Recovering from binge eating is not unlike recovering from an addiction. Even though I don’t believe binge eating falls into the addiction category (here’s why), I do recognize that there are underlying beliefs and attitudes common to both. The one I want to focus on today is truth. Or rather lying. It’s not truth that is the problem, it’s the lies we tell to cover up the truth, to disguise ourselves from reality.
Some of us, myself included, believe our own lies. We become so adept at telling them, we forget there is a truth. Lying becomes a thing we must do to make ourselves more valuable or at least less shameful. You may impress someone with a lie, but once you speak it, trust is broken down. You can’t build a relationship on lies or half-truths. And you can’t trust yourself when you don’t know what the truth really is. So, how do we get out of this maze?
You must first recognize you have a problem. I’m not talking about your overeating problem. You already recognized that or your wouldn’t be reading this blog. But think about the kind of lies you tell others or yourself, not just deceitful lies, but your functional lies. These can be lies about your feelings, needs and desires. They can be lies about your past or even about not being hungry and pushing your plate away when you really want to finish that pasta. We use these lies to prevent shame or enhance our standing in someone else’s eyes. We use them to trick ourselves into believing we are okay or are doing the right thing.
I used to tell the story that I learned how to swim because my dad pushed me off a dock into a deep lake when I was seven years old. In reality, I took swimming lessons the summer I was seven. I also used to tell people that I went to Catholic school from first through twelfth grade. Actually, I only went to parochial school for a few years. But, to me, it just sounded more impressive to say otherwise.
These lies were innocuous. They were not bad or dangerous, but they reinforced a sense in me that I was not enough as I was. I had to constantly think of enhancements to my story to keep people interested. And the more I told these lies, the easier it was to weave a tapestry of a false life.
Once you start this, it eventually becomes second nature to hide events and thoughts and feelings from others. You may even be convinced that you are protecting them. But this is an arrogant position to function from, as if you think you are smarter or have a greater depth of being than everyone around you. You convince yourself you must lie so that others will not make false assumptions about you, because they would never understand and accept you if you told them the truth, right?
In this type of existence, you may feel lost and empty, you don’t know what you want out of life because you cannot accept yourself for who you are. In my case, this led to harsh scrutiny of my body. I didn’t have very close relationships with other stable people and instead of examining my interactions with them, I blamed my outward appearance. I looked for diets and food plans to keep me on track and when these failed, I became bulimic. Even after overcoming bulimia, I was still obsessed with food and body issues, for many years, to a point of malfunction.
And really, all the suffering I put myself through over the years was only caused because I believed the biggest lie of all – that I was not good enough just the way I was.
“I am not concerned what others think about me, I am concerned what God thinks about me.” MD