When I went vegetarian five years ago, it was because it was the only way I could think to get myself to stop going through the drive through of McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, etc., and eat 3000 calorie meals several times a week. These days I keep telling myself that as long as I’m not binging on double cheeseburgers or chicken nuggets it’s somehow okay. Which, of course, is absolute bullshit.
(It was also an absolute lightbulb moment earlier in the week when I realized that’s what I had been telling myself and believing.)
You know what else is bullshit? Waxing poetic about how all I can do is take it one meal and one day at a time but not actually following through on that plan. On the surface I seem to be stoically plugging along, but behind the scenes it’s another story entirely. It’s clear to anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile that I’ve been struggling the past few weeks. Enough that I’m looking to get help. I call it stress eating because it sounds better than binge eating. And while I was doing okay in the beginning, over the past two weeks I’ve gained a few pounds back. Not enough to panic, but enough that I can now appreciate why some people use a particular pair of jeans as their barometer.
Looking back, I see this as inevitable. Take a big transition bomb at work, couple it with the end of a relationship I was emotionally invested in, and add in my decision to switch to maintenance mode and a girl with a history of disordered eating is naturally going to act out. It was a perfect storm of complications that will eventually break with a torrential downpour.
Luckily, the cloud has lifted enough that I’m able to focus on the positive side of life. But even so, the behavior continues and while my instinct is to blame work stress, love life stress, transitional stress, I don’t think that’s really what’s going on. I don’t think I’m stressed, I think I’m mad. In fact I know I’m mad. Not just mad, either, but fucking furious. For weeks I’ve been misdirecting that anger to people and events outside my control, but if I pause and am really honest with myself, I know that all of my rage is, in fact, directed at this person right here:
And this person:
This one, too:
Can’t forget her, either:
Do you know what it’s like to look at photos of yourself and not recognize the person in the picture? Like, at all? The last two here at the bottom were ones I found on my digital camera about six months ago and when I saw them I was flabbergasted. I’ve spent the past two years with certain “before” images in my head and I’m so used to thinking of those that they eventually lost all power. I became desensitized in a way. So when I was faced with a different image of myself from back then it was, well, earth shattering.
This was my before before picture. That is, these are pictures I took of myself back when I did WW the second time around in the summer of 2008 after my ex Bo broke up with me. Had I stayed the course back then and not given up after six months, I wouldn’t have ever ballooned up to the 311 pound woman in the grey sweater at the very top. These issues of mine would have been dealt with years ago and I wouldn’t be in the thick of them right now.
Of course, I say that with hopeful confidence. I was a very different person back than and there’s no way of knowing which course my 2008 journey would have taken had I held steady. Would I be the runner and yogini that I am now? Would I have stopped at 175 or kept going? Who would I have eventually turned into if I had taken a different path?
I am not quick to anger. Oh, I might have moments of superficial rage that fizzles as fast as it comes. But true deeply rooted, passionate frustration and fury burns slow. Like an old school fuse in the movies: a match is struck, the end lit, and everyone steps back and patiently waits for the explosion. This is perhaps why it’s taken me this long to acknowledge that the person I need to confront is myself.
The teenager who spent her high-school and college years living under a dark haze of depression, always too proud and embarrassed to ask for help and instead chalked it up to being a tortured artist. The woman who yo-yo dieted her way through her twenties, never knowing when or how to stop, essentially destroying her ability to recognize real hunger and satisfaction cues and forcing me to spend the rest of my life analyzing my food choices. The early thirtysomething who has spent so long confusing her weight with her self-confidence that she continually craves and seeks out what she knows is bad for her because it’s easier than believing she truly deserves more.
What I need to remember, what I need to learn to believe, is that I’m not that girl anymore. I also have to embrace the idea that this anger I feel towards myself is natural, genuine, and allowed. I think that’s the hardest part: acknowledging that it’s okay to be angry at myself. It’s okay to be hurt, pissed, and upset at the woman inside that allowed all of this to happen. Both the shit from way back when and the shit going on now. Because, really, there’s no one else to blame. She and I? We’re in this together.
When I show family and friends — people who know me and have known me for a long time — any of the above pictures, they are always shocked and surprised. They don’t ever remember me looking like that. Which is interesting, considering I spent more years of my life as a sedentary obese woman than the active overweight woman I am now. Likewise, a co-worker told me to take out the part of my online dating profile that mentions my weight loss. Nobody needs to know that right at the beginning.
And maybe that’s the core of my dilemma: I’m still thinking of myself as a former fat girl. I’m still letting my former weight and subsequent weight loss define me rather than defining myself as the woman I am right now and the woman I will continue to be for the rest of my life. With running, I’m still the girl who didn’t run in high-school rather than the woman who will be racing in a half-marathon this fall. I’m the sad, lonely girl who’s had her heart broken over and over again rather than the independent, fierce woman who is willing to wait for whatever love has in store for her.
In acknowledging and accepting all of this, there was a mental shift. Yesterday was a good day. A very good day. Because yesterday marked the first time in about a month that I felt completely in control of my food choices. Yesterday I was able to eat just one mini Reese’s peanut butter egg and not feel the need to go back for five more. Yesterday I was able to make it through the afternoon and evening without the all consuming desire to just eat and eat and eat. Yesterday I was able to enjoy my dinner and stop when I was full.
Oh, yes. Yesterday was a very good day.
It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be mad and want to scream and break things when I think about the situation I’ve gotten myself into by spending decades not loving myself the way I deserve. It’s okay to be sad when I reflect on how much of life I let pass me by while I spent it cowering and hiding away. It’s okay to still acknowledge the former fat girl in my head. But she represents a past version of myself and doesn’t need to be given a place in my future. We may be in this together and she’ll always be a part of me, but she is not me and I am not her. Not anymore. Not ever again.
Love from the ashes,