Perfect Imperfection

Last week, I was looking online for the perfect photograph to use as a background on my computer.  I found a shot of a lake surrounded by snow dusted mountains.  The mountains were ragged and brown.  The lake sat haphazardly at the bottom of the scene and dark clouds loomed over it, allowing only a few slivers of light to shimmer on the water.  I wondered what made this picture seem so beautiful.

Nothing in the scene was painstaking.  I mean, the snow didn’t worry about where it landed.  The mountains didn’t discuss where they thought it would be best to rise out of the earth, and they didn’t agonize about the shape of their peaks.  And the clouds didn’t care that they blocked out most of the sun.  The photographer took the perfect photo, but what the camera captured was imperfection.  And yes, these are inanimate objects, and I am, well, I’m human, but that landscape is proof to me that beauty in nature, including our bodies, is perfect in its imperfection.

I used to aspire to have the perfect body.  I thought I could control exactly how it looked by going to the gym and following the latest diet.  But no matter how hard I tried, it never looked the way I wanted.  And the harder I worked to get it to fit my ideas of perfection, the more out of control I became.  Like many women, this was one of my main thoughts day and night, and it led to bouts of depression, anxiety, bingeing and for some years, purging.

By the time I began my binge free journey a couple years ago, I had already been through body image therapy.  I can remember how agonizing it was for me and all the women in the group to say even one nice thing about some part of our bodies.  I was relieved when the course was over.

For a long time after that, I tried hard to love my body.  But no matter how hard I tried, that did not happen.  I couldn’t make myself love it, just like I couldn’t make myself love a person I didn’t respect.  But once I began to nourish myself and not restrict foods, something in my psyche shifted and I decided it was time to respect my body.

I began by appreciating what it did for me.  I started with things we take for granted, like -my lungs expand and contract allowing air to enter my body, my blood gets infused with oxygen, my heart beats and distributes that blood through my body, then my cells use the oxygen rich blood to nourish themselves.  How amazing is that?!  I don’t have to force my heart to beat and I don’t have to remind myself to breath, (well sometimes I hold my breath, but you get the gist, breathing is natural!)

I couldn’t make this process happen if I tried, its automatic.  And the body does much more work at a deeper level.  So much more that scientists don’t fully understand everything our body is capable of.

This awareness that my body functions pretty darn well without me having to tell it what to do, helped me to trust it to eat when I needed to.  And once I ate with no guilt or shame, I became aware of true hunger cues.  This took patience and practice, and it was imperfect.  But it happened.

My body may have lumps and bumps, but it has kept me alive even when I tried to force it into someone else’s mold.  It is imperfect perfection in its function and design and I appreciate every inch of it.  It is the representation of me on this earth.  And whether it is thin or fat or in between, I love it enough to present it to the world in the best way I can, but I respect it enough to allow it to look and function the way it was meant to.  And most of all, I don’t worry about what other people think about it.

“I believe there is perfection in our flaws, grace in our missteps and beauty in everything that surrounds us. I am perfect in my humanness, no matter what it looks like.” MD

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Trying Too Hard?

Just before I entered fifth grade, my family moved to a new city.  It was summertime, no school was in session.  I was an only child and a little shy, so I didn’t make friends right away.  But my parents encouraged me to go out and play and find new friends.  I came back, day after day, having met no one and feeling dejected.  My mom asked me why I hadn’t met any kids and I lashed out with, “But I’m TRYing.”  She just said, “Maybe you’re trying too hard.”

My mom was right, I was trying too hard.  I have tried too hard my whole life.  I struggled with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, bulimia, and bingeing.  All through those battles I would declare in exasperation, “But I’m TRYing!” Just like a dejected fifth grader.

Even with the knowledge that I made lots of mistakes, though, I don’t regret anything I experienced to get where I am today.  I’m just happy I am here now in this moment.  Of course all the good stuff happened when I stopped trying so hard.  And to stop trying so hard, I had to acquire a new mindset.

This mindset is based on the knowledge that I am valuable simply because I exist.  For me, as a Christian, the realization that God endows every human being with the same dignity, gave me the strength to begin to trust myself and understand my worth.  My genetics, my background, my character –none of these affect my value as a person.

