Sunday, April 14, 2013

Loosening the grip of food over me

I'm still struggling to accept my new body, the one I've grown into since I stopped my lifelong punishment of starving and binge-ing. After years of forcing myself to stay a size 8:

FIVE YEARS AGO (July 2008)

I've decided to let my body be whatever shape it naturally wants to be. It's possible that my body naturally wants to be a size 8 (but not likely), but I won't know that until I stop crazy-exercising and trying to force it to be hungry or not be hungry as I think my body should be at any given moment.

Since October 2012, after reading a few of Geneen Roth's seminal books, I've let myself eat whatever I want. At first that was a lot of donuts and cake and ice cream, but over the past six and a half months, my appetite has changed. Letting myself have everything I'd been depriving myself of, eventually took the edge off of my cravings. My I-can-have-it-all freefall has slowed and now I eat a much more typical amount of sweets.

Still, months of eating all the things I'd been dreaming of have had their effect (yes, I actually dream about sweets):

FOUR WEEKS AGO (March 2013)
According to weight experts such as Geneen Roth, as you work your way through all the foods you've been depriving yourself of, you gain weight, but you also start to emotionally heal your old patterns of eating. Once the novelty of eating everything in the world wears off, you gravitate towards treating yourself well: no starving and no binge-ing, just eating good food when you're actually hungry. Roth says that at that point, you lose weight and your body stabilizes at the size it naturally belongs.

According to others, once you put on the weight it stays on, but the process of letting go of old starving and binge-ing habits still heals your old food issues, so that you still end up happier and healthier: no starving or binge-ing, but from now on eating good food when you're actually hungry. You might not be thin, but you accept and love yourself completely, feeling comfortable in your body, possibly for the first time in your life.

(Please see Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your WeightLessons from the Fat-o-sphere and When Food Is Love.)

Both theories predict self-acceptance and stopping your use of food as a replacement for other things in your life and that's what I'm going for. The question is: will I eventually lose some of this weight as my eating habits normalize or will it stay? Sadly, wondering this means I haven't truly accepted my body as it is right now, which in addition to healing my food addiction, is the point of all this. I really want to accept my body as it is, but that's goddamn fucking hard to do in a society that teaches girls that we aren't all right just as we are, and then compounds that message with decades of humiliating body expectations. Fuck.

So I breathe and I tap (EFT). Some days I accept my body as it is and feel content. Other days I feel fat and ugly and I know my self-hatred has kicked in. I know the problem isn't really my body because I used to feel fat and ugly when I was a size 8, too. I used to hate my body when I weighed 125 pounds. I used to starve myself and drive myself through grueling workouts because I didn't like my body even when I looked like the first picture above. Yes, it was crazy, but it's not over because I still go in and out of hating what I look like, although it's getting better. The self-loathing times are getting fewer and not lasting as long as they used to.

I've been working on self-esteem and not misusing food for decades with therapy, self-hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming, meditation, acupuncture, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and lots of will power.  At this point I've added one more thing to my process: guided meditation by Paul McKenna. Disappointingly, McKenna's sales pitch is about making people thin, which is a toxic concept, but his focus is on the way you experience food. The guided meditation I listen to every night as I fall asleep stresses eating slowly, enjoying every bite, stopping when full and being aware of what my stomach wants and doesn't want. The emphasis is on treating food as physical nourishment, not a replacement for love, excitement, celebration or anything else.

(The importance of listening as I fall asleep is that such deep meditation provides direct access to the unconscious mind where we can learn new things, instill new beliefs and change our behavior. With recordings, we can work on new behaviors every time we go to bed. I've wasted so much time!)

Since I started listening to this meditation two weeks ago, my awareness of when I'm hungry and when I'm full has hugely increased. It's as if I've spent my whole life with the nerve endings to my stomach disconnected, stuffing myself without caring how my stomach felt. Now the connections are functioning again and when there's a cake in front of me I can actually hear my stomach say, "No, thanks. Not hungry and if I eat that, I'll feel sick." It feels like the first time I've let my stomach give input into what I eat without my brain overriding with, "I don't care if the stomach isn't hungry. I need this emotional pick-me-up / energy boost / compensation for my crappy day." I still have those overriding brain moments, but a lot of the time I'm now putting food in my mouth at the direction of my physical hunger, not my emotions.

Yesterday I celebrated two friends' birthdays. My homemade cake lingered afterwards, but through two meals I just let it sit there as I ate the food I really wanted. I sat at our dining table with a hunk of frosted cake as I ate last night's dinner and this morning's breakfast without having a bite of the cake! I've never done that in my life.

Sandwich I ate while the cake sat near me ignored!

I have hope that I'm getting closer to giving my body what it truly wants and letting it relax into the state it belongs in. I have hope that I can stop hating myself, or at least contain those feelings to a small part of my attention. Through this past November, December and January I steadily grew from a size 10 to a size 16. I've stayed at that size 16 (163 pounds) for three months now (I'm 5'1"). The spreading has stopped. I'll see what comes next.

WARNING: Following Geneen Roth, I put on 50 pounds that I never lost. Don't do it. 
-updated 28 Feb. 2018


Kimber Yoga said...

It takes so much courage to do what you're doing. Thank you for sharing it. I can't wait to hear more. Pema Chodron says that being fully aware is like "continually throwing yourself out of the nest." And trusting our bodies will catch us in the arms of more love and wisdom.

Regina Rodriguez-Martin said...

Thanks, Kimber. I like that image of throwing oneself out of the nest. That is what it feels like.