Michelle struggled with weight gain, junk food addiction, binge eating, and emotional eating which quickly turned obsessive and toxic.
The diet rabbit hole
Everywhere you look, someone is telling you to lose weight and the way to do that is by going on a diet. I could list all the types of diets but then I would run out of room! From a young age, I was convinced that I had to be thin to be beautiful. Everything I looked at said so. Even the girls that the boys wanted at school had the body I "should" have. As a child, I was encouraged to eat more and more. Nobody taught me how to portion control or mind calories. The recommended fruits and veggies were not consumed. My body and mind got used to high-fat and high-calorie meals. I knew nothing about how to have a healthy relationship with food and all diets told me was what NOT to eat. Lists of allowed and not allowed. Don't eat after a certain time. Don't eat anything white. Don't, don't, don't. I would weigh my servings religiously, journal my eating habits and count my calories. Every time I tried a diet, it backfired and my life became a tornado of negative emotions and depression. Falling down the diet rabbit hole worsened my binge eating struggles, my emotional eating, and my junk food addiction. I would suffer through "withdrawals", have tantrums, and cry in the middle of cookie aisles. My entire life revolved around food. Trying to lose weight became a horrible obsession - a toxic obsession. I was constantly thinking about my next meal, about what I couldn't eat, and what the scale said after a day. When I slipped, I became hateful towards myself. I put myself down, criticized myself and binge ate to feel better. It was a vicious cycle of constant disappointment. I spent many hours and days researching diets and food habits to try and teach myself how to look at food in a healthier way. It quickly became confusing to me with all the different opinions and tips. I felt dizzy and had no idea which way to turn. Every path I seemed to take landed me in a worse state than when I began.
I turned to Instagram for motivation
Make a vision board of what you want to stay disciplined in order to achieve your dreams. That's what they say, so it's what I did. I went on Instagram and followed fitness trainers, weight loss accounts, and bodies I deemed beautiful. If I surrounded myself with thinner bodies then it would motivate me to keep working hard and push through the pain. It would be all worth it. That was the plan but not much ever goes to plan and mine wasn't any different. My vision boards weren't inspiring me, they just reminded me of what I wasn't and how far I had to go to achieve those bodies if I ever even got there. The images deepened my hatred for my own body. They made me feel ugly because they were put on pedestals. They made me believe that if I didn't look like that, I was not worthy.
I am DONE trying to lose weight
I felt out of control. I felt lost. I felt powerless. I was sick and tired of living my life based on the size of my body. I was tired of hating myself. I was tired of failing. The more I thought about my situation, the more I realized that for me, it wasn't as simple as working out and following a diet. In doing so, I was ignoring the reasons why my eating disorders even existed. I ignored the fact that my relationship with food directly mirrored my emotions, my fears, my mindsets, and beliefs. I failed to see that my mindset towards body image and beauty was distorted. I just got to a point where I forgot why I even wanted to lose weight in the first place. I was miserable. I spent 20 years trying to be skinny. After all this time, I wasn't any skinnier and I wasn't happy. Two summers ago, I was talking to myself as I do regularly and thought, I love to eat. I don't like restrictions. I don't enjoy working out. If I want to lose weight, I need to be more disciplined with eating. If I don't diet, I won't lose weight. Well, I guess I'll just have to accept that I will be chubby forever!
There's room to heal!
Giving up on trying to lose weight was like giving up on quitting smoking, it freed up my mind to focus on the real problems; lack of self-love; trauma healing; self-worth. Instead of wishing for a smaller body, I chose every day to look at myself and notice the beautiful things I already had. I made the conscious choice to accept my body for what it was, my home. When I stopped obsessing over what I wasn't allowed to eat, it stopped the obsession of, "I need to have it now and need to overeat because I don't know when I'll have this next!", allowing me to gain more control over my binge and emotional eating. I was able to delay my cravings knowing that what I wanted would always be there. I was allowed to have it, therefore, giving me the freedom to make a healthier choice. When the cravings are real bad, I embrace the binging episode. I allow myself to live it and once it's done, I move on. I don't shame or guilt myself. Binge and emotional eating to me are like depression and anxiety, there's no cure but it is manageable. Removing the food obsession also gave me room to focus on stress management and emotion awareness without relying on food to relieve them but using different coping methods like breathing techniques, gratitude practices, and mindfulness. Eventually, as I kept healing my mind, I was able to look at fitness from a health viewpoint and not something I HAD to do to be skinny. Just like I stopped following diets, I stopped obsessing over workout routines and focused on what worked for me. I unfollowed all those fitness accounts and moved my focus on my own body instead of trying to look like someone else. Now, I work out to relieve my sciatica and low back pain. I work out to build strength. I work out to have more energy for my kids. I work out to keep my heart healthy. I work out to better myself, aesthetic excluded. After a while of settling into a weight training workout routine, I noticed my body changing. I have been watching my body tone up and get stronger and you know what? It looks nothing like the body I yearned for all this time! My number on the scare has actually gone up due to muscle building. I am still not skinny but I don't care anymore because I love myself regardless and know that my worth doesn't rely on a number or perfect tight skin. I know that I am beautiful exactly as I am. I am also enjoying food again; I am outgoing again; I am HAPPY again. I never thought I would ever say that or genuinely feel it. I am actually crying right now because I can truly say that I am happy in this body. I am happy being me, cushiony stomach, stretch marks, mental illnesses, and eating disorders included! I have a lifetime of healing but for the first time in a long freaking time, tomorrow brings me hope.
© 2021 Michelle Brady