From this foundation, I can simply build the life I want to live.  And by ‘simply’, I don’t mean easy, I mean uncomplicated -that I don’t need to force things to happen.  Knowing  I am worthy makes the process of doing the right thing natural.  I become responsible for my actions and add meaning to my life when I learn to respect myself.

This doesn’t mean I am perfect.  It means I am okay with being me and I accept myself. This, in turn, frees up space in my psyche that was previously used for self-bashing.  And with the extra room in my brain, I can concentrate on making the changes necessary to enhance my life.

Can I learn how to feel valuable when I feel like a failure and do the same stupid things over and over again?

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know I believe wholeheartedly that we can learn just about anything.  So, yes, knowing your value can be learned.  Let me rephrase that –you can unlearn all the bad stuff that obscures your feelings of worthiness.  Everyone is born with self-esteem and a knowledge of their worth.  When we were babies, we were never too embarrassed to cry when hungry, and we learned to walk without giving a second thought to what our thighs looked like or wondering if anyone was talking about us behind our back.  So, the foundation is already there.  Just be honest with yourself about what it means to be a worthy person.

One thing which can be unlearned is believing what others have said about you or to you.  It’s easy to believe someone when they keep telling you how bad you are.  If you had a troubled childhood, it’s easy to believe that what happened to you defines you as a person.  But you don’t have to believe that these things define you.  You can create your own truth.  And your truth is more real than what anyone says about you or how anyone treated you in the past.

When I went through this process, I had to come to terms that my truth had nothing to do with my looks, talent, or accomplishments.  The world uses these things as indicators of value.  But don’t confuse these with your worth.  Your truth and value stands on its own, regardless of your looks, talent, successes or failures.

And if you think you don’t have any accomplishments or talents or beauty, that will change when you see yourself as a worthy human being.  Once I gained the knowledge of my value, I no longer felt like I didn’t ‘fit in’ and was able to stop trying so hard to do just that.  I made positive changes since there was no reason to keep myself down.  I was no longer second rate and began to accept the weird stuff in my life.  I now know that my dignity, as a human being, is no more or less than any other person on this earth.

This does not mean that everyone is the same.  We are each valuable in unique ways. That’s the beauty of knowing our worth. We can share our uniqueness without worrying about what everyone else thinks.  We can help make our lives, and the lives of others, better.  We can stop trying so hard.

Read more about overcoming binge eating:     Binge Free- The Beginning                                                                                                                   Binge Free- First Steps

“Even if I didn’t believe in God, I would have a good case for the significance of life.  We are all made from the same stuff as the universe. Who am I to think that I am any less than anyone else, or even the universe?” MD

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Our Functional Lies

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.” MDcut out advanced

Binge Free – The Beginning

I used to be hungry all the time. My hunger wasn’t about food, but I used food to try to satisfy it. Nothing filled it up. No matter how much food I stuffed down my throat, there was no satisfaction, nothing to tell me that I’d had enough. It’s like when a light switch doesn’t work and you want to go to sleep, but can’t turn off the bright light. A pathway in my brain said, Feed me, but never switched off to say, Ok, that’s enough.  Another part of me would say, Stop eating, but it was a condemning voice that said..

“You are such an idiot, why do you do this to yourself, you are such a loser.”

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I ate even more to quell that voice. The more I ate, the guiltier I felt.  Still hungry, I told myself, I’ll just eat everything I want now and make up for the extra calories tomorrow by eating less or exercising more.  That is what I wanted to do, but never did, at least not for more than a few days.

For years, I would get home from work and stand in my pantry and devour everything I could find until I felt so sick I had to vomit to get some relief.  When I didn’t vomit, I laid on my bed and berated myself and swore that tomorrow I would eat properly.  Sometimes I looked at diets or food plans online, printing lists of acceptable foods to eat. With raised spirits, I told myself, I can do this!  I’d get up in the morning with a new outlook, drink an instant breakfast, eat salad for lunch and make plans for a healthy dinner.  All the while counting those nasty little calories.  But when I got home, I would overeat or binge and start the ‘guilt, self-loathing’ cycle all over again.

One day I realized that the voice accusing me and telling me I was a malfunctioning person could be wrong.  Instead of my whole persona being flawed, maybe my thinking was just incorrect. So I thought….

