February 2015: Comfort Eating
I recently finished reading the book Women Food and God by Geneen Roth (2010). A wonderful book in length and personable writing style. Easy to read and grasp. I like those kinds of books. Books that make me feel welcomed—even when the author is trying to drive home a point that is less than welcome. In this case, points about eating and my struggle with weight.
I’ll admit I have been a comfort eater most of my life. My weight has so frequently gone up and down that my body has the typical marks to show for it. It’s hard not to be judgmental towards oneself—especially with the media messages that women must be a certain size and shape to be attractive and lovable. No woman is immune to that. Even supermodels. Go figure.
And it’s not like I haven’t looked this particular monster in the face before—and won and lost to varying degrees. But Geneen got me thinking. She asked a question that I have switched from the plural ‘they’ to the first person: “If I gained ten pounds, if my arms didn’t look the way I wanted them to look, was I still myself?” (p. 68).
The next page goes on to say: “My body and I are one. There is nothing good about my body and therefore there is nothing good about me.” (p. 69, author’s italics)
These words got me thinking; and I had something of a breakthrough. I have come to realize that I am still me regardless of my size and shape. From my journal entry: “I am still an effective therapist. I am still kind, caring, compassionate, loving, smart, witty, brilliant…with an infectious sense of humour. My core values remain the same regardless of how much extra fat I carry around. And I’ve learned how to dress to hide it—look my best regardless of size.”
Now I don’t normally a) make confessions of this nature in my blog; b) quote myself from my own journal; and c) talk myself up like I did in this journal entry—just in case any of you think I might have a swelled head. 🙂 There, too, shows my disinclination toward positive self-talk. What if I come across as prideful? Or even worse: arrogant!? That just opened a whole other can of worms and content for another blog entry…
But it is challenging to affirm oneself without food if one cannot actually give themselves positive feedback. If I do not know myself for who I truly am, how can I live out loud, so-to-speak? If all I acknowledge are the worst bits about me, the pain, and the suffering, no wonder I am drawn to food to fill the void of where the good bits about me should be and to numb the negative feedback, the pain, and the suffering.
When I am eating, the happy brain chemicals, like dopamine, do their thing; and for that moment, I have a break from the worst bits, the pain, and the suffering. Only to come crashing back to reality. And reinforce the need to eat more to give myself another or a longer break.
Hence the breakthrough. I don’t need food or a better body to live authentically, fully. I can be fully me regardless of cravings, binges, dopamine rushes, and all the rest. I don’t need a different body to be kind and caring—and essentially myself. I do need to start taking care of myself in healthy ways. To be authentic means I must pay attention to the reasons I eat, and give myself the option not to eat, as well as be open to the good bits as well as the less-desirable bits.
All of that to say I am learning to let food be food, weight be weight, and me be me.