When I’m feeling unhappy about me (my weight, dress size, my stomach, what people are saying about me) I think that buying some new clothes will help sort it out. Somewhere out there is that fantastic dress that will make me look two sizes smaller, have people asking me if I have lost weight, something magical that will make me feel better about myself. I have this idea in my head as to what I am going to look like and sadly even after finding a dress that matches my dream the results in the mirror don’t match up to my expectations. I didn’t like what I saw beforehand so putting a different wrapping on it isn’t helping.
I read an article the other day about accepting your body: this doesn’t mean loving it but merely realising the usefulness of parts of it and, I suppose, adopting a neutral tone when examining yourself. That would work for me if I couldn’t get to the point of loving myself but even that seems a step too far. Every mirror has to reflect back my flaws, my eyes instantly drawn to the bits of me I don’t like, can’t see the use of, and yet I am so, so sick of living like this with these tedious thoughts never far from my mind. And I hate how these thoughts have such a huge impact on my enjoyment of life. It’s stupid, pointless, ridiculous etc etc and yet I can’t seem to stop.
This morning I decided to try on my jeans: they fitted. They are tight but they were tight last time I wore them. What do the negative voices do? They keep telling me I am getting fatter (I was tempted for a fleeting moment to step on the bathroom scales – what a self-defeating catastrophe that could have been) even though the evidence didn’t back that up. Am I a less valuable human being if the scales reflect a higher number than they used to? The trouble is I think I am and I’ve got to keep working at changing that.
We had a lovely family day yesterday: a birthday meal, plenty to eat and drink, lots of laughter, a really lovely day. I went to bed feeling blessed and happy. And then I had a horrible dream: the only bit of it I remember clearly is being told I had put on a lot of weight. I woke up feeling awful, and then sad that this obsession I have with my body, my eating, my weight, could impact on me so strongly and spoil the end of a lovely weekend.
The primary feeling I had was shame or embarassment. Perhaps the idea that I could enjoy a family day without monitoring all I was eating and drinking was too much for my subconscious, perhaps it was trying to inflict my old ways of thinking back on me? I sat and thought about it, remembering I hadn’t actually eaten that much so why were these negative voices so strong? And even if I had eaten more than normal why did it matter that much? We don’t do this every day, every week or even every month so one day wouldn’t have a huge impact. It just all seems so pointless and negative.
I don’t want the focus of my life to be on this, I want food to be simply fuel but it seems like parts of me are fighting back and I hated the feeling of shame, the idea of someone really hitting me where it hurts: the way I look and the way I feel about the way I look. I imagine every mouthful causing my hips to expand and I am fighting this really hard, talking to myself with the kindess I use with other people, but it is still fighting back. I still look at photos of friends from school to see if they are bigger or smaller than me: what a sad way to judge the world and the people in it. I realise the fight has just begun just when I was hoping it was getting nearer the end!
I’ve been reading about shame and a lot of what I read focusses on body image, how we see ourselves, and beat ourselves up because we don’t measure up to the perfect images in the media. The messages are (and always have been the same): it’s not the images, the body shapes and sizes they portray, that are wrong, it’s us that are wrong for not fitting into that image. Now if we’d only spend money on the latest diet book, follow the latest trend, we could look like those impossible airbrushed images and it’s only down to our laziness or greed that we are not able to do that.
Now as a woman who has spent her whole life living with a message of what is missing in my life I find this ridiculous but, of course, ridiculous for everyone else rather than me. I could spend the rest of my life beating myself up, wondering why I don’t look like Helen Mirren in a bikini but this is just repeating my go-to message: there is something wrong with me. But what happens if I throw out that message, what happens if I focus on all the things I am rather than all the things that I am not? I know it’s easier said etc but I have do something different, more sensible than I have been doing so far. I don’t want to just ignore the bits I like, but rather focus on what is good, what I like, I want to give up my focus on the negative which seems to impact on virtually, no, come to think of it, it impacts on every part of my life: me, my children, my partner, my home, my work etc etc It needs to stop, I need to stop, enough.
So I am perfectly imperfect: I am good enough, I fit just right in this world, and won’t hear anything else.
Today I am bad tempered. Why am I bad tempered? Because I feel fat. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t like what I see: I don’t see the “good” bits, I just see the fat, the letting-go, the things that make me lesser than. Usually these feelings would make me start on another diet, another restricted eating plan, another trying-on of the jeans with a promise to make them a bit looser, look better, to make myself feel better. So much of my self worth is tied up with how I think I look. I imagine people judging me: people who haven’t seen me for a while thinking about the weight I have gained, feeling sad and ignored, and yet I know so much of this is inside my head.
