I am realising that my relationship with food and my body, can, at times, be a very fearful one.
I have just returned from a lovely weekend at home with my family, which was beautiful. Clean food, beautifully prepared with love – I am so lucky.
But I must admit that just being around such abundance, such yumminess, such a wide variety of delicious things is both extremely enticing and frightening at the same time.
I am afraid.
I am afraid that, even if I don’t overeat, just having all this lovely food around me will make me fat.
I am afraid that I’m not able to trust myself with the leftovers in the fridge.
I am afraid that now I will have to spend a few weeks cutting back, eating as little as possible, to compensate for my indulgence.
I am afraid that I won’t be able to do that, and on the contrary, the very thought of restriction will send me into a circus of craving.
I am afraid that others will notice my indulgence and deem me less worthy because my clothes might be a little tighter. I am already noticing my own self judgement creep in.
I am afraid that I will never be able to trust myself to self-regulate.
I am afraid that I will always turn to food.
I am afraid that people will read this and think I’m… I don’t know. What are you thinking of me? Why should I care so deeply?
Wouldn’t it be easier to hide away, and put all this food and body stuff into a nice box, labelled “private”? I thought that today, as I promoted Wednesday’s group on Facebook – here I am, loudly and proudly, hosting a support group for compulsive overeaters, because, surprise surprise, I AM A COMPULSIVE OVEREATER and tonight I have just COMPULSIVELY OVEREATEN!
To be honest, I don’t really want “Emily Holden” and “support group for disordered eaters” to be associated with one another. I am rejecting this part of my truth. I am rejecting my fellow group members, who come week after week, gently sharing their truth in our safe space.
What does that say about me, about us?
It would be so much easier to share a selfie of me doing a yoga pose while drinking a green juice. Of me grinning with my students after a particularly good lesson. Of me holding a ceremony to celebrate my sister’s pregnancy. And of course I might share these things – have a look at my profile picture – it’s a holiday picture with my beloved.
But we are not just the light. We are the dark. I am both deeply satisfied, and deeply dissatisfied, with the many different aspects that make up my life. I am deeply grateful for the awareness I have gained over the years which has helped me to develop a better understanding of how to feed myself. I am also deeply frustrated with the fact that I am not yet “done”. There is no end to the ways I can forgive myself. There is no end to my practice of self-compassion. There is no final moment when I can stop paying attention to how my body feels, and how best to meet my needs. This is the nature of life, of having a body, of learning new behaviour despite many years of habitual stuffing down of feelings. This is my imperfect reality.
I am choosing to notice when I pour shame on my eating or on my body. When I do that, I inadvertently pour shame on your body and your eating too. If I pride myself on being a compassionate and understanding person, that journey begins with me. I cannot say “oh, it’s fine for others to overeat, I would never judge them, but when I do it, it’s completely unacceptable” or “I would never judge anyone else for being overweight, but if I put on a few pounds, I completely reject my body, and hate myself.” We cannot pretend that these self-judgements have no impact, even sub-consciously, on the people around us – our children, our colleagues, our friends.
If you are feeling fearful after an Easter period of overeating, I hear you, and I feel you. I feel that fear that you hold in your heart. I hold it in mine too. We can forgive ourselves. We can embrace our truth. We don’t need to hide.
An affirmation for today: I live without shame. I live my truth unapologetically.
It’s a big ask. Gently does it.