I remember being shaky in the early days. Food had such a grip on me. Sometimes it’s terrifying to surrender, to try something new, even if your old way feels broken and what you’ve been doing never really worked at all.
When I first quit dieting there were days when I ate and ate. I’d binged in the past but this wasn’t bingeing. I was allowing myself to eat food groups I’d previously eliminated and to eat whatever and whenever I liked. I was scared, but for some reason I trusted a small, strong voice inside, telling me this was what I needed to do to move beyond demonizing certain foods and my “all or nothing” mentality.
This is one of the hardest and most important things I’ve done in my life.
In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t put on more weight than a few extra pounds. Whilst I may have trusted I was doing the right thing, I still stood in front of my full-length mirror every morning – just as I’d done for years – holding my own flesh in my hands and silently screaming obscenities at it.
My self-loathing felt black, and there was a thickness to it that scared me far more than my relationship with food ever had.
I knew deep inside if I were to ever truly change my relationship with food, I would need to change my relationship with my body. I knew that would require me to change the way I thought about and spoke to myself, and I’d have to surrender old ideas and stories about who I was. I would need to find a way to look at my body with new eyes.
I had no idea where to begin.
Several days later a large envelope arrived in the post. My mother had sent me some old family photographs. Amongst them I found a picture of myself: I was innocent and red-cheeked and just a few months old. I knew immediately what I would do with it. I felt ridiculous, but I taped that photograph to my mirror and told myself that any hatred I was directing at myself, I was also directing at her.
I also apologized. I said aloud, “I’m sorry.” I said sorry to all the selves I’d ever been but especially to that baby girl on my mirror who was a younger version of the woman I saw in the mirror. I apologized for everything I’d done to cause her pain and for all the horrible things I’d ever said. With tears streaming down my face, I promised I would love her.
I no longer have that photograph taped to my mirror. I don’t need it anymore because somewhere along the way, my love grew far stronger than my hate.
Sometimes what our bodies are really longing for is our compassion and grace, our unconditional love, not less food and more exercise. Would you speak to your children or your grandchildren the way you speak to yourself? To quote Alanis Morissette, “To whom do I owe the biggest apology? No one’s been crueler than I’ve been to me.”
The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the first entry here.