If there’s one thing I want you to know – it is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
You’re not the only person doing ab checks in your mirror and grabbing at the mix of skin and fat that rests below your belly button. You aren’t the only one who refuses to leave home without a cooler of prepped meals in Tupperware containers and your beloved Fitbit secured to your wrist. You are not the only woman who thinks about food constantly, meticulously planning meals and memorizing nutritional information. You aren’t the first to fear being left alone with a warm apple pie. And you aren’t the only person who is hating, starving and overworking her body.
SO MANY PEOPLE CAN RELATE.
I’ve fought the battle to minimize self. I’ve downloaded calorie tracking apps wherein I faithfully entered my food intake – IMMEDIATELY– after every meal, snack and stick of gum. I’ve allowed my iPhone to tell me how much I SHOULD weigh and Google to show me the number of calories I SHOULD consume in order to shrink myself. I’ve fasted. I’ve guzzled apple cider vinegar. I’ve mail-ordered herbal supplements that promised to diminish my appetite. I tried fat burners and metabolism boosters. I’ve been terrified of carbs and eliminated the majority of fats from my diet. I doubled my exercise sessions and ran weekly half-marathons simply to punish my body for EATING. I’ve choked back sweet potatoes with hummus when what I really wanted was a bowl of pasta and a cold beer. I’ve said “no thank you” to foods I desired and “yes” to foods I didn’t all in the name of “HEALTH.” I measured serving sizes with precision and policed their consumption, no matter what my body actually needed (or wanted). I was obsessed with the scale. I even tried (and failed) to purge a time or two.
I’ve also gorged myself. Sometimes I binged on “health” food like raw nuts, apples or gluten free organic breads. Other times, I baked beautiful cakes full of butter, sugar and extra dark chocolate; cakes that I’d devour in one blind, standing frenzy. I’ve put away entire bags of tortilla chips, boxes of granola bars, and more jars of Nutella than I can count. I’ve been so ill post-binge that my torso hurt to the touch and my face swelled and flushed with inflammation. I remember once having to crawl on my hands and knees because my stomach was cramping so painfully that I couldn’t bear to walk.
So whether you’re dieting, restricting, over-exercising, binging or all of the above – I CAN RELATE. And chances are high that the woman sitting in the cubicle across from yours, the mama in the preschool pick-up line, the man standing behind you at the grocery store, the model on the cover of your magazine, the handsome trainer at the gym and that obnoxious tween giggling beside you in the movie theater can too.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
But, I know it feels that way.
We are lonely in our struggles with food and physique because we’ve been taught to believe that we’re the problem, that our weight and body composition are entirely within our control. Collectively, we’ve learned that a body unlike the cultural ideal is simply a “work in progress,” a canvas on which to create a masterpiece – with blood, sweat, tears, starvation and magical diet industry fairy dust, of course. But, when that dust settles we’re left knee deep in failure and blaming ourselves; NOT the diet, NOT the program, NOT the overwhelmingly popular (and asinine) assertion that the human body is nothing more than a machine, each of us factory-made replicas meant to look, function and respond identically. When our attempts at shape shifting fail – IT IS WE WHO ARE WRONG. And so, feigning a confidence that “this time will be different,” we step up to the proverbial plate and take one more swing – AT US.
Shame tells us that we are not enough. Shame keeps us quiet. Shame isolates.
But, not today.
Because, if there’s one thing I want you to know – it is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I CAN RELATE.
I COULD relate.
You see, dear reader, the second thing I want you to know is this: THERE IS HOPE.
This isn’t the end of your story. It certainly wasn’t the end of mine.
While food and body prison is a place I once visited (ok fine, I served time), it isn’t where I now reside. One day, I simply had enough. So, I spoke up and shame shut up. I got help. I broke free. I told my truth– and the craziest, loveliest thing happened – I was met with the words “ME TOO.” I was met with compassion and understanding and “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”
I’ve found a home on the flipside of diet culture captivity, where the fight for flawlessness is dead and the hustle for perfection has no value. It’s a place where I’ve found happiness and health, a place where I can be purely and unapologetically me. It’s a world beyond food fears and body hate.
And there’s plenty of room in it for YOU too.