Eating Life Series: I just don’t want to be fat {sad} anymore.

Photo: Google Images.

Photo: Google Images.

This is a F*ck-It moment—

I bought a one-way ticket on the Get Skinny Bandwagon during the early days of my double-digits. I’ve gotten on and off this train to varying extents up until this very breath.

I really had no idea what I was doing all those years ago when I bought that damn ticket, but I do remember thinking, heck, who doesn’t want to look better? Given a tragic childhood and without much thought about my deeper desires, at the tender age of 12, I was definitely up for discovering a way to feel love.

If all I had to do was lose weight in order to feel happy, accepted and loved by my self and others, I was all in.

Like many of us, when I made the decision to go on a diet, I was nowhere close to being overweight. I wasn’t even a little chubby. I was just misguided but more than that and without knowing it, I was looking to a cure to my broken heart and all the pent up, insatiable sadness and anger.

Dieting became my mission and offered some stimulation from what felt like a mundane life.

It allowed me to assign blame to something for all the pain I carried. It gave me an element of control versus the unpredictable and seemingly uncontrollable pains of my past: abandonment, rejection and death.

Losing weight felt like hopeful promises. It felt like a way out.

At that age, although I journaled a lot, I wasn’t able to explore the depths of how I felt. There was too much pain to muddle through and there was so much that I didn’t understand, so I avoided everything in my pain’s radius. This meant, that I couldn’t truly tap into a deeper healing process that I knew existed.

I also limited my expression. I would never allow myself to go beyond my creative limits because I knew that if I wanted to truly express what was within me, I had to rummage through all that shit and I simply did not want to feel it or relive any of it. I did not know how to access that space without feeling like it would kill me or even worse — change me in a horrific way.

I knew no other way.

Over the course of many years I dabbled with restricting and bingeing. 

I truly had no idea what it meant to be healthy, probably like most teenagers. Not to mention my family was seriously dysfunctional and low-income. Throughout my childhood and high school, I lived off of things like Pepsi, hot fudge sundaes, Skittles, Pizza Hut, Wheatables, Arby’s, Little Debbies, Burger King and the school’s vending machines.

Dieting to me wasn’t about eating the right food groups. Not at all. It was only about weight loss.

I remember the first time I realised my weight in pounds.

I was thirteen. I was getting a physical for school. In the lobby of the medical facility some of the girls I knew were discussing their number. We didn’t have a scale at home, so I was intrigued as to how important this was to everyone. I was glued. All of us were shy or embarrassed to reveal our weight to our little group, and the horrible thing was that each and every one of us young little things thought our weight was too high.

How did we know to be embarrassed about our weight? How did we come to those conclusions? We are indeed sensitive and impressionable creatures, but that’s another story.

This experience only sprinkled water on the seed that had already been planted.

When I was 12, I started to exercise ridiculously. When I did, I’d do it for full afternoons and I’d drink gallons of water in a single day. I wasn’t taught an exercise regime and I didn’t have any VHS tapes, so I just made up my own routines. I’d run in place, jumping jack and grape-vine my little ass off for hours.

I seriously loved it. It was a release and it made me feel so good.

I started exercising after experiencing the second death of a family member who raised me (both of their deaths were only years apart). It was during this time that my relationship with food changed.

I was raised on sugary junk food — as most of us experience, it was offered to me often as treats and with sentiments of love. After both of their deaths, I wanted desperately to keep the love they gave me inside as no one else was offering it. So I started to eat my emotions.

I craved all the crappy junk food my grandparents raised me on. I believe in ways it was me trying to feel them and their love and trying to fill a gaping hole with them gone. It was the only tool I knew, aside from exercising, that made me feel good. It (they) made me feel whole.

Over time I realised that I could eat more than usual from time to time or that I could eat a bunch of sugary stuff, and that it would numb my emotions or fill me up when I felt emotionally empty or stressed. I also knew that I could exercise it all off the next day.

Slowly, the seeds that I planted grew and blossomed into a full-blown patterned field of restricting, sugar bingeing and over-exercising — all in the name of anti-emotional feeling.

***

The summer I officially got on that train, I was close to fifteen. I was petite at nearly 5’3″ and weighed a healthy 124 pounds. I wasn’t too skinny, but in fact curvy and definitely nowhere near fat.

Over the course of that summer, I took all the previous years of experience, cranked them up to a destructive and extreme level and within less than 3 months I shed over 20 pounds. I wasn’t the only one.

That summer and for a couple of years after, I used the buddy system. I’d share my day with a friend who was on the same track. We’d give each other ideas and inspiration for how little to eat, how to redeem a cheating day, what was low in calories, when to skip meals — all the tips and tricks for staying on track. It kept me motivated and excited to keep going.

Today will be a good day to make up for yesterday. Only water. It will be a good day.

