At some point in my life I started to challenge my fundamental belief that my self-worth is tied to how much I weigh. I believed that if I lost weight I was good. If I gained it I was bad. That might sound ridiculous, but I share this belief with millions of people. Ask a friend if she can relate to this, my bet is she can. We are sent thousands of messages each day confirming this idea. I sit in a room full of FABULOUSLY BRILLIANT women 9 hours every week talking about removing this core belief from the shelves of our souls and chucking it into the ethereal compost bin. I can’t get the Peter Gabriel song Shaking the Tree out of my mind. That’s what we are doing, shaking the tree of disorder and throwing away the rotten fruit. This core value, core belief is not fair, it is not true, and it is deadly.
Our culture praises weight loss and thinness and loathes fat. Imagine someone saying, “Your ass looks so much bigger in those jeans than it did last week.” How do you think that would go over? But for some reason the opposite statement is ok. We justify it by talking about the health impacts of weight, makes us feel all “doctor like” as we criticize someone else’s food choices and weight gain. If I lose weight, it doesn’t mean I am healthy, it could mean I have cancer! But ultimately, it is my body, my business.
I don’t know a thing about how healthy you are based on what size you wear. I don’t know your blood sugar, A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol levels or when you had your last period just by looking at you. Are there negative consequences to being overweight? Yes and there are medical professionals available to help you. I don’t happen to be one. It can also be dangerous to be underweight which is why there are health professionals for that too. Call one. Please. Quickly.
A couple of years ago when my blood sugar levels were getting dangerously close to pre diabetic, my doctor advised me to lose weight. She told me it was easy, I just needed to keep the carbs out of the house. In that moment I almost lost. I was dejected, I knew I had an eating disorder but I had already “dealt” with it. My doctor, my trusted advisor had invalidated my struggle. It was so simple, why couldn’t I just do it? I kept going up and down and up and down with weight loss and gain. I am fortunate she saw my despair and put me in touch with mental health professionals for eating disorders.
With that I ask you to remember that giving weight loss and dieting tips to someone with disordered eating is like giving an open case of beer to an alcoholic. Just don’t.
Resources and Links:
- Ascend CHC offers the Midwest’s most comprehensive behavioral health treatment.
- Insight Behavioral Health Centers provide specialized treatment for eating disorders, mood and anxiety disorders and obesity at five Chicago, Illinois treatment centers.
- Dr. Lisa Oldson “…an Obesity Medicine physician coming from a Primary Care background, I understand the impact of obesity on health as well as on self-esteem, employment, relationships, mood and productivity.”
Came to Believe
Around this time last year my drinking began to spiral out of control. To you on the outside it may not have seemed that way, but I remember sitting on the sofa one evening not even feeling buzzed after I had downed a bottle and a half of wine. It just stopped doing for me what it had done in the past.
As I type this I am getting a shame knot in my stomach. I can’t believe I reached that point. And it still wasn’t my bottom. I needed to go through a few more things, like shivering, sick in my bed with the flu for 2 weeks, but still dying for a drink, but not knowing how to ask someone to make me a drink when I hadn’t even been able to eat. My rushing through cooking soup in a pressure cooker (note the purpose of a pressure cooker is to cook fast) by forcing it open. It in turn exploded all over my abdomen and caused 2nd degree burns. All of this so that I could sit in front of the TV and drink wine…my favorite escape. I spent Christmas constantly numbed with booze and pain killers from the burn. What would it finally take to reach the bottom? What would finally make me wake up and make the call that could save my life?
One night the husband and I went to pick up our to-go pizza from a local place, we had a couple of glasses of wine (really) and came home. When we got home my brave 10 year old daughter told me I scared her when I drink. She said I acted differently when I drank. I was less patient when I drank. I didn’t pay attention when I drank. My son came out of his room and said that he’d learned about the dangers of alcohol at school and that he wished we wouldn’t drink so much. In that moment, that single moment, I knew it was done for me. I knew I couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t have the first clue how I was going to stop because I had so often tried to stop or modify my drinking in the past, but I knew I had to stop.
The next morning I sent text messages to the people in my closest circle of influence for accountability and support, most were surprised but some were not. I then called out for help, which I got in ways that I never ever could have imagined even possible. I feel complete today. I am different, there is no denying that.
If you even think you might need help, ask for it. There is a huge support system out there that will help you JUDGEMENT FREE! I promise you this, “you’ll be amazed before you are half way through.”
I advocate for myself and maybe even push my beliefs on to those that I love…with or without their permission. I need to wake up to the fact that this is not my job. There are people out there who don’t agree with my thinking. (the gall right?)
Just last year I had a discussion with my dear friend Tony (RIP) about global warming and climate change. He wasn’t denying the possibility of climate change he was just asking that I consider alternative thinking. I got flustered and frustrated during the conversation (I think I drank the rest of the vodka in the freezer) and tried to change the subject. Tony challenged me to push the boundaries of my thinking all of the time. He was a middle of the road guy, not an extremist, but I had a hard time talking with him about basic belief of mine.
I need to practice the act of “staying in my lane.” I stand securely in my belief structure assembled around me. But I am reminded today that these values are mine. I do not need to subject anyone else to my beliefs unless asked. It’s a belief, not a fact and I don’t need you to believe what I believe.
