The last part of my tale is the hardest to tell. My life became a roller coaster from 2009 until… well, now. I feel like maybe the brakes have been put on and I’m finally pulling in to the station where you get off the roller coaster and move on to more calm rides, though I still wonder in the back of my mind when the next bomb will drop, what will go terribly wrong next. The bingeing and starving did not stop, they got worse, but I felt better. I was more in control. People were even complimenting me on how I looked. So I continued to not eat whenever I needed to take just a little more weight off.
I kept thinking things would get better if I looked better and I finally reached 105. That was such a big milestone for me that I decided a few more pounds would be even better and maybe a number below 105 would be the magic number, where my life would settle down and my marriage would be repaired and everything would be good again.
There aren’t many photos of me during this time, but there are is one set from a paddle boarding day. I weighed 102 in the photos. I can still point out the flaws in those pictures, the parts of me that don’t look right. Not long after that day I hit 100 pounds. I felt like I could manage my weight and I’d never have to see those high numbers again.
While I was in control of my weight, I was out of control with everything else. My life was still crumbling around me and things kept happening that threatened to destroy everything I wanted. I was so lonely. Over that period of time, just as I was thinking a weight in the double digits would be the key, I began to realize that something bigger was wrong and that maybe my weight, the way I looked, the picture I had created, was not going to fix anything.
Miraculously, I stumbled on Portia de Rossi’s book, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. It saved me. In those pages I read about her struggle and I identified with the words she said, the emotions she felt. I saw myself and something clicked in me. I knew I had to stop the cycle of bingeing and starving. She seemed to be in a better place in her life after dealing with her eating disorder, a different method than I used, but they are all just as destructive. I had thought I was in control all this time. I wasn’t…food was.
I started to change my habits, but it was difficult. It was hard to eat and see the scale move up. I was afraid of seeing certain numbers. I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to see the fat start showing up. Last year my chiropractor started doing more work with nutrition and he offered some testing to existing patients. I’m not sure where I’d be today if that offer hadn’t been extended to me. Through the testing and finding out some of my intolerances to foods, I started to eat differently. I also confessed my bingeing and starving cycle to him. He didn’t judge me. He just told me I needed to eat and that I should follow the method of eating for 60 days and see how I felt. He was less concerned with my weight than with my body fat, which was too low. I agreed to try it and see what would happen. What happened was within two weeks my insomnia was gone, I was never hungry because of how much food I was consuming (extremely difficult the first few days), my digestive problems were being resolved, I had a lot of energy, and without exercising I hit a weight and a body fat percentage that felt…strangely good.
A few months after all of that, my world fell apart again and Brian was diagnosed with cancer and, well, you’ve read those stories. Admittedly, during those months of taking care of him, I did not take care of myself. I stopped eating the way that had proven to be so good for me. There were days I ate too much because it felt good to cover up my emotions. There were days I didn’t eat because I couldn’t stand the sight of food and I didn’t want to start packing on pounds. Some habits are hard to change.
Since Brian’s death I have had very candid conversations with a long-time friend of mine who was angry about what I had been doing to myself for so many years. Those talks were hard for me but the honesty I heard, again without judgment, helped me to see that I would eventually destroy myself – probably kill myself – if I didn’t stop. It was the first time someone had told me not to do that to myself and also the first time I heard that I was perfect exactly as I was. Wow…exactly as I was.
This summer has been very different for me. I’ve stepped on a scale twice. Yeah, twice the whole summer instead of twice every day. I went on two vacations and ate everything I wanted. Yes, I binged. And the food was delicious. I tried new things and was happy. I laughed as I ate and savored everything. I will even confess that some emotional bingeing has occurred. The big difference is that I have not starved myself in order to fix things. I have wanted to a few times. Oh, how much I have wanted to. I have put on enough weight that not a single pair of my jeans fits. Most of my shorts don’t fit. Half my dresses don’t fit. But in order to get back into those clothes, I’m not going to deny myself nourishment. And, quite frankly, some of those clothes will never fit me again because of what I’d have to weigh in order to put them on. I’m tired of being sick, of trying to control everything, of not nurturing myself as I should.
I know what I should be eating and how. I know how to be healthy. This week has been particularly good. I went back to the way of eating that put me at a good body weight and percentage of fat, that helped me sleep and feel great, that requires a constant flow of nourishing food. I still struggle every single day with looking at myself in the mirror. I see so much that is wrong and needs fixing. I’m not sure if that ever goes away. I hope it does. I want to one day look in the mirror and see a happy, vibrant woman who is perfect…exactly as she is.
Exactly As I Am = Joy