I was listening to a podcast by Marc David, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of eating. In the podcast he suggested letter writing as a therapeutic tool – suggesting that the client he was counselling write a letter to her childhood self, to the part of her that felt vulnerable, unsafe, afraid.
I wrote a letter to my younger self on a plane. I wrote this letter to the part of me that found relief in overeating. The part of me that wanted to be thinner. The part of me that was hurting. It feels quite exposing to put this on the blog, but I’m heartened by the way people seem to appreciate the honesty of what me and my mum Jan are trying to do. We’re sharing our stories and our struggles, in the hope that you’ll feel less alone in your journey to eating and feeling well.
Here’s my letter.
Hello my lovely darling,
I wish I could tell you just how much you’re going to learn. How much this journey will transform you, and take you away from all the values you are so tightly holding onto right now. A thin body is a good body. A fat body is a bad body. Your worth does not depend on the size of your trousers, or the way your bones show through your skin, or how appealing your body might be to others.
Your job, on this earth, does not depend on providing an “acceptable” body – to be weighed, measured, starved, criticised, judged, hated, hurt. Your body doesn’t understand these judgements. The deeper wisdom of your body just wants to be, as it is, in this moment. Your body needs to know that it’s OK. That it is loveable. That it deserves to be seen, to be held, just as it is.
The path of control and fear will only get you so far. You’ll need to tread this path because it’s the only one you know right now. But trust me, you’ll learn a new path, and each day you’ll feel more able to make steps towards a gentler way of being a with yourself. This gentleness won’t make you fat. If it did, it wouldn’t even matter anyway, as your body doesn’t mind. But luckily, you can be in a body that others will find appealing. Be careful not to cultivate that side of yourself – the side that wants someone else to approve of your body, your eating, your size. It’s no one’s business but your own.
Having an appealing body is a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to all the women out there who are hurting inside their own personal prisons, a hell of body hatred and judgement. Don’t compete with other women. Don’t even try to “always look your best”. Look yourself.
Surround yourself with people who see the beauty of the soul. Look into people’s eyes. See their story, their wisdom, their joy, their suffering. See how your body, and theirs, are doing the best they possibly can.
Acknowledge your hurts, and be honest about them. Acknowledge your yearning to change your body. Acknowledge that debilitating desire for physical perfection. Acknowledge the rejection you feel, when no one holds your body up as worthy of being seen, admired, celebrated. It will hurt you more if you suppress it.
Remind yourself that you’re learning a new way of seeing yourself and others. It’s OK to slide back into old habits once in a while. You can forgive yourself for that.
You never needed a new body. You needed a new way of seeing yourself and others. You needed to be your own ally, working kindly, lovingly, gently. Encouraging each baby step you took towards becoming more at peace with yourself. Teaching yourself just as you teach others, from the place that loves and accepts the learner unconditionally.
Body of mine, I’m so sorry I hurt you. Body of mine, I’m doing my best. Body of mine, you’re safe now. I love you. Thank you for holding me on this earth.
6th June 2015, on the plane from Oviedo to Barcelona.