Through the years I have lost (and gained) a lot of weight: the times I was slim seem to have passed in a flash and I was soon back in those comfortable clothes, long tops, trying to disguise what I see as my failure, hiding the evidence from all those people that I knew were judging me. But did I know it.
Now I am certain I can’t spend the rest of my life punishing myself, restricting what I eat, focussing on how many calories or carbs I have eaten that day, rewarding myself for being “good” and beating myself up for every lapse. A self-imposed life sentence of misery and yet the journey to learning to eat normally, to using food simply as fuel, is tortuous, every turn provides a new challenge, a new uncertainty. I keep going but I doubt myself every step of the way and wonder what those behind me are saying about my body.
I’ve been having a bad time: not with this stuff but with life in general. I’ve had a few knock-backs and am feeling vulnerable, sorry for myself. So what is the best thing I can do? Eat, of course. Now we are not talking about 12 packets of biscuits, 10 loaves of bread etc but it was mindless eating And I’m doing this even though I know it doesn’t work.
I came back from a disappointing meeting and before I knew it I was sitting on the sofa eating crisps. How did that happen? It was all very autopilot: I didn’t make a decision to do it, I just found it had happened. Disappointing, especially on top of the other things in life but when I came back to consciousness about what I was doing I felt pleased that I had put the crisps into a bowl rather than downing a family-sized packet on my own and I was pleased I became aware. I knew what I was doing and I carried on doing it but I think that momentarily pausing, at least in my head if not the journey from bowl to my mouth, is important. It makes me feel things can get better, they can change. My problem is that when I’m feeling down I have an attitude of what does any of this matter? My diet, the size of my body, seem irrelevant and by eating more than I want or need I seem intent on making an another stick to beat myself up with. I suppose I still yearn for slimness, feel my life would be better if my thighs didn’t rub together, and yet I do things to sabotage myself. I might never be any smaller than I am now and maybe I just have to get my head around that. My ongoing fear is that I will end up much bigger than I am now because I am not watching everything I eat, allowing myself to eat what I want, I’m not weighing myself. That side of my life feels out of control and yet I know the control I used to have didn’t make me happier, healthier or slimmer. I have to persevere but I feel like I have jumped out of a plane and I’m not sure my parachute is going to open. It’s all very scary.
I haven’t written for a little while because I’ve been trying not to think about things and, of course, writing about something is the most thinking about a thing you can do. Except it can help me organise my thoughts, re-group, focus my intentions again so today it is right for me to write again.
Things are going ok: I still haven’t weighed myself and I’m getting much better at telling those horrible negative voices in my head to shut up, that I’m fine the way I am, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow the size of a house and not be able to fit into my clothes. I suppose I am going “with the flow” though I don’t really like that expression. Another expression I don’t like is “it is what it is” which seems to mean very little but that’s an aside.
At the moment it all feels manageable, I feel able to push this into the corners of my mind and come out fighting when I need to. I am not dwelling, ruminating on it, observing what I am eating without censure (well not too much). In short I am trying to live a normal life. It feels like another step forward but as I have written before I am hesitant to take anything for granted, to think I am on the right road, as when I have done this before I have found myself back at the beginning or even further back than that.
Today I look good and feel good: a favourite song came on the radio and I sang (very loudly and very badly – I’m just being honest when I say I have a dreadful voice)and danced. Today feels ok, hopefully tomorrow will too.
I’m sure I’ve said before how frustrating I find this process: understanding what I need to do, trying to do it but having to wait so long for results. I want to change my thinking and I know I have to do that slowly, in baby steps, not rushing anything, but I want to get to the end. I want my thinking to be different, my mind to be different, I suppose I want me to be different and, being really honest (and what has really only occurred to me while sitting writing this) I don’t want to put in all the hard work. That’s a bit strange, as I was always a champion dieter: once I decided on a plan I stuck with it, losing weight faster than most of my friends, following the rules religiously. This feels different: there aren’t any rules, I have to trust myself not follow someone else’s plan. It’s hard for me.
Often I feel blown off my course: I can wake up feeling positive and then decide I’m letting myself go (for no other reason than I look at myself differently) and then I seem to go into a decline. I have to keep fighting those voices in my head, those negative irritating voices that tell me how awful I am, how I should be slimmer, basically how my whole existence and its meaning is dependent upon my dress size! Sounds ridiculous when I write it down.
So I am going to keep working, I am going to keep telling those voices to shut up, I am going to keep trusting myself. This is just one more step forward.