I used to call this time of the year “The Season of 1,000 Temptations.” I’d cling tenuously to whatever diet I was on at the time, knowing there’d be a moment when I couldn’t resist temptation any longer, and I’d eventually eat something “bad.”
After that, I’d eat as much as possible until New Year’s Day, promising myself that this next year would be the year I finally got my eating under control.
It never was “the year.” Instead I lived with a constant, overwhelming sense of failure.
I’ve done a lot of incredible things with my life so far, but for almost 30 years too many moments of beauty and joy were scarred or stolen because of my intense self-loathing and believing it was actually dangerous for me to be around food.
This Christmas I’ll spend 10 days with my in-laws in Pittsburgh. My husband’s mother is an excellent cook and there will be a lot of tempting food on offer. I imagine I’ll eat apple pie within an hour of arriving. I won’t even think about how many calories are in it or how much I’ll have to exercise in order to burn it off, or how I’ve “blown” my diet, so I might as well eat with abandon for the rest of the trip.
Instead…I’ll savor that piece of pie, trusting that as long as I listen to my body each and every day, she’ll tell me what she needs. “More sleep, more water, more fruit, more vegetables, those two cookies were delicious, thank you, but I don’t need another.”
For most of my life it has been unthinkable that I might actually be able to look at my body without thinking I’m a disgusting failure of a human being; that I might eventually have a healthy relationship with food, or occasionally overeat and not beat myself up for being human. I lost count of the times I’ve spent in the fetal position praying, “Dear God, please take this away, please!” I felt deeply flawed when it came to my body and food.
It’s taken me almost five years to find the peace I prayed for. I’ve had to look inwards, dig deep and make conscious decisions about what feels right for me. I had to choose to heal the pieces of my life that needed healing.
What I’ve learned is you can forever change your outsides in an attempt to feel whole, but wholeness begins on the inside.
If you want to heal your relationship with your body and food, you can’t skip past the parts of your life that cause discomfort, even though we’re encouraged to avoid uncomfortable feelings and truths. For me this began by sitting with my innocent, eight-year-old self and recognizing her pain.
Having been on nearly every diet in existence, to feel so free at this point in my life brings me to tears some days. I’m also grateful God didn’t magic my pain away. This is my story and now I consider it a gift.
How did I finally get to this place? There are so many ways I could answer that question – doing so has been at the heart of this series – because there were so many steps that brought me to here. However, the most important answer I want to leave you with is I had to stop focusing on what I didn’t want, and start focusing on what I did want. I had to decide I wanted to say “Yes” to healing my relationship with my body and food enough to say “No” to yo-yo dieting and other habits that felt familiar and safe, even though they weren’t working.
I had to find my “bigger yes.”
This isn’t just about your body or food. It’s about your life. Time is passing, even as you read this, and we can never know how much we have left. As we stand on the cusp of a new year, take time to look at your life and rather than looking at what you don’t want, or what you think you “should” want, ask yourself what it is you truly want. Ask, “What’s my bigger yes?” This is how you’ll find the courage to say “No” to all the other things taking up precious space in your life. Sometimes choosing is easy and sometimes choosing is difficult. But this is the most important thing to remember; we get to choose. Find something to run towards, so you can stop running away.
This is the final post for The Pro-Body Project. It’s time to close this chapter with love. My story is of a woman who has made friends with her body and her food and her humanness. However, the story doesn’t end here. It will continue to evolve, and I will share updates on estherzimmer.com/blog. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey, for your comments and for sharing my words and for sending me your personal stories. I’ve been humbled and moved by your trust in me. So many of you told me this series changed your life. It changed mine too.
The concept of the “bigger yes” belongs to Stephen Covey.