One of the things I haven’t written about much here is my current efforts to get back into shape. Part of that is embarrassment: I did so well a few years back, then lost the battle, the war, and additional territory. No one likes to talk about their failures. But it’s all part of me, and part of living graciously is being healthy and capable. So I guess I’m going to start talking about it.
One of the most important aspects to me about all this is that I don’t believe in dieting and denial. It’s the perfect setup for failure. I believe in moderation, intentional eating, and movement.
The other night, I sat in the movie theater surrounded by the delicious smell of popcorn, but didn’t want any. A friend brought over home-baked cookies, and I ate only one. We bought my favorite Girl Scout cookies, and they are still in the snack drawer, leaving me untempted.
If I think about these things, the question in my head is, “Does eating this taste better than the progress I’m making feels?” And most of the time, the answer is, no.
When the answer is yes, I do indulge myself. I didn’t deprive myself of one of my friend’s delicious cookies. Tonight I will be attending a party where the hostess is an amazing cook, and I will definitely be eating some less-than-healthy snacks and having a couple drinks. But I am confident that I will be retaining my center and will not just go crazy at the snack table.
I am in a good place, mentally, about my progress. But I can remember that less than a year ago, the answer to the question of “Is eating this more important than my health?” Was “YES! Yes is is! I don’t care about my size, I don’t care how I look, all I care about is the smooth, chocolatey taste of this entire can of frosting going down my throat.” That was the person I was a year ago. I can remember it vividly.
I don’t understand her at all. I can’t comprehend why she felt that way. I am baffled by her complete unwillingness to take a walk around the block, let alone actually work out.
But here’s the thing that I have to remember: she is still inside me. She’s quiet right now, but there will come a day when something triggers her to come roaring to the surface. I’ve made the smug assumption in the past that she was completely tamed, completely eradicated, only to wake up and find that she had taken over and a year’s worth of hard work had been erased and she was completely in control.
I can’t beat her by hating her. She is part of me, and self-hatred is self-defeating. I have to be vigilant for her reappearance, but when she does? I need to look at her honestly, ask her why she is here. What is it that she fears? What is is that she needs? What does she want? I have to take the time to love and understand her, and give her the things that she needs that aren’t food. She is empty and aching, and food is her methadone for what she honestly needs.
She started to surface last night. I’m home alone for the weekend, I’m still not feeling very well, even though I am improving daily, and I was suddenly filled with overwhelming sadness, loneliness, and a sense of helplessness. Part of me said, “eat those leftovers you’re saving for lunch tomorrow, and break open a bottle of wine; it will make you feel better.”
I have to say, it was a real temptation. But I took a deep breath, centered myself, and asked, what is it that I really need? The answer was that I had been up too late the night before, gotten up too early in the morning, and was exhausted beyond the usual measure because I’m still getting over being sick. What I really needed was not to stuff my face and watch maudlin movies. What I needed was sleep. And so instead of inhaling the contents of the refrigerator in an act of defiant self-hatred, I went to sleep.
She is quieter today. Perhaps she will eventually learn that food is not the answer to pain. But she can’t learn it if I treat her with disdain. She’s part of me, and *all* of me deserves to be loved. Love isn’t always giving yourself what you want; it’s taking the time to really understand what you need.