Recovering from Food Obsession
Hi All! It’s Michelle here. I’d like to share a great article that a client of mine wrote about her recovery experience. Perhaps you’ll see some of yourself in her story. Have a great day! And thank you Mandy for your authentic sharing. Love M.
You know those little dainty squares of rich sweet gooey sticky goodness that are served at events like weddings and receptions? The ones all laid out on trays looking shiny and chocolaty and simply divine… maybe topped with a delicately placed pistachio or strawberry? Mmmm, my mouth would water as soon as my eyes made contact. I wouldn’t be able to focus on the conversation because in my head I would be thinking, “Hm, where should I start? The butter tart looks good, but oooh, there’s one with chocolate…” I swear my eyes would glaze over in the euphoria of the blanket of sweets laid before me. That’s how it would start anyway. The end of the scene in my head wasn’t nearly as lovely. I knew, I just knew, I wouldn’t be able to stop at the 2.5 squares allocated by my RSVP. I would be trying to mingle and enjoy the company of those around me but my head would be whirling with the shame and guilt and barrage of insults I was hurling at myself. And so I would shamefully eat more. More than I deserved. More than was meant for me. I would leave in a huffy pile of grief and guilt. “What is wrong with me?!” I said that more times than I can remember. I do remember that I hit this point. A breaking point if you will. Where I wasn’t able to ‘get myself together’ around food. I knew I was in trouble and the answer to the question that followed me everywhere was beginning to become clearer. Obviously I had a sorted relationship with food. And, given that I hated what my beautiful body had become (how could it betray me like this?), I obviously also had a sorted relationship with it as well. My life was so blessed but I hated (not a word I use lightly) it and hated the relationship I had with some of the people I shared it with. I wouldn’t think how deep this went. And even that, I knew, was a sign of trouble. It was like I know enough to know that I don’t know enough – or however that saying goes. That was in 2000 – I think. Not a vast amount of time has passed in the grand scheme of things, but oh what a difference a week, a month, a year or two or eight can make! It was in the Yellow pages in Vancouver that I ran my finger along the ad for the Cedric Centre. I picked this one only because it offered a website where I could remain uncommitted and anonymous for the time being. The first phone call I made to Michelle was so hard. The weight of my feelings of failure were heavy to say the least. I tried to treat it like a business phone call… remain professional, get what you need and get out without getting too messy… that sort of thing. The thought makes me smile. Michelle and I ‘met’ (all of our sessions were over the phone) a couple of times a week at first and then gradually (very gradually!) became weekly and later monthly and then just a sort of check up every now and again. I can laugh now thinking of myself in my pajamas on the floor clinging with my sweaty hand to the phone, sobbing the, as Oprah calls it, ugly cry… there was so much to let out! Those were some very painful phone conversations. I think I was able to manage the pain for two reasons. The first, I felt very safe working with Michelle and the pace of our progress was ‘just right’. I knew that if I felt I was being challenged on something that I wasn’t ready for yet all I had to do was say, I can’t do it yet, and we wouldn’t… not then anyway. Michelle knows every last ounce of my dirt. And in return I know how to be whole. A fair exchange I would say. The second reason I was able to manage was the sessions would give something back to me. I was always left with little bits of knowing. A deeper understanding, a new perspective, a way to cope or all of the above. One of my favourite take home pieces was discovering I could change my self-talk and what that did for me. In about the course of a week I uncovered huge vast spaces of my mind that had been filled to the brim and spilling over with negative self-talk. I was amazed how much time, energy (oh the wasted energy!), and space that I had been filling with toxic and self-deprecating garbage. When I learned, with practice and guidance, to shut it out, change it, and insert new, kinder, gentler and more compassionate chatter inside my own head I felt… hmm, how can I even describe the feeling… I felt shocked, amazed, sad, proud, uplifted (the list of adjectives could get very long) but to sum up the best word would be…happy. I felt happy. I guess I felt like I was in charge again, but in a nicer just had a sunny vacation kind of way. This happiness grew inside me like a baby in a belly. I nurtured the good feelings and the warmth and understanding and compassion started to take over. Once it got a toehold there was no stopping it. Although, that isn’t to say it was a stroll through the park kind of a journey. lt was a process. There was a lot of back and forth going on. One step forward and some staggering falls back at times but it was a process after all. And, since I could see the shining comfy place it was all heading I decided it really was worth the trip! In these eight years since I have gained such an insightful, fulfilling and meaningful relationship with myself. I know who I am in that I know what my history is, what my flaws and shortcomings are, but more importantly I know my own strength, my resilience and resolve. And I have accepted my own offer of compassion finally understanding that compassion is not just to be shared with those around me but is allowed to be bestowed onto myself as well. I do deserve goodness in my life, and I welcome it. I am worthy of feeling happiness and of having a wonderful existence. I actually believe these things in my core.
