food, anxiousness, perfectionism + pattern breaking: a love story.
What’s been my loonggggg and dysfunctional relationship w food began when I was 8.
That’s when my Dad’s disordered eating really took hold; he’d gained weight, and he’d devised a plan to lose it that involved restricting calories. By the time he died 5 years ago, he was — I believe — an undiagnosed anorexic who only allowed himself 700 calories a day, despite repeated directives from doctors to gain weight. He’d individually count 20 cashew nuts into plastic baggies in the morning for his ‘lunch’, and he’d plan his 1 meal for the day — dinner — out 30 days in advance.
It was the ultimate experience of what happens when anxiousness + compulsion + fear + the primal need to nourish oneself combine.
As a college freshman, I combined them, too — and the result was bulimia. I’d pretend I was ashamed that I lost 20 pounds in 6 months — but I wasn’t — I was proud. In a way, I still am, which feels hard to admit.
Starting 5 years ago, a coach I was working with applied her approach to me, and food was to become the way I learned how to trust myself. I’d make commitments — no sugar, no complex carbs — and if I broke those commitments, I’d be punished.
I spent years in that diet, with consequences and shame when I had a bite — or 4 — of dessert. My grip was tight on the wheel, and as soon as she and I were done, so was the restriction.
After that, I got into intuitive eating, which is elegantly simple in its design:
- Eat when hungry
- Be present w your food
- Honor your cravings
- Stop when full.
I took the ‘eat what you want’ to heart and left behind the ‘be present w your food’+ ‘stop when full’ — and the result was waking up a couple months ago to the fact that I weigh more than I feel good weighing.
That — ‘I weight too much’ — is hard for me to navigate, cuz I have perfectionism stuff that shows up sounding like: “I’m not a perfectionist cause I’m so far from perfect. Perfectionists actually reach the ideal. If I were a real perfectionist — then I’d have a flat stomach and no cellulite and thin arms and and and and and….”
Sadly — not how perfectionism works.
So in recent weeks, the question became: how to honor the part of me that navigates some real enoughness stuff AND the me that wants a healthy relationship with food AND the me that feels better — more confident and sexy — when I’m a bit thinner than I am RN?
I began with an honest assessment of my current relationship with food. Here’s what I came back with:
- I use it for numbing
- as a reward
- to escape
- to satiate the desire for enoughness (never works)
- + and as a salve for the anxiousness (also — yet to fully work)
I also realized its where my fear shows up: I eat a fried dumpling or a scoop of ice cream and after feel regret and shame, and like I cant trust myself — which feels like a betrayal. It feels so bad, I want something to take the bad away — so I eat — amongst other coping mechanisms.
Thus how we got to this point.
Second, I asked myself what I want the relationship to be about and came back with:
- For nourishment
- As a way to be mindful and present
- To feel connected to my body
- As a portal to knowing self-trust
From there, I did an inventory of what I put in my body. I got back that I’m uncomfortable with how much alcohol I drink, I’m horrendously addicted to caffeine, I’m dependent on sugar, and I’ve gotten off track when it comes to how much fried food and bread I put into my body.
Then I made some commits:
- I listed out what I wanted to remove from my body
- I listed out what I wanted to prioritize going into my body
And I also kept it simple: Eat a little less. Drink a lot more water.
Its been insane to watch what happens internally. The ‘eat less’ pop’d right away — a voice appears while I’m eating that sounds like, “I want more. More bites. Another serving. MORE! MORE!’ It starts before the last bite has been eaten. It screams at me. It’s not torture — but its close. Its my anxiousness and my fear and my avoidance and my impulsiveness all rolled into one — and it wont stop till it has a(nother) bite of food.
My friend Nikki invited me to lean into the uncomfortable voice — to go towards it, to lean in every time I eat. I don’t want to go towards it. I want to silence it with another bite of food. But that’s the easier way out — the ‘harder’ opportunity is to listen, and lean in — to be w the not enoughness.
So now I do that. I also:
- Eat when hungry
- Check in whether or not I’m full and stop when I am
- [try to] be present with each bite (v hard when eating w others)
- Listen to my body + what it wants
- Drink water. A lot of water.
I’m attempting to disrupt an adult lifetime of patterning.
Its. Not. Easy.
Odds are stacked against.
There’s a high likelihood I’m back to ‘normal’ in no time.
And even if that’s the case — then the chance to dance w this voice is worth it all. Seeing myself in the flail / regression / angst / fear — that’s got enormous value. These moments of waking up to myself are my favorite, and they’re hard won and awful at the same time.
Its early days — weeks not months.
Do I feel diff in my clothes already? Yes.
Was that the goal at the start? Yes.
Did I expect this to become some kinda deep self work journey? Not really.
Am I glad I’m here, nonetheless? For sure.
For further exploration:
Geneen Roth’s book, ‘Breaking Free from Emotional Eating’ and her work more broadly on intuitive eating shifted things profoundly for me. You can learn more HERE.
My friend Mordechai Weiner has had one of the most integrity-filled journeys with food I know of, and he created a podcast called ‘Feeling Full’ that is both captivating and SUPER helpful (to me). Listen HERE.
Questions for you that I asked myself, if you’re called to explore further:
- How would you describe your current relationship to food?
- What’s a dream relationship with food / nourishment look like for you?
- What’re you ready to commit to, in terms of what you put into your body? How do you know?
If you journal on any of this, and want to share, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: I am not a dietician. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a functional health professional, or a weight loss coach. I’m just a gal trying her best to listen to her body and navigate its wellness. Pls do not make major changes to your diet based on this post alone.