Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting perfect

Thank you to those folks who visited yesterday and posted notes. I very much appreciate it. It got me thinking along the lines of emotional eating, something at which I am a past master. This eating/food/weight thing is so complex I don't think it will ever boil down to one driving force, one "aha! that's it!" moment after which I'll eliminate/become aware of/deal with the thing and be forever well.

I fear that it is a process and also a bit like throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. The things that have stuck and have caused major improvements in my life have been Overeaters Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, leaving out certain foods that continually cause trouble, being gentle with myself rather than cracking a whip, eliminating the internal hateful dialogue I tortured myself with for so many years, practicing acceptance, refusing to compare, affirmations, pursuing a spiritual life which takes me beyond the obsession in this culture with physical appearance, an obsession I made my own and which made me miserable for years. Even when thin. And young. Isn't that sad?

When I was young and relatively skinny, a juicy sexy little 23 year old, lovely as women in their '20s always are, all I could see were my faults. Not tall enough. Not enough chest. Hair too fine. Why brown eyes instead of green? I had many beaux and each affirmed what was good but I could only see what I thought was not. I couldn't see myself as a whole human being; I was a collection of bits and pieces, divided along the lines of okay and not okay. Crazy days and I don't miss them.

But it is odd to find myself in my forties with a good chunk of weight still to lose, feeling as I probably should have in my twenties. That is purely the result of my internal dialogue and I am grateful. It has nothing to do with outward circumstances, appearance, nothing. Just as my agonizing over the way I looked in those younger years was not based in reality, this feeling of being flat out kickass and frisky and happy as a clam and a little bit pretty may not be based in reality either.

Or maybe we make our own reality? I can objectively look at photos of my younger years and see a reality very different from what I experienced at the time. Why could that pretty young woman not see herself with clarity? On the other hand, I tend to avoid photos these days, though I'm not horrified when I get captured by the camera's lens, but my view of myself comes from somewhere else. It is as if the reflection in the mirror is created by what's inside of me.

And as I'm writing this I'm getting it. That is precisely the thing. My internal life, my emotions, my spiritual nature, the way I speak to myself, how I care for myself as a human being, being able to accept and love myself as I am ~ that's what affects the reflection in the mirror.

I think it is also what drives recovery from this plague of compulsive eating. It's not that I can't get better before the inside changes, but it is so much easier to be consistent in healthy eating habits, exercise, all of the things that go into maintaining a healthy body when I am free from the whirlpool of negativity that used to try to drown me.

When they told me in OA that I had to come to accept and love myself, I laughed. Of course, I would do that, but not until I weighed 135 pounds again. Then I would accept myself as I was. I tortured myself for many, many years over my perceived imperfections. Any accomplishment or success could always be diminished or negated entirely by "but you weigh . . . whatever so it really doesn't count."

Since I am a long term emotional eater, expecting that I could keep up the negative, hateful, critical tirade in my head and eat healthy, work on fitness, work the 12 steps, was insane. I created, from the inside, the very thing that drives my eating. Feelings of sadness, anger, not measuring up, isolation, self hatred ~ these are things I ate at all my life and I had a sad-mad-not-good-enough-all-alone-hate-you factory in my brain.

Working through that, changing the inside of me, was a long process. It began in OA and lasted for 12 years in that wonderful 12 step program. I continued the work in AA and finally reached a point where all of the things I used to intentionally do became a part of me. Rather than having to write about, think through, talk about things that happened, my internal responses were the healthy ones I used to have to work at. For the most part, that bitch who used to live in my head has withered and died. Every now and then she'll rise up and shout out some nastiness, but I can smack her down, weak and dessicated thing that she is, in a heartbeat.

These days I can connect events with my feelings. I can rationally look at the way things are and the way I'm feeling and consciously change direction. I can have a less than stellar food day and not beat myself bloody. It is a gentleness, a soft and generous way of looking at myself and tending to my spirit. In doing this, I repair the damage done by years of criticism and self hatred and all of the ugliness that comes along with not being precisely as perfect as society would want us. I am perfect today, just the way I am and I love it.

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Blogger The unconventional mother said...

Wow! I so totally agree about the internal dialogue. I just started a Judo class and I weigh 185 at 5'1''. I am doing well in the class because I am in shape despite being fat but I keep thinking I am not good enough even though I kept up with the rest of the class. I want that 135 too, but I am realizing that I have to be happy eating healthy and exercising right now in this you at 23 and 135 I didn't appreciate it. I am too learning to be gentle.

August 20, 2006 8:21 AM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

Thanks for this post! I was very much like what you describe in regards to my negative self talk about myself. I have turned that around somewhat and learning to deal with all the parts of emotion eating and why I do that and feeling empowered just really dealing with it this time and being committed to a healthy lifestyle. When I look back how I was at age 25 or before (now 41), I wasn't so unhappy w/ my looks as I was thin but something wasn't quite right in my head or in regards to self esteem. I would pick the men that would treat me bad and reinforce that feeling. Happy to say, I finally broke that and met a wonderful man and been married for 15 yrs (mostly good years). It's funny though that sometimes he talks about his childhood and had issues with self esteem also as his mother was very strict and rarely gave out any positive feedback. Anyway, always encourage him to challenge his beliefs about himself and what he can do. Also, try to analize myself, had a real supportive mom but at times, an alcoholic father (sober for years now) and how he used to not pay hardly any attention to me and what that did to me and how our family just ignored his problem or maybe it was he didn't listen to us when we wanted him to get help, he had to want it for himself. Anyway, thanks for the post. Good luck on your journey.

August 21, 2006 4:12 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I applaud your progress. I wish I could have seen myself skinny before where I am now, morbidly obese, but I know God is going to show me a HEAVENLY BODY here on Earth in His time! :o)

September 13, 2006 10:05 PM  

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