Maybe the thoughts I have about being defective don’t really mean that I am defective. Maybe the thoughts are flawed. Having flawed thoughts does not make me a flawed person. I feel like I am defective down to the core of my being most of the time. But just because I feel a certain way doesn’t make me that way. I feel like I don’t fit in with most ‘normal people’. But what if I’m wrong about that? Maybe I am really a good person and I’m just telling myself I am bad because of all the crap I went through as a kid or because my brain is shaped a certain way or my DNA has an extra chromosome or some other reason I don’t even know of.  Maybe I have just convinced myself that I am different from ‘normal people’, especially when it comes to eating. And maybe I don’t feel like I fit in with others because I am telling myself I don’t fit in. And maybe I can change those thoughts. Maybe?

With this new idea, I realized that breaking out of the spiral of overeating-binging-loathing-dieting-overeating did not have to be about changing my eating behavior.  To break a cycle, only one thing needs to be changed, and who said it has to be your eating behavior?  A big part of the binge eating cycle is guilt and self loathing associated with overeating. My thinking continued…

 “What if I could change my thoughts instead of my eating behavior? Eating does not HAVE to make me feel guilty. I choose to feel guilty when I eat too much or eat a forbidden food. And if I have a choice to feel guilty, I also have the choice to NOT feel guilty. I don’t have to berate myself.”

I thought, like most Americans, that if I could diet and lose weight, I would be healthier and happier.  It makes sense; dieting leads to weight loss which leads to feeling good about myself which leads to no bingeing.  The trouble was, it never worked that way for me.  I would drop a few pounds, start feeling good about losing weight, then eat a donut in a weak moment and end up sick from raiding the refrigerator.  Then on to a bingeing episode which could last months. I asked myself…

“What if I could get out of this cycle by stopping the guilt and self-loathing part instead of trying to diet or change my eating behavior? How would this work?”

I stopped binging the very first day I began to think and say out loud, the thoughts below. Stopping bingeing is the easy part.  Learning how to live a better life and accept who you are takes more work.  But it is worth it. And you can do it!

I will not feel guilty for any eating behavior, that includes overeating and bingeing.
• I will not feel guilty eating any type of food. All foods are good.
• I will not think about restricting any food.
• I can eat what I want today, later today, tomorrow, next week, next year, for the rest of my life.
• I never have to diet or restrict food again.
• I will not judge myself based on my body size or my eating.
• I will eat what I want, when I want, in the amount I want.
• I will not make myself eat anything I do not want.
• No matter what I eat, I will always plan on still eating whatever I want at the next meal or the next time I want food.
• I will not plan to restrict food or exercise to ‘make up’ for eating now.
• If I eat too much and become uncomfortable, I will take note how it made me feel physically, but I will not berate myself or feel guilty or bad for eating.
• I will stop using words like fattening, sinful or decadent in regard to food.
• I will not count calories or macros or fat grams or anything else associated with controlling my food intake.

It took me about a year to understand that eating like this was more important than losing weight.   Losing weight has always been my main focus.  And to that end, I tried to eat what someone else said I should eat by following diets and food plans.  But when I began to trust my body and eat what I wanted, it didn’t take long for my body to start to repair itself and begin wanting healthier foods naturally.

I gained a few pounds at first, but after a year, my weight is inching down. The weight doesn’t matter that much, though.  What matters is, after many years of bingeing and restricting, I now eat whatever I want and I don’t eat anything I don’t want.  I am strong and healthy and my body is adjusting its weight to reflect that.  I don’t force myself to eat a healthy meal to get some dessert.  If I want dessert only, I eat the dessert.  I put no restrictions on food or eating.  My meals are typically healthier than they have ever been, not because I force myself to eat well, but because I naturally want to eat well.  Sometimes I still have cravings, but usually they are for things like chef salad, ice-cold watermelon, or hot homemade soup.

Are you ready to be binge free? Take Action.

If I did this, you can too!

“I don’t need to compare myself to others.  The space I occupy on this earth is just right for me.  No one else can fit into it and I cannot fit into anyone else’s space.  I will strive to be my best, but will always appreciate who I am and where I am right now.” MD

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