When I was in high school, I had an eating disorder. I was a compulsive overeater; I binged as a way to help me cope with what I wasn’t able to feel or deal with emotionally.
But I didn’t know this in high school. I just thought that I was fat and lazy and had a discipline problem with cookies and cereal, and that I just needed to get some CONTROL and lose weight. And THEN I’d be happy.
When I began to gain weight from my eating habits – which, as a teenage girl in southern California, was excruciatingly painful – I felt so much shame, embarrassment, and self-hatred.
I felt like a lazy person who just couldn’t get it together enough to motivate herself to get skinny. I criticized myself all the time, telling myself that if I could just be more disciplined, then I’d be better.
During this time, I also felt totally isolated and alone. I felt like if I told anyone about my “problem”, they’d simply judge me as lazy or undisciplined… exactly the way I was judging myself.
PASTY DIET PILLS
So, instead of talking about it, I just put my poor teenage body through an array of strict diets. One I remember very clearly involved eating nothing but 20 pasty “chocolate” diet pills every other day, while on the “non-pill” days you could eat actually food, but only SUPER healthy food like rice cakes and celery. Needless to say, it was horrible.
However, the worse part by far of my binge-starvation-binge cycle was my ultra harsh, uber critical inner dialogue: “Ughhh. You’re so fat and disgusting. No one will ever like you. I don’t even like you. Why can’t you get your act together? Why can’t you just be skinny like everyone else? What’s wrong with you?”
I remember telling myself that while I wasn’t good enough NOW, once I lost weight (got “skinny”), THEN I’d be happy / get the guy / be popular / have a life.
BUT (and this is a big but) – no matter how many starvation diets I put myself on, no matter how much I criticized myself in an effort to change, no matter how many plans I made to exercise my way to skinny, none of it ever worked.
At some point after high school, I found an unpresuming little book called Overcoming Overeating. Despite it’s boring, very not flashy cover (unheard of in today’s book market!), this book was revolutionary for me: it introduced me to the concept of being kind to myself and accepting myself no matter what.
I remember one chapter talking about our cravings. The authors were saying that if you love chocolate milkshakes and just want a chocolate milkshake, rather than depriving and berating yourself for wanting one, to instead give yourself as many chocolate milkshakes as you want – just don’t berate yourself.
HOLD UP JUST ONE MINUTE THERE, PARTNER… WHAT?!?!?! Not berate myself?
Now you have to understand this: I had always criticized myself for something.
I was either telling myself I was too fat, too shy, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not popular enough, not good enough, etc. (the list was endless). And a that point in my life, I believed that the only way I would ever change was by being strict and demanding with myself, using judgment and criticism as my motivation to change. But the thing was, being critical of myself NEVER helped me get to where I wanted to be. I only grew more depressed and less motivated the more I beat myself up.
SELF-KINDESS IS QUEEN
For the first time ever, I entertained the idea of actually trying to be nice to myself. Like consciously nice!
At first, this was NOT easy. It felt strange and awkward, like learning to rollerblade (oh yes – I’m a product of the 90s). Not to mention extremely FAKE.
But slowly, almost imperceptibly, things inside me began to shift.
Very slowly, I began to feel differently toward myself. I started to actually notice when I was being mean to myself, and then would try on a nicer attitude (this took time). I began to then notice a softening toward myself, from myself. This was huge!!!
In this way, I very slowly began to cultivate a different relationship with myself on the inside. And as a result, my eating habits slowly began to shift, too.
So how is this the backstory for why I decided to become a life coach?
Well, my early challenges with food started me on the 20+ year path of personal growth and inner investigation that I find myself on today.
I know first-hand what it’s like to feel alone, ashamed, isolated, depressed and unsure of how or if I’ll ever “get there”. I also know what it’s like to have a very harsh inner critic, and also how to work with that part so that it doesn’t sabotage my life and my efforts any longer.
TRUTH: We don’t have to criticize ourselves in order make changes in our lives. In fact, it’s much easier (and much more fun) when we love ourselves first!
As Lucille Ball put it, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” AMEN!
OUR WOUNDS ARE OUR MEDICINE
My path with food has definitely been a journey, and a teacher.
I can now honestly say that I feel blessed to have had this challenge as part of my “spiritual curriculum” in this lifetime. For truly, if it wasn’t for what I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I am a life coach now because of my desire to share what I’ve learned about how loving oneself first is a huge key to living a truly fulfilled and fulfilling life, from the inside out.
While the world would have us believe that if we change things on the outside we will then feel differently on the inside (i.e., buy more stuff, make more money, etc), I don’t actually believe this is the case.
When we first make shifts on the inside, we tend to find that things in our “outer” lives shift as well.
Or, as my teachers, succinctly say, “Outer reality tends to mirror our inner experience.”