I have given birth to two children, my beautiful sons, born in 2005 and 2007. I cannot imagine going through the pregnancy and the months following their births without having a good relationship with my body. It was really during these times, when my body was doing so much important work that it truly hit home for me what the relationship I have with my physical self actually means. Had I still been carrying my self hate with me like a hat I could stick on my head during times of sour weather I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood to it’s fullest potential. My girlfriend, having just had her third, said to me, “Oh these stretch marks! I’ll never wear a bikini again.” I think my response was surprising to her because I said, “I wear my stretch marks with pride. My body worked hard for each and every one of them!” And, it’s true. We recently traveled to a beach, our first ‘family’ vacation, and I wore a fun little bikini and my stretch marks were noticeable to anyone who cared to look, but I wasn’t the least bit self conscious of them. What a relief to not give a damn what people think of how I look. I’m curvy, I have a little pouch of extra skin on my belly from where I carried my babies around for 9 months, I have stretch marks from that growth, but it’s like it all means something really special to me. Now, that’s not to say if I had a choice I would have chosen these little bonus extras. But, it’s what I got out of the journey as my permanent reminders of the outstanding job my body did bearing big (8lbs9oz and 9lbs respectively) and super healthy children. Who am I to look at my body after such hard work and say how ugly it is and how much I hate it?! So, I see my stretch marks and think, “Ah yes… well done!” There are days when self doubt and my old friend the core belief, “I am not good enough”, come lingering about, but I know how to offer them the compassion they are really looking for and for the most part am able to wish them well and send them packing. Sometimes I’m too hard on myself and I see old patterns begin to surface again, but I go right back to the beginning of my understanding and I remember to sit with what I’m feeling… find the real issue and deal with that the best I can or accepting it for what it is if it is something beyond my control to fix. Because, as one comes to know, it’s not about food. The relationship I have with my self is deeper more fulfilling and more rewarding than I had imagined. Sometimes the happiness sneaks up on me and I’m surprised how it has filled me up. My healing of myself changed my life. It changed my relationships, my perspective, my attitude, and on and on, but I am still me. I am the same person in so many ways. I just feel like I can allow myself to be softer and that doesn’t make me weak or a failure. It’s just what it is… softer… like one day I took a deep breathe and let it out slowly. So, those sweet treat dainties no longer play a role in ruining my social outings. Gone are the days of my mind telling me all sorts of rules and restrictions that riddled me with bad and yucky feelings and caused me to feel overwhelmed, which were the times when I used food to cope – hello diet, binge, guilt cycle! Now, ahhh, I walk in and think, “Oh, yummy, I like those and I can have as many as I want.” And I believe it and I accept it and I know I can feel safe around food because my relationship with food is healthy now. Then I do have as many as I want and enjoy them! Yes, I would say, unequivocally, that my mind/body/food relationship and all of the healing within my self which spread out to those relationships around me (insert ode to boundary setting here!) was worth shoveling my bucket full’s of dirt and pain and grief and mess into the receiver of my phone to the awaiting Michelle. Yes, worth every moment of it indeed. Happiness is just what I wanted. I can drink it up like sunshine in a cup now and I do!