April 23, 2011


I knew this month would be stressful, but somehow even when I anticipate stressors, I never fail to be surprised by how tough the times can be to get through. In the moment, it feels like it will never get easier again, even though it always does. navy pierI recover, I carry on, I get right back on track. But as it unfolds, it feels bottomless, like I'm slipping and there's nothing to grab onto to keep me from falling all the way down.

My eating has been on and off this past week. One really great day is followed by an absolutely horrible one. I'm not only eating way too much junk, but I'm not eating mindfully. Physically, I'm experiencing feelings I never wanted to feel again - the stomach ache, the pain in my mouth, the gassiness, the bloating. Worst of all, though, I'm finding myself seeking the comfort of old rituals to help cope with how out of control I feel, and I totally hate myself for it. It doesn't matter what the scale says - when I eat this way, I might just as well be 345 pounds again. For me, my physical progress is secondary to the emotional progress I want to be making, and a setback like this feels just like regaining every ounce and then some.

My mom has always remained silent about my weight and my issues with food - there were occasional remarks about my appearance, but never suggestions to lose weight or try to get healthier. And she never said anything about what or how much I was eating, even when she must have known it was missing. So something I can't understand, then, is why such a big part of my secret food ritual is being sneaky ... stuffing cello packaging deep into the empty box, burying the wrappers in the trash, and especially eating quickly and quietly in rooms with the doors closed while everyone else sits together somewhere else. I'd eat in my dorm room, my brother's room, even out in the backyard - but especially the bathroom.

At my dad's house, there was a window in the bathroom that lead to the side porch. Sitting on the lid of the toilet and stuffing my mouth so full that it hurt, all the while listening closely to see if anyone was coming home. in the gondolaIf I heard the door open through the window, I had to shovel even faster, swallow, then rinse out my mouth in an attempt to hide any crumbs, any smells left from whatever I had just hurriedly consumed.


If Mom doesn't seem to care about my size and no one ever mentions the huge quantities of missing food, why do I hide my eating? Why am I ashamed of exposing this secret behavior if no one seems to really notice or care either way?

I'm the one who's ashamed. I'm the one I'm trying to hide from.

Even at my biggest, I knew better, but I still felt this need to eat a lot, as fast as possible, and secretly. My goal was not a physical fullness but an emotional one, and I think the purpose of the secrecy is because I'm ashamed at needing a dozen snack cakes or an entire pizza in order to feel emotionally satisfied (or at least what I assume in that moment to be emotional satisfaction). My intentions while sharing a meal at a table with family and friends are entirely different from my intentions when standing at the bathroom sink, cramming one cookie after another into my mouth as fast as I can. There's a mirror in the bathroom, and I watch myself as I do what I am doing. It's almost a punishmment in itself - humiliation on top of the original shame: Look at you. Look what you are doing. Look what you have allowed to happen to yourself. Other kids have parents who talk to them. Other girls have boys who look at them. You're alone in this bathroom. You have to look at yourself. This is your love. This is all you get.

The other day, I found myself walking through my kitchen; without being mindful, I picked up a cookie my mom had bought in Chinatown, and without realizing, I ended up in the bathroom in front of the mirror. The cookie was not what I wanted. What I wanted was to feel in control of my sitation. Illogically, I'm falling into this old habit because I'm stressed out about feeling unable to sustain my new habits when my family is around. I was thinking yesterday afternoon, trying to remember when was the last time I felt this food-gross - and it was Christmas. Another time with my family. I'm really concerned that I'll never be able to spend as much time as I want with them because it's just impossible for my lifestyle and theirs to co-exist. I keep trying, but I'm just not strong enough yet. Emotional weight loss isn't enough - I need some emotional strength training.

afraid of heights
This month has been stressful so far, but it isn't over. There are more stressors to come - the end of the semester, the end of my job, and the beginning of whatever comes next for me - but with my mom and brother leaving tomorrow, I can't help but think the worst is just about over.


timothy said...

hang in there darlin! you'll make it, i'm here if you need a shoulder or an ear! and for some reason your story reminds me of a book by an author i adore, it's not a self help or anything but a quirky fiction called sugar queen by sarah addison allen check it out if you want a nice read!

Jules said...

you hit the nail on the head for me the CONTROL is what I wanted! And the emotional strength training is the BEST training because it sets the foundation to change the definition of that muscle brain!


downsizers said...

Have you read "Let Go of the Log" at my place? One thing you might do is vow to never eat alone. You might ask your Mom to help you by keeping that stuff out of the house until you get yourself together a little better. You are so right that we do those things alone; we don't want anyone to see. Self-sabotage is a way of putting the brakes on success because we feel we don't deserve it. The problem is not food; it is self-esteem and perfectionism. Take care.

sguidone said...

I went through a lot of challenges when I was first getting sober, and they are all coming to mind. I wanted to see my sisters so badly, in a way, they were the only people that really knew me- through all the broken friendships and situations I'd been in. I loved spending time with them, but found myself feeling so out of control whenever I left my parents house. Actually, even to this day- I always want to clean my apartment after I leave my parents' house. Like it's the only way to regain the sense that I am ok, and that my environment isn't taking my down a dark path all over again. Eventually, I had to set some big boundaries- like only spend 3 hours at a time over there, or not picking up the phone when my parents' call. It's hard as the oldest to walk away from them, but I wasn't going to be able to grow and be strong enough without those steps. Of course, I'm not sure exactly what boundaries you'll need to set, but I love you lots and hope you'll find comfort in being a little tough on your family in that way. Don't forget that every moment is a new chance to make good choices, and you are *so* loved for all that you are.

Maude said...

Practice makes perfect. You can't avoid your family forever, and you wouldn't want to. So you have to practice the tools that will allow you to live your lifestyle when they're around. Sometimes it'll go well, and sometimes it won't. I'm continuing to deal with this same issue. When they visit or I visit them, I'm able to hold it together for awhile, then I get overwhelmed. And then I get it back together and get back on track. There's no easy answer, it'll probably always be a challenge. All that matters is not letting it derail you completely. Just do the best you can. A two pound loss for the week means you're doing pretty dang well!

Ann said...

Sorry for all this stuff you're going through. I've had a rough week, too. It seems like it's always something! But that's why they call it a "journey". Keep on keepin' on - you are doing great, lady.

Unknown said...

What an honest, meaningful post, Mary. You have so much insight as to what's causing your pain; you are so in tune with it, even when it's working against you and that says something. I especially related to the feeling of not caring what the scale says when you're binge eating. I feel the same way and you're right - the emotional progress is so vital. Every moment with your family is a learning experience and each meeting with them will bring a revelation. I hope somewhere in there you're able to eventually find a sense of peace.