I am proud of my struggle, tumbles and stumbles along the way. This blog has meant a lot to me. I am lucky to be able to go back in online time to see and read how far I have come in this crazy journey. I am happy to say that I very RARELY deal with feelings of self loathing like I did back in 2008. Getting the alcohol out of the way was a huge piece of it, but finally addressing the disordered eating is doing it’s job opening my eyes as well. Back in 2008, here is what I had to say. So much still holds true today…..
“This is about me (and maybe you??)
It is about my struggles with self loathing. It is about the struggle to be better, but never defining better so consistently “failing”.
It is about the revolution of not doubting my own worth based on how much weight I lose.
I started to struggle to come up with phrases that would help me when challenged about my reversal of dieting culture. I often came up speechless when someone would comment on another person’s weight, what they ate and how much of it in a day, how many pants sizes they had dropped. I had to come up with some one liners to lead me through the responses. This became my mantra.
- I am not how much I weigh or how much I’ve gained or how much I’ve lost.
- I am not what I eat…I’m what I do and what I say.
- Changing my shape and size isn’t going to make me happy
- Changing the way I feel about my body/myself will.
- I respectfully decline to discuss your size, my size, her size or his size in any way.
- I will eat what I want, and move on.
- I swim, bike, or run every day…being healthy doesn’t mean being thin.
- I embrace my body as a part of me.”
Shh….reprogramming in progress.
Before I quit drinking my eye used to twitch all of the time. It was a tiny twitch that no one else could see. I would point to my eye and ask a friend if they could see it and inevitably they couldn’t.
For years I used alcohol and food to mask my frustrations and feelings. I could always get myself into a place where nothing bothered me. Rough day at work? That’s okay, have a bottle of wine. Friend pissed you off? Binge on the popcorn, beer and Homeland, why not, you deserve it. But that little twitch, that was my tell. I didn’t always know right away WHAT I was stressed about, but I would mentally scroll a list of possibilities and once I got to the culprit the twitching would begin.
It is amazing how the mind body connection works. Only rarely now does the twitching flare up. Today is one of those days. This is because I am headed on a weekend of firsts. My first weekend to my parents’ home solo and sober, my first bus trip sober, my first trip where I plan to NOT act on my disordered eating.
There will be a lot of triggers – brown foods and buffets of southern Indiana, sugar cream pie, discussing restaurant options, relishing in the carefree atmosphere of not being a wife or mom for a few days, basking in the “daughterness” of my parents’ home, and sitting in the natural discomforts that come with lifelong relationships that have formed who we are.
I am grateful to have this opportunity. Many of my friends and family no longer have parents to share these experiences. I have ton of coping tools. Some of which you are seeing here in black and white on the blog. I’m ready. Eye twitch and all.
All along the way there were signs that I had a drinking problem. I had no interest in reading those signs but some part of my brain registered them and remembers them. In high school I stood in my boyfriend’s kitchen in the dark listening to friends laughing and talking in the other room while I fixated on how many more drinks I was going to be able to finish that night. I remember blacking out at 16 and thinking it was scary, but that probably happened to everyone. I was arrested twice for underage drinking in college. In alcohol class as a result of my 1986 arrest by Ronald McDonnald (more here) the counselor told us that there were some people who once they start drinking, set off a cycle of craving where we want more and more and more alcohol. I brought a keg of beer to a party. Not a case, a keg! I became the person who showed up for the 5K with a hangover because…why not. I measured days by what cocktails I had or would have. One bottle of wine turned into three.
A year before I got sober I had read somewhere that if you could go 30 days without drinking then you probably weren’t an alcoholic. I was so happy to finally determine whether or not I had a drinking problem. I was able to stop drinking for 30 days, but armed with this magical number I had NO inhibitions at all. I really boozed it up. My drinking became heavier and more frequent and my actions more erratic and insane. Alcohol was my most reliable and steady friend until it wasn’t.
If you are lying there by the light of your phone taking online tests to see if you have a drinking problem, you probably do. If you are posting questions to online forums about whether you are, you probably are. If you wake up thinking you are completely alone cause no one else understands and that you can’t live without alcohol in your life, I understand. Connect with someone about this, because once you do, you never have to feel alone again.
I lied to you for years. I lied to myself as well. Here I was on this quest for a healthier, happier me and I was hiding behind a shameful veil. As I hung out with you at the bar or restaurant drinking one or two beers, I was secretly wishing the time away so I could get back home to the full bottle of wine waiting in the cupboard for me drink … without judgement.
I tell you this now not to ask for forgiveness, but to get a little closer to understanding that addiction is astounding. I am addicted to alcohol, just as I am addicted to compulsive eating and binging. I have been sober from alcohol for nearly 10 months and am on a fresh new start to recovery for my disordered eating. I am still a proponent for health and body at my size, but I have to incorporate my mental health and wellness in this journey. I had no idea how closely one played into another. Not to mention the spiritual connection. Much much more on this all later.
I needed to set this record straight so that I can continue to share things I enjoy with you. I feel like I am on track. If sharing my stories, adventures, and struggles can help you, or someone you know, then I’ve been successful.
I wanna hear from you. Do you struggle with addiction? Is it a secret?
I beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.