“If I was not 44 but 24 right now, I would most probably be bulimic … ” I found myself telling my partner the other day. The sound and weight of my words scared me. I have no idea what it means to suffer that way (and I beg forgiveness if anyone reading is struggling with this awful, awful affliction and thinks I am an insult to their injury … ). What I said was the only way I knew how to define my very strange relationship with food. On a continuum from stuffing my face with all things bread to having three litres of water daily to make sure I don’t eat too much and gain weight … I have a love, hate relationship with our daily … chow.
I still remember the very first time I entered an all you can eat restaurant in the US. The year was 1994 and I was there on a scholarship, only five short years after communism had been overthrown in Romania. I remember thinking “eat now, who knows if you will have this chance tomorrow.” I gained ten kilos in ten months and returned home to experience for the first time the glances of “oh, you put on some serious weight!” And even though I felt quite self conscious about that, I can attest to the fact that the thought “eat now or forever loose the opportunity” is something lingering in my brain now, almost three decades later.
The expression of “taking the edge off” usually refers to having a drink. For me, it would be stuffing my face with carbs. When I was 39 I weighed 71 kilos – one kilo more than what I weighed when I went into the hospital to give birth to my son. Fortunately for me, my partner has only one gear in this respect: you are beautiful. But my knees begged to differ. So I lost the weight with the help of a nutritionist. I loved the “good girl” praise I got every week, became a fanatic about what I ate, I could have just withered inside craving something – I would just have water. I remember this time as such a difficult fight for me that I vowed never to get there again.
Fast forward five years and I still find myself shoving water down my throat to keep from eating. I still inspect my body every single evening to see the way I look, comparing myself to images that probably aren’t even real and making vows that the following day I will be “a good girl”. I still weigh myself every week. Is there any wonder that my blood tests are crazy and I have no energy? On any given day I go from skipping dinner even though I am hungry to stuffing my face with nuts or crackers.
It is my sick relationship with food that shows me there is still so much to fix. There is so little trust I have in myself, my mind and body, when it comes to food. Digging deeper I have realized that food is really only just the prop here. I simply don’t trust myself when it comes to my very own wellbeing. I always worry that I will get to a side which is over indulgent, although that is a realm I have never experienced. This is the reason I keep myself on such a tight leash. This is the reason I am scared to ever cut myself some slack or, if I do, the reason for berating myself afterwards and (for all I know) making myself sick to my stomach and so, so self conscious about what I had just ingested. I feel that it is a vicious circle I don’t know the way out of … for I am afraid, at any given moment in my life, my genetic make up, my past and my cravings will have me try to eat my demons away. And consequently help me create others, stronger and more aggressive.
Over the past couple of weeks I went back to the book that broke me down to spiritually awaken: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. The reason was partly her book club through Unlocking Us and partly my intense feeling that I am at a crossroads again, that it is time, once again, to shed another layer from what is covering the real me. And I am equal parts scared and excited. Here is something that stayed with me:
I can know everything there is to know about eating healthy, but if it’s one of those days when Ellen is struggling with a school project and Charlie’s home sick from school and I’m trying to make a writing deadline and there’s yet another school shooting and our grass is dying and my jeans don’t fit and the economy is tanking and the internet is down and we’re out of poop bags for the dog – forget it! All I want to do is snuff out the sizzling anxiety with a pumpkin muffin, a bag of chips, and a chocolate.
We don’t talk about what keeps us eating until we’re sick, busy beyond human scale, desperate to numb and take the edge off, and full of so much anxiety and self-doubt that we can’t act on what we know is best for us. We don’t talk about the hustle for worthiness that’s become such a part of our lives that we don’t even realize that we’re dancing.Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, 10th Anniversary Edition, pg. 51
I had to bitterly laugh when reading this. Exercise is something else I put on and take off my list daily. Another story for another day. Lately I have started to look for another type of exercise than my usual workout – dancing. It might be precisely because I don’t even realize I do that every day by just … living.