Your life is so much bigger than the size of your body.
It’s just waiting for you to realize that.
As I lay in bed Halloween night after the kids finally fell asleep, something dawned on me. Something you would think I would have noticed before, but hadn’t. Something kinda huge. Something kinda cool…
There’s the teaser :o) Clever, uh??
Here is the story. I have always dreaded Halloween. Not only because creative costumes aren’t my strong point, but because of the candy. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know that I have had life-long body image issues and years (34) of yo-yo dieting. You will also know that I quit dieting a little over a year ago. For good. That probably sounds like a crazy thing to do. I did gain back the weight I lost in my last calorie-deprived diet disaster, but that was just biology– nothing more, nothing less. I’m still not dieting. (If you’re interested in why, check this out.) So the reality is that I’m not as thin as I “should” be according to our current cultural standards. I’m not. But I also don’t give a shit. Finally.
So back to Halloween. I have always cowered in fear at the approach of Halloween. Halloween. That stupid holiday. Every year it would show me how weak I was. It would show me that I needed to do better. It demonstrated my lack of will-power. It was the damn candy. Halloween=candy. Lots of candy, everywhere you go. Candy that I was not allowed to eat. Candy that did not fit in my diet and that I was convinced would send me over the edge and cause me to gain crazy amounts of weight. And even though every year I was going to be good and not eat the candy, every year I ended up binging on the candy.
Here’s how it would play out. First, I would decrease my calories and up my exercise in the days or weeks before. This was a preventative measure in my head. Here was my thought process: If I could make sure I was doing really good before the holiday came, then I could be focused on how good I was doing. And if I was focused on how good I was doing, of course I wouldn’t want the candy because, “Look how great I’m doing! I don’t want to blow it now!”
Next, I would promise myself that I would only eat a FEW pieces of my favorites. No point in wasting calories on something that doesn’t taste good, right? What followed was being even more anxious than normal about my food and my exercise. There was no way in hell I was going to miss a day at the gym during the holiday season. The season that started with Halloween.
Oh yeah. Something else to hate about Halloween. It was the start of the hardest two months of dieting EVER. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. All holidays focused on lots of food and all smashed together in a short span of time.
(Just a quick side note here. I would obsessively make sure I could hit the gym every day even if we were traveling for the holiday. Most gyms are open Thanksgiving morning, did you know that? The only day you really have to miss is Christmas. I know. Super fun way to spend your energy during a season that is supposed to be focused on family and friends and lots of love. Calories and minutes exercising. Lots of fun.)
Anyway, back to Halloween’s past. As the day approached, I would rely on massive will-power to not eat any candy at all. I knew the actual night of Halloween would be the hardest, so I was going to eat the candy I was allowing myself that night to make it easier. The plan was, that on the eve of Halloween, I would eat my chosen pieces. They would taste so amazingly good and I would enjoy them and be satisfied and move on with my dieting life.
That was the plan. But it never seemed to go according to plan. The candy tasted mighty good. It did. It tasted so good that I would inevitably eat more candy than I had allotted myself. And that would inevitably trigger a spiral of shame and guilt. Again, here is the thought process: How could I have done that? I’ve been doing so good! I’ve been working so hard! What is wrong with me that I can’t control myself at all? I totally blew it!
I totally blew it. That particular thought has alway sent me into a world of black and white, all or nothing, good or bad, no in-between. That particular thought around food was almost always the start of a binge, because this is what comes after the totally-blew-it thought: “I absolutely can’t do this again! I can’t have anymore candy. No more candy. Ever. Done with candy. It’s not good for me anyway. I better eat all I want tonight, because tomorrow NO MORE CANDY!!!”
Signal: The Binge.
Bingeing. Isabel Foxen Duke has the best working definition of bingeing out there. She defines binge eating as “a reaction to real or perceived (or emotional) deprivation.” She talks about how bingeing is not so much about the amount of food you consume, but about the emotional component around what is consumed. Binge eating is accompanied by guilt or shame around what you are eating.
This is a great definition for all of us that are disordered eaters. What is a disordered eater? It isn’t someone in the thick of a clinically diagnosed Eating Disorder. It’s someone that tends to feel good or bad about themselves based on what they eat or don’t eat. Someone that tends to feel guilt or shame around food and eating if they don’t “do it right”. Unfortunately, this is a lot of us. (By the way, Isabel Foxen Duke is brilliant. If you haven’t checked her out yet, you should and you can right here.)
So bingeing. It might make you feel uncomfortable physically. But the emotional discomfort (that’s not a strong enough word) is the really shitty outcome of a binge. Binges trigger guilt. Guilt triggers shame. Shame triggers the chastisement and berating of yourself that is the real yucky-ness of binging. Your body will feel better long before your soul will.
That, my friends, is why I have always dreaded Halloween. It got me focused on what I was not “allowed” to have. And focusing on what you are not allowed to have triggers deprivation, which then triggers bingeing. Part of my deprivation was physical. I was eating less than my body needed so that I could loose weight or maintain weight loss. So basically, I was really hungry ALL THE TIME. I was also emotionally depriving myself. Even if I did eat the candy, I was mired in the shame and guilt associated with emotional deprivation and not following the “plan”. So no beuno on both fronts.
That was a lot of back story for my teaser about what happened this year. But what happened this year wouldn’t mean much without some understanding of all the years before. Here’s what happened this year: I didn’t dread Halloween. At all. I didn’t spend the time leading up to it stressing about how much I had to NOT eat so I could have some candy. I didn’t spend any energy on how I should prepare for the possibility of eating “too much” candy. I didn’t think about any of that. No energy wasted.
Here was thing that sort of shocked me. I didn’t even realize until after the fact that I was how I always wished I could be around eating. I ate some candy. I ate more than I normally would because it was there and because Snickers Peanut Butter Squares are damn delicious. I ate lunch and dinner (breakfast was coffee– so I don’t really count that) on Halloween without even once thinking about how I should be saving up calories for the candy later that night. Seriously. Not even once.
I always wanted to be that person that could be around food and not stress about it. That person that could eat and not be constantly tabulating calories and freaking out about whether or not they were going to gain weight. I never thought I could be that person. When I would hear people say that it was possible to overcome all the crazy around food, I didn’t believe it was possible for me.
And then, all of the sudden, it was me. Actually, it wasn’t really like an all-of-the-sudden-over-night kind of thing. It was gradual. So gradual that I kinda didn’t realize it was happening. I used to think that it would happen like an over-night miracle-from-the-sky. Maybe I was still waiting for that and that is why I missed the gradual, but definite, shift in how I was living. In how I was thinking. In how I was around food. In how I felt about food and my body. In how, all of the sudden (not), it was me.
Like I said, I decided I was done with dieting and all of it’s craziness a little over a year ago. And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s been a bit (understatement) of an emotional roller coaster. I’ve had my doubts and my bad body days and my days where life gets hard and I want to go on a diet to get away from stuff I can’t control. But I don’t have them as often anymore. And that totally rocks.
I put all this out there as actual living proof that it is possible to change your relationship with food and your body. To live a life not so focused on what you eat and how you exercise and how you look. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes it’s still not easy. But it was worth it. I promise you, it’s worth it.
Do you want to have a life that is about more than how you look? You can. It really is possible. I know it might not feel like it is possible for you, but you are strong and you are amazing! Your life is so much bigger than the size of your body and it is just waiting for you to realize that! Just think about it… :o)