My recovery has been an act of surrender.
Surrender? Is this like giving up?
In a way, yes! Because continuing on the path I was on is what made me feel stuck in a never-ending rat wheel. To recover, I had to accept that I failed at trying to control my food and body. Then, I had to take it from there.
Surrendering up my diet mentality, the judgements, guilt and shame, and perfectionism was exactly what would set me free.
A predictable life
At first, I was resistant to this process. I had so many food rules that constrained my life into a small world. My life consisted of work, trying to stick to a food plan, and then eventually loosing all control and bingeing. Life felt small and pretty predictable.
It was comfortable and safe to do the same thing I’d been doing for years: Try to control everything, then loose control.
My old thoughts and judgements made me want to resist surrender.
The eating disorder part of my brain had a long list of reasons why I should keep grasping onto this false sense of control.
“If I only stayed away from “bad” foods, this would work. Maybe if I lost five pounds I could stop binging. This new XYZ diet will be the answer. If you could get fit this would all work out and I’d be happy. And if I could stop failing… then I wouldn’t need to control my food anymore. Then, I’d be truly happy, and life would fall perfectly into place.”
But, were these ideals and goals really doing anything for my happiness?
You want what you can’t have…
Psychoanalysis teaches the relationship between desire and anxiety. In very simple terms, humans tend to fantasize that if they just had the missing thing (or the thing they cannot have), it would make them happy.
But how many times have we accessed what we wanted only to realize we didn’t really want what we thought we did?
In a way, not getting what I wanted (to control my weight and body size) allowed me to preserve the fantasy I had chased for years.
But at what cost?
My life was small. I was people pleasing constantly because of the shame I felt around my eating disorder. Leaving my comfort zone seemed too scary.
I was giving my power away to diets, food plans, and the fantasy of control. My toxic diet chatter was so loud, I had stopped listening to myself and my intuition.
What happened? I surrendered. I gave up the chase. And I worked hard to replace it with acceptance and my own definition of health and body respect.
Control vs. acceptance
“What if you were okay with your body the way it is right now?”
That’s what a therapist asked Harriet Brown, journalist and author of “Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive our Obsession with Weight-and What we can Do about it.”
Brown could hardly believe her ears. She was seeking treatment in the hope of discovering how to control her appetite and retain control of her body (and mind). Instead, she was asked to accept the body she had hated for so long.
Brown couldn’t get those words out of her head, according to her book. It took years, but eventually, Brown learned to shift her relationship with food and her body. All the while, though, she kept seeing people suffering for the same reason. “There is not a woman in America, or the Western World for that matter, that hasn’t learned to hate her body,” she writes.
How to embrace surrender
So, in order to embrace this newly surrendered life, I surrounded myself with books about activism that advocated to end all forms of oppression, including dieting and restricting through food plans.
I decided to practice radical acceptance.
I listened to the wisdom of my body instead of what someone else prescribed for me to eat and I nurtured my intuition as I listened to it more and more.
My quest for surrender took off from there.
In his book “The Queer Art of Failure,” philosopher Judith Halberstan writes that “under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.”
As Halberstan writes, “If success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different rewards.”
Failing at sticking to my food plan, failing at controlling my body was the best thing that ever happened to me. Is it time for you to start failing and embrace the art of surrender?