There is something magical about the spring where I live. Days get longer and the sun begins to shine more and more each day. Flowers pop out of the ground and off the branches of trees giving the whole village the appearance of one big blossoming garden.
The snap that has been present in the air has been replaced by a freshness tinged with warmth and the promise of summer days that are perfectly long and baking. Ahhhhhh, spring. I love it.
At one time in my life, when I used food to cope, I used to languish over the change of the seasons: “Another year gone and I’m still at this unacceptable weight;” “I promised myself that I would be in shape enough to feel comfortable wearing shorts this year. A bathing suit is absolutely out of the question. How could I do this to myself? What is wrong with me? Am I ever going to stop eating!?”
It was excruciating for me to feel that warmth stealing in to the air and see the blossoms bursting forth. It meant…..(insert scary organ music here!) SHORT WEATHER! I feared it. I loathed it. I loathed myself. I began to avoid going out unless it was cool enough to keep on wearing my full armor of long pants and baggy sweater. But at some point every year I had to give in and wear something less sweltering. And at those points in time I always began to berate myself and to focus with razor sharp intensity on certain aspects of my body that were not as they “should be”.
And I was absolutely certain that everyone around me was zeroing in on those very same aspects and thinking exactly the same thoughts: “Who does she think she is wearing shorts in public?” “Why did she even leave the house?” “My god, look at that cellulite!”
Agony! It was sheer agony being in my body at that time in my life. Year after year I would swear it would be different but it never was. Spring would arrive, as it always did, and I would be pretty much the same degree of overweight and under-fit that I had always been. I would feel that same self-loathing and helplessness that I had the year before – only now I felt one year more intense and hopeless.
No amount of inner Drill Sgt. pressure and criticism could create the motivation to change my relationship with food and exercise. After a few days – usually by Tuesday! – I always reverted to my old patterns. And at the height of my use of food to cope I was lucky if I could stick to any sort of diet for two hours (until the next coffee or lunch break).
What ultimately made all the difference for me, and what has led me now to almost 14 years of freedom from food and body image stress, was to come to a full understanding what lay beneath my use of food to cope.
Now, I mean no disrespect. This is coming from the greatest respect and regard for you and your process, and, if you just read that and said: “I know what it is that makes me use food to cope I just can’t do anything about it,” you are lying to yourself – consciously or unconsciously, it doesn’t matter. If you truly know and understand what it is that leads you to use food to cope you would not continue to do so.
You might “know” what it is – in the sense that you recall Mom’s diet mentality and modeling of that to you, or the abuse experience you had when you were 10, but, trust me, if you’re still using food to cope you haven’t truly come to know and understand the full impact of those events on your life.
Some part of you is still harbouring judgement, shame, fear and anger towards yourself for those events that really doesn’t belong there; it didn’t then and it doesn’t now. And, until you come to see that fully and completely for yourself it will be impossible for you to shift out of the fear based and self-doubting mindset that leads you to use food to cope.
It is impossible to develop true respect and regard for yourself when you are constantly berating yourself for past life experiences. And it is only through respecting and regarding yourself that you will find the strength and true desire to change your relationship with food and to begin to move your body in a way that focuses on health and wellness and not calories and fat. Lasting change comes through self-love and compassion and that requires empathy – a true knowing and understanding of who you are and why you do what you do.
So, let it be okay to acknowledge that perhaps, while you “know” what happened to trigger you to use food to cope, you might not fully understand how that impacted you and how it continues to have ramifications on your day to day existence.
Every day is such a blessing really. Each day we are given can be lived in a state of joy and pleasure when we allow ourselves to release old painful stories and step fully into ourselves in this moment.
Spring is a time of rebirth. You deserve to look forward to the lightness and freedom of warmer weather. So rather than letting this year be like any other and kicking in to self-judgement or some new exercise or diet plan, let yourself seek support and information; true understanding, of why you do what you do.
Begin to change those underlying patterns today so that next year, instead of lamenting about what you didn’t do, you’ll be able to celebrate the change that you have made and know it is a lasting one.