I wrote you back in episode #64, and so much in our relationship has changed since then that I wanted to write you again. I was so terrified when I wrote that letter, so scared of what lay ahead and unsure of whether I could do what needed to be done to recover from a lifetime of disordered eating that had left me at rock bottom.
But I write you today saying that I am on the other side of that mountain, and sometimes I still can’t believe it. It’s not perfect, and never will be. But that is the beauty of life, we will always struggle, and there is beauty and meaning and so much learning in that struggle.
So I wrote you, and Julie and Judith Matz discussed the contents of my letter with such care, kindness and compassion. It meant so much to me, and I felt more validated that my struggle was real, and that I needed help. I ended up finding a wonderful eating disorder therapist in my hometown. She was a huge support during the really hard parts of my recovery, and helped me to challenge my beliefs and made me realize – or at least begin to digest the fact – that my worth
as a woman and a person in this world does not depend on the size of my body. I have to say that when I wrote that first letter, I never thought I’d be able to internalize that as truth. I wanted to share the three pivotal parts of my journey. And my intention here is to try to speak to
those who feel as I did back then: that there was no way I could ever stop dieting, and there was
no chance that I could accept my body if it was not thin.
For those who feel as scared as I did, I want to let them know that it is possible, and there truly is freedom on the other side. It involves taking some big risks, lots of trust in the process, as well as grit, patience and commitment.
- The first part of my journey involved letting go of all rules around food – which was
terrifying – literally like jumping off a cliff and hoping that I’d be okay on the other side. I
would say for me, this took a few years, and the beginning was so rough. It felt out of
control and so awful at first, and I just had to keep going and trust that I would be okay.
Over time, things slowly started to shift, to the point where today, I literally eat whatever I
want. I no longer question my food choices, and rarely feel regret over what I’ve eaten. I
crave healthy food a lot more than I ever thought I would, and when I want treats, I don’t
think twice. I have ice cream and chocolate and cookies in my house all the time, and
often don’t even think about them. My hunger and fullness signals are so much stronger
than I ever knew they could be, and it feels so good to see foods that would have once
sent me over the deep end, and now if I want them I eat them, and if I don’t feel hungry or
don’t feel like eating them, I just say “meh” and leave them for others to enjoy. I can
honestly say I never thought I’d have that freedom.
- The second part of my journey was body acceptance work, which involved beginning to undo the beliefs that I had about a woman’s value, and really questioning why people in my life do value or love me, and eventually realizing that it truly has nothing to do with how I look. That took time – but I continually remind myself that since I stopped dieting and my body changed, not one relationship has been negatively impacted by it. I still have wonderful friends, laugh my head off, have a great marriage, have sex, go to parties, spend time with family. Changing my social media feeds was super helpful with respect to body acceptance -seeing strong, smart and incredible women of all shapes and sizes owning their shit and unapologetically living their truths – that continues to be so helpful and inspiring. Doing this work also got me thinking about how I would want to be remembered after I’m gone. And I asked myself, do I want people to say, “Oh she had such a great body! Such small, tight thighs and she worked out so hard!” I can say with 100% conviction that that is not the legacy I want to leave behind on this earth. I would much rather it be that I truly loved and cared about those around me, and tried to live a life true to who I am and to my values.
- The third important part has been self-compassion: This was another critical part, because we can be so cruel to ourselves, and we would never talk to others the way we speak to ourselves. Self-compassion means that in times of trouble and inner conflict (which is basically all the time), that we talk to ourselves as we would speak to someone we love – a good friend, a child. So as I let go of food rules and my body inevitably changed, instead of using words like gross and disgusting when I looked in the mirror, I worked on being more neutral and accepting. Changing that inner dialogue to a much kinder one was a real shift for me and I continue to work on that every day. This doesn’t mean I look in the mirror every day and think I look beautiful. What it means is, I can now look in the mirror and even if I don’t like what I see, I can say, “Ok. I don’t love how I look today. But…oh well. I am still gonna go to work, hopefully accomplish something productive, have some good talks or laughs with colleagues and friends I cherish, and then come home and share a meal with my family, and love and be loved. How I look today will have no impact on any of those things.”
So there you have it. No more food rules, accepting my body, and practicing self-compassion. So
many big hurdles, so much change. And here I am on the other side of it.
When I wrote you back in episode #64, I never thought I’d be where I am today. I know that this
journey will be lifelong, and I am completely okay with that. I can’t and won’t ever go back to that
way of life, to those values I had internalized that were never really my own, to a world of body
shame and unrealistic beauty standards. I am committed to the ups and downs of the road ahead
of me, now that I know that my beauty and value lie within. I choose freedom, I choose to live my
own truth, and I choose to honour all people and all bodies, including my own.
Previously Stuck and Scared and Wanting to Charge