I used to think being obsessed with food and weight was the worst thing ever.
The shame of it. Seriously, who eats like that? And then, worse still, who doesn’t stop? I mean, I knew I should. For my teeth, if nothing else. And yet. I couldn’t.
The power of the bliss that eating gave me. The release. The take-me-away-from-the-hideousness-of-the-relentless-self-hatred, was to strong. I couldn’t willpower myself out of it. Nor psychotherapy may was through it. I couldn’t rationalise, strategise or kid myself from doing it. It almost killed me.
And yet, here I am, saying it’s a blessing.
That didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken almost ten years from finally stopping (I’m 46 now) to look back and say, all that hideousness was worth something. I wouldn’t give back one binge, one thought of self hatred, one ounce of shame. All those things got me here and I’m good with it.
My recovery started in a small room in LA where I reached the end of my tether. My version of bottoming out was realising I was trying the same thing again and again and again to stop this ludicrousness and it wasn’t ever going to work.
It was time to take an entirely new approach. I was going to have to open my arms and welcome in the beast. It was time to stop trying to stop. To stop trying to fix myself. I was going to have to learn to love all of me instead of waiting for some day in the future when I was better.
The task of learning to love every inch of myself — including bulimia — looked about as possible as understanding Stephen Hawkin’s theories.
I didn’t know if I was up to it. And yet, I knew it was my only chance. I needed to take small steps, to point myself in the direction of love and…keep going.
I did the unthinkable.
First, I decided to eat anything and everything my body desired. I declared, from this moment never to limit or manage my food in the name of weight loss again. I ate with mother fucking abandon. Not in a crazed out of my mind kind of way, but in a juicy, all emotions in, loving way.
I tasted my food. I enjoyed the textures and flavours and beauty of what it was giving me. I turned my attention to the energy, sustenance, vitality. While I ate in this new more nourishing way, I’d tell the voice in my head — you know that critical voice, we all have it — to shut up. I was done listening to it telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat. I vowed to always have enough food on hand so I could eat if I wanted.
This, I came to realise, was an act of self love. And it’s one I’ve never gotten over. It started a chain reaction of choosing love over hate that has allowed me to live free.
Slowly but surely, a strange thing happened. For the first time in 20 years I experienced what it was like to not want to eat. I simply wasn’t interested. Only a compulsive eater can know the victory of that, right? I wasn’t planning, analysing, figuring out when, where and how.
When I stopped fighting, the urge started to fall away.
At the same time I decided to learn how to love my body. I might not like it very much, but hating it was sucking the life out of me. I stood naked in the mirror and connected, properly, with my physical self. I looked at each part in order to find something it was good for, then thank it. Can you imagine doing something so uncomfortable? Truly.
The self-loathing was loud but I was desperate and ready to go to any length.
Thank you legs, for holding me up, running for buses, walking to class etc, even though I’ve done nothing but hate you.
Thank you skin for keeping me together.
Thank you arms for carrying everything you’ve carried for me.
And so it went.
In-between soul wrenching sobs I asked my body to forgive me. Forgive the hatred, the shaming, the negativity I had on repeat. I never knew before that moment what compassion for myself felt like.
These early steps were radically different to what I had ever done. They put me in charge of my own wellbeing and it felt good.
If you can relate to the lonely shame of hating your body, feeling helpless and hopeless, I urge you to take yourself by the hand and invite love in.
Taking on these new, loving practices was a powerful starting point on the road to my recovery. I’d love to say they were an overnight cure, but I’d be doing you a disservice. I didn’t hate myself one day and feel blessed to have had an eating disorder the next.
It took ten years of choosing love over hate to finally see the madness as a blessing.
I skidded and slipped, took two steps forward, tripped one step back, veered left and right. The journey was a riddled with tough lessons and beautiful insights.
As you recover your sense of self worth, please give yourself space to do it imperfectly. You’ll have good days and bad days. You’ll try things that work and things that won’t. Or at least, I did.
Without being bulimic, who knows if I would have done what it took to get where I am now. I love my body, I eat what I want, I take care of myself with compassion and love. Yes my friends, food obsession is a blessing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Emma Wright creates insightful things like books, talks, art, and courses for people who want a creative life and a body they love. She has devoted her life to understanding how human beings operate – and how they can be more fully themselves.
To learn more about Emma, or to check out her new book, LOVE YOUR BODY, CHANGE YOUR LIFE visit emmawright.co.nz.