This is a post about my relationship with food. So, trigger warning for content about diets, body image, and eating disorders, etc.
I think I was put on my first diet around age.. oh, I don’t know, 11 or so?
It’s hard to tell. My mother, being concerned about her own weight and the way I was starting to plump up in my adolescence, brought me to weight watchers and got me started on diet coke and did all the things a loving, concerned mother might do for a daughter struggling to keep the scale steady. I ate all of those weird, pre-packaged WW & Atkins foods (I especially loved the weight watchers cookie dough ice cream packages, would eat two in a row). I tried green tea pills, snuck diet pills from my mom’s sock drawer, did the Curves circuit training exercises when my mom would bring me along (I still remember the smell of the plastic padding on the machines). I went to the YMCA and did elliptical, I tried basketball and volleyball at school, and I obsessed over the growing belly chub I saw in the mirror, month after month.
I have been on and off dieting for at least two decades. I was the awkward chubby friend in my high school group, until I learned the magic of running, caloric restriction, and the binge/purge cycle. From the spring of 10th grade ’til the fall of my first year in college, I was absolutely stuck in a toxic and abusive pattern of eating, cycling between severe restriction (think: biking five miles to the gym, in the summer heat, spending two hours on cardio and weights, biking home in the summer heat, and replenishing my energy with a low-fat yogurt cup).
In my first go, I lost 40 pounds. I didn’t start purging until maybe 4 months into the diet. It persisted through my final two years of high school. But I was hooked—and the fact that boys were starting to pay attention to me, my friends’ looks of surprise, and the awesome clothes I got to wear….well, it made it easy to stick to it, despite how much it physically and emotionally hurt me to do so.
After high school, somehow by the grace of whatever god there is, my purging behaviors slowly trickled to a stop. The most intense physical harm was ceasing. But still, I counted calories, I ran, I beat myself up over belly fat, back fat, leg fat, whatever fat.
At age 19, I lost my first serious relationship to infidelity and lies, and almost immediately got involved with a very emotionally abusive (and sometimes physically, sexually abusive) man. It was two years of a slow race to the bottom. Even though I was at my lowest weight, he criticized my body countless times. I felt absolutely trapped for a good long while.
And when I broke free—well, I dove headfirst into the first gallon jug of Carlo Rossi I could find, and immersed myself in a newly rekindled relationship with my high school sweetheart.
And then, in January 2012, I started a Google Docs journal. I labeled it “WLJ,” a covert way of calling it my Weight Loss Journal. At the beginning, I wrote in specific detail about how disappointed I was in myself and my body, for how fat I’d become. I’d reached my highest weight ever—200lbs., which at 5’6″ is not insignificant. I wrote detailed plans about achieving my ultimate form through CICO, calorie cycling, a reward system for reaching a certain number on the scale, and moderating my drinking. I lamented every plateau. I hinged my self-esteem on the number I saw staring back at me. On and off, for years… for years I wrote in this Google Doc.
And in this Google Doc, as I read through it now, I see chronicled an entire young adulthood of yo-yoing weight, self-flagellation, anger, despair, celebration, and confusion; I see the inner thoughts of a young woman absolutely consumed by how much she weighed, how much she drank, how much she smoked, whether she was good enough at her job, whether people liked her or couldn’t care less about her. I read the inner thoughts of a young woman absolutely beside herself with the drive to be something perfect. Someone who knew deep within herself that the things she surrounded herself with—the people, situations, alcoholic beverages, thoughts, and behaviors—were absolutely ripping her down. I saw someone who would probably be elated to see where she got herself in just a short few years, only after she’d recovered from the shock of learning that she would need to be divorced and sober in order to achieve it.
And god, just reading through those docs, which I wrote in almost religiously—at least a few times monthly, in detail—from 2012 until 2016-ish, when I started writing here… it makes my heart break for the younger version of myself, to see how entirely wrapped up I was in the image I put out for the rest of the world, rather than being wrapped up in taking care of myself on a sustainable, loving level.
To see how long and hard I’ve battled with my own body, through everything we’ve been through. To know how much of my life I’ve spent hating it, poking at it, starving it, harming it, wishing it were something else, telling it it’s not good enough, hiding it, being embarrassed by it. I’ve spent AT LEAST two decades shitting on myself because, what, I have some belly fat and I’m not a size 6?
What’s even more frustrating is that recently, I’ve found myself back in the same spot I’ve been at multiple points in my life, both when it comes to the number on the scale, as well as the feelings that accompany that number.
I’ve gotten into the habit of telling myself that I’m a failure at losing weight and that I’ll probably just be stuck at whatever number I am right now.
I’m reducing myself to a number and I don’t want to do it anymore.
This poor, strong, tired, resilient body deserves so much more of my respect, more than it’s ever been afforded.
I don’t want to fight myself anymore. I don’t want to look down at my stomach and have the immediate sensation of wanting to stuff it away, or berate myself for the simple fact that it exists at all.
Especially now. Especially today. Almost a full year into a global pandemic, where honestly, I’ve had some other shit I’ve needed to focus on.
What I want is, if not full on body-positivity, I at least want body-neutrality, where I can look at my body the way I might look at a train passing by, or getting a haircut, where it just… is.
Someday I’d like to reach the point where I can look at my belly, my thighs, my arms, and everything else in-between, and know that there’s no reason to poke, prod, ridicule, or feel disappointed by any of it. Where I can afford myself the luxury of culinary pleasures without feeling the need to over-indulge, or chastise myself and run an extra 30 minutes to “make up for it.” Where I can look at food as both pleasure and purposeful, something that can be enjoyed and that is necessary, vital, not an enemy or force to contend with. Where I can be at peace with the waves, where I make the kinds of decisions that reflect respect and reverence for my body, rather than punishment or, at worst, hatred.
It’s just… it’s been a damn long time to be so intricately obsessive and wrapped up in the idea of dieting, constantly pushing for weight loss, or always trying to get that rock-hard bod that I *think* I want, but probably wouldn’t end up making me too much happier, anyway.
I don’t want to have to continue writing the kinds of things I wrote in the WLJ.
For goodness sake, I just want to stop.