Several years ago, I entered treatment for Binge Eating Disorder.
It was an Intensive Outpatient Program, with therapeutic meals included.
I was. So. Excited.
After 12 weeks, I was pretty much guaranteed to be done with all this. Done with the constant worrying about my body. Done with counting points and calories. Done with being fat!
I remember sitting down and planning out exactly how much weight I thought I could lose over the course of the program, and how much I’d weigh when it was done, and all the fun and exciting things I could do once it was over.
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The first day was terrifying. I walked into a room of women who were all different shapes and sizes. I was one of the smallest ones. I already felt like I was winning. One of them was actually sitting at the table eating a chocolate muffin…unashamed. I couldn’t believe it!
When they served dinner, I ate slowly and was careful to leave plenty of food on my plate so I didn’t look like a pig. I was certain that my performance was being evaluated, and was determined to be the very best in the room.
It continued like this for several weeks, me doing my best to be the thinnest binge-eater I could be, and all these other women just being real and relaxed and actually working on their stuff. I honestly didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. And I was bingeing every night after I got home…
I thought the point of it all was to lose weight. I thought the point of LIFE was to lose weight!
One day I came into my private therapy session in a huff. I had just gotten a lecture from my dad about losing weight and how I should be eating and what foods were totally off-limits for people like me. Fat people.
But the thing was…my dad was fat, too. Always had been. Of course he was a “good” chronic dieter, always trying to lose weight and change himself in dramatic ways and saying terrible things to and about himself. But he never won the battle.
So, having him lecture me about food and dieting and what I needed to do to lose weight was just. too. much.
I vented to my therapist: “I’m so frustrated! I mean, does he even look at himself in the mirror?! He’s fat! He’s always been fat! He’ll always be fat! Why can’t he just accept himself and live his life? Imagine all the time and energy he’s wasted gaining and losing the same weight over and over again!”
A steady gaze.
5 seconds…10 seconds…20 seconds ticked by.
And then BAM. I finally got it.
Wake Up Call
Man, the Universe is so good at giving us perfect examples of the lessons we need to learn, isn’t it? Because it’s so much easier to see this stuff in other people than in ourselves.
I finally understood what I had been doing wrong: that I believed deep down in my soul that I’m not allowed to be happy as long as I’m fat. That I can’t live my best life in the body I have right now. That my sole purpose in life is to conform and win at this whole “being the smallest I can be” thing. Just like my dad.
That Aha Moment
Oh, my God…I am allowed to just live. It felt like 30 years of self-hatred just dissolved out of my body.
I’m okay. I’m worthy of having everything I want right now. I’m already winning.
And that’s when things really started to turn around for me. No, not in the “I’m finally at my set point weight and it’s easy and I never think about food” way, but in the “radically accepting myself no matter what and knowing that I can relax and honor myself in every aspect of my life” way.
Why We Have It Wrong…
I know that everyone who begins this journey wants to talk about weight and set point and how they will look when they’re really recovered.
But that’s missing the point.
As long as weight is any kind of concern, as long as there’s a hope of someday looking more acceptable than you do now, as long as freedom and self-acceptance aren’t your primary goals…
…you’re going to be the terrified woman in the corner planning how much food to leave on her plate so the others don’t judge you. And that restriction on food, happiness, and freedom is its own special kind of hell.