I've worked hard for decades on my negative thinking and self-punishing behaviors. With the help of some powerful techniques and amazing people, I've finally let go of the worst of these patterns. The main way my self-loathing manifests is with food. Restricting and binge-ing, restricting and binge-ing, hating my body, hating my inability to stay on the wagon, feeling bad when I give in to my sweet tooth or gain a few pounds. It's sugar addiction and compulsive eating and I have been hard on myself.
But for about three weeks now, I'm trying a completely new way of being: I don't listen to my inner critic and I no longer restrict food. For decades I've struggled to avoid sugar, wheat, dairy products and processed food, but in a radical move, I'm doing that no longer. Now I eat whatever I want, per Geneen Roth's strategies for dealing with compulsive eating (see my other October 2012 posts for details). I even stopped going to the gym.
Yes, I've gained weight. I've spent the past three weeks indulging my desires for cake, cookies, pan dulce, store-bought frosting-in-the-tub, donuts, ice cream, cheese, potato chips, juice and hot chocolate. I discovered a previously unknown love of baloney and cheese sandwiches and have eaten lots of them (who knew I was hungry for that?). I no longer say "no" to myself about anything. If I want it, I have it. Instead of driving workouts with free weights and nautilus machines, I focus on yoga, stretching and simple walking. I've put on about 10 pounds since the beginning of the month and last weekend I bought new clothes because the ones I was wearing before just don't fit anymore.
But unlike previous times when I've had to purchase a bigger size, I'm not upset about it. I see and feel my waistline growing and I'm not panicking. This calm response to my spreading girth is unprecedented. It's the first time I've put on so much weight in so little time without some kind of crisis going on in my life and without freaking out about my new size. This is how big I am and it's just fine. I might even get bigger and that will be just fine.
October has been my month of letting go of self-punishment. I'm happier and more content because I fully accept myself in all ways and it makes me nicer and less anxious. I'm no longer irritated by "slow walkers" getting in my way because I'm walking more slowly. I love how connected my body feels to the ground and I enjoy the simple act of walking as never before. My husband and my dog are happier with me. Our household is more peaceful and loving because I've finally stepped off the roller coaster of being pleased with myself when I fit into my jeans and mad at myself when I don't (I don't even try to put jeans on anymore). I'm actually a better wife -- and dog owner -- because I've stopped the constant self-criticism that made me tense and anxious all the time. My sleep and energy have improved. I'm more relaxed at work and I worry much less in general.
And my body is mushier and more ripply, and so what? I said to my husband last night, "All these years I've been trying so hard to be a size six. I put all this energy into being thin while I was also miserable and unhappy and unpleasant. Now I'm a size twelve and I feel so much better and it turns out that being a size six doesn't matter at all. I was going for the wrong thing all that time. Isn't this better?"
He agreed. My husband agreed that he likes me better now, as a pudgier person. How's that for validation? I thought exercising and dieting and being thin for him were important. I can't tell you how relieved I am to find that I don't have to keep that up!
I've spent most of my adult life wearing a size 8. I've worked $%&-damned hard to maintain that physique, and it's been very painful to do with my demanding sweet tooth. I was constantly at war with myself and my self-esteem was the casualty. Now the inner critic has been dismissed and I'm gentler on myself with everything, not just food. Life is so much better.
Now I'll see what size I naturally end up. Roth's theory predicts that when every part of my psyche learns that I really will let myself have whatever I want from now on, the binge-ing will slow down. Then it will stop. Then I'll begin eating from stomach hunger instead of emotional need, and I'll reach my natural weight. I might end up back at size eight or stabilize at fourteen or more and I'm okay with either because I've finally realized that size doesn't matter. How I feel matters, and I feel great!