only have the ability to keep my ego in check because of this. I can only look at myself honestly, as painful as it may be, because of this. And I can only change myself because of this.

Putting boundaries around my food took a specific kind of honesty. And keeping my integrity around my food requires me to bring that honesty to all areas of my life.

For a long time, I ate compulsively, and it fed my ego. Here is the irony. It is my vanity that has me check my ego. It is my desire to be, and be seen as, my authentic self, that allowed me to put my ego in its place.

There is a saying (you know how I love my sayings): You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time. My face is always just fine. It’s my ass that sometimes needs saving.

Losing battles, my heart and a blunt instrument, and a first attempt at a new humility

When I stopped eating sugar six and a half years ago, I admitted that I have no power over it. That if sugar and I ever end up in a battle again, sugar will win. I will lose. It’s that simple. And that’s ok. I don’t battle with sugar anymore. There is no need. It is the reigning victor.

In other words, do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? Do I want to prove that I have willpower and nothing can beat me, or do I want to live in peace? I choose happiness and peace. I choose to acknowledge my weakness and my humanity. Not just acknowledge them. Honor them. Give them their proper place and their due. Have some humility.

Because I understand that I am going to have to submit in some way. I cannot have it “my way”. My way does not actually exist. I cannot eat a little bit and stop. Which is not actually “my way” either. “My way” would be to eat and eat and eat and not be fat. Or obsessed to the point that I am careless of others. My way would be to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with no consequences. Anybody know the secret to that? (Even if you said yes, I wouldn’t believe you.) So I can submit to the acceptance of my weakness and forfeit sugar as an option. Or I can try to control sugar. And control myself around sugar. But I have a lifetime of experience that assures me that I will just end up having to submit to sugar in the end. And be its slave. So I give sugar its rightful throne. And stay the hell out of its kingdom.

But the longer I have my food under control, the more I learn that I have no power over other things too. So many things. More and more things than I ever imagined. And it turns out that I have no control over my heart. I cannot control my feelings.

Let me make some distinctions. I am not talking about my thinking. I absolutely get to choose what I think. And what kinds of thoughts I think. I can stop thoughts. I can redirect my focus. This is important. It is an excellent skill to have. I cultivate it. If I have a thought about how great chocolate cake is, I stop thinking that thought. I cannot afford to romance thoughts about foods I don’t eat anymore. Foods that will kill me. Foods that will torture me first, and then kill me. If I am feeling like life is unfair, and I am throwing myself a pity party, I can list the things I have to be grateful for. I do have power over my thoughts.

The other distinction I want to make is about shutting my heart down. I can do that too. It is a skill of sorts. It was very useful in my early life. It saved me as a child. I had a pain that was too big for a little girl to deal with. Fear that was too dark and scary. But this is not what I’m talking about either. Because shutting my heart down is not like using an exact tool for performing detailed work. It is a blunt instrument. It is all or nothing. My heart is either on, or it’s off. If it’s off, there is numb. If it’s on, there is whatever there is. And that’s what I’m talking about. When it’s on, I have no power over what comes out of it.

I have this agreement with God that I will not “take my toys and go home”. I originally made this promise about men. That I will not run away as soon as I think I might get hurt. That I will not stop caring to avoid pain. That I will follow every relationship to its natural conclusion. That I will be available for whatever a relationship has to offer. And if it’s pain and getting hurt, that I’ll stick around to get hurt. (Oh yeah. Huge fan of this agreement with God…) But what is starting to dawn on me is that I choose shutting down with all sorts of situations. I have spent my entire life trying to control my feelings. So I don’t feel disappointed. Or hurt. Or frustrated. Or angry.

And I have been thinking of this shutting down as a kind of power. That I have power over my feelings. But I do not. If my heart is open, I’m feeling whatever I’m feeling. If I let my heart be open.

So I’ve just come to the conclusion that on is better than off. All the time. That there is no such thing as a bad feeling. Even if the feeling is jealousy or greed or anger. Even if it’s something that I’ve been told to think of as shameful or wrong.

This is new for me. And I’m going to tell you I’m scared. Because I don’t really know what it will mean to stop fighting my feelings. I don’t know what that looks like when practiced and applied. And because I want so much to be a good person. And I’m so afraid of my dark side. And that it is just another log on the fire of my unlovableness. But if I am going to be honest, I have to admit that I am powerless over my heart. And the more I resist it, the more exhausted I am.

When I stopped eating compulsively, I gave up fighting with food. And now I want to give up fighting with feelings. Because the longer I am sober from sugar (and cigarettes) the more clarity I get, and the more I understand that I have spent my life fighting battles I can’t possibly win. So I guess I’ll just have to do my best and let you know how it goes…
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