I did ridiculous things like eating only on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. I had days where I only ate low-fat, high sugar candies or marshmallows. Cherry-flavored Laffy Taffy was one of my favourites. I had days where I only drank hot chocolate or sweet tea, and then there was the exercising.

As I mentioned, I have always loved to move, dance, run around and play, but with my mission to burn calories and lose weight, I went over the top.

Over that one summer I’d go to cheerleading (yeah, that’s right) practice 3-4 times per week for 2-3 hours. I’d then go home and wrap myself in garbage bags (I learned this from my high school wrestling friends), hide them under a sweat suit and I’d run at least a mile or two around the neighbourhood — the hotter the temperature outside, the better.

I’d come home from cheering at a basketball game on Friday night and do an hour of high-energy aerobics while my other family members slept. I would have kept going. I would have kept losing weight if it wasn’t for one teacher who pulled me aside.

She had big loving brown eyes. One day she grabbed me gently by the arm during half-time and pulled me away from my friends.

She put her hand on my shoulder, and lovingly looked me straight in the eyes and said: Please don’t lose anymore weight. Okay? 

I responded: Okay.

I have no idea how or why it affected me the way that it did, but I listened to her. I suppose if I wanted someone to acknowledge me, there it was. I didn’t lose anymore weight. I was by no means completely cured from the madness I was creating inside of me, but I didn’t lose anymore.

There was something intelligent and connected working inside of me, holding the pieces of me together — more than I realised (even now). This was the part of me that listened to her, those brown eyes, that teacher, that Earth angel.

I never fully developed anorexia and I never tried vomiting or pills. Although my methods became less and less extreme over time, I did, however, create a destructive imprint that for the rest of my life I would have to deal with: a counter-productive relationship with food as a method for not dealing with my emotions and stress combined with the fear of losing control.

***

To this day, I look back and I can see and feel all the times I’ve cleaned my body and mind out until I’ve reached that dark door that stunk of death and despair. I’ve kept that door air-tight shut and locked for most of my life. It’s like a one-ton bank vault, that damn door.

When I’m consciously working to reach that space, I’ll find it and before I know it, I’ll be running for the hills or craving cupcakes.

There are other times when I’ll linger around that door — typically when I’m feeling raw, desperate, stressed or sad. It gives me justification and these are the times when I feel myself wanting to fill all that space with sugary carbs or nothing at all.

anorexia

After high school, the freedom to eat when and what I wanted was almost overwhelming.

My massive student loans allotted me a meal card, which to me was insane. I was able to open myself up to healthier choices, simply because they were available. I naturally started to clean up my diet, but still, as did my peers, chose to consume the more usual college-esque type of food on the weekends — Taco Bell, pizza and bread sticks, Wendy’s, etc., especially if I was hung over.

For years I had become very aware of how and what the women around me ate. I watched what they chose, how they ate it and the feelings — the unconscious verbal justifications that would come out before, during or after a meal. I can tell you, I was never ever the only female eating emotionally or thinking about my weight and how what I was consuming would impact it.

Some of my very brave and courageous girlfriends have shared with me what they have tried over the years in order to lose weight. Here’s what they said:
  1. I substituted coffee for meals.

  2. I tried only eating raw vegetables.

  3. I tried eating only one thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner for as many days as I could manage.

  4. The list I haven’t tried is probably shorter.

  5. I ate 300-500 calories per day in addition to working out each day. I did lose about 20 lbs in a month, then, needless to say, gained it all back!

  6. I purged my entire freshman year of college.

  7. I tried eating nothing but cereal everyday.

  8. I’ve tried having nothing but shakes for an entire month.

  9. I’ve tried a food diary plus Weight Watchers, diet pills and just about any fad diet you’ve heard of.

  10. I’ve starved myself for as long as I possibly could.

And, why did you do it?

  1. I thought I was fat.I thought if I lost some weight, I’d be better looking and I’d find someone.

  2. I felt like losing weight at the time was the right thing to do.

  3. It seemed ‘right’ to want to be skinnier—although I didn’t really understand why.

  4. I couldn’t accept myself as I was and everyone seemed to be wanting to get ‘thin’.

  5. I got this idea to lose weight and once I started I couldn’t stop myself.

  6. Because my roommate was rail thin and I felt awful that I wasn’t.

  7. I was looking for a way to feel better.

  8. I was looking for a way to get healthy and thought I had to make an extreme move before that could happen.

  9. I’ve always felt overweight.

  10. I just didn’t like my body at the time.

I know all of these ladies and they all come in unique and beautiful packages. Not a single one of them is overweight — and not one of them ever was. All have felt influenced by others or by their own desire to find self-love and acceptance.

We’re never alone. Ever.

The transition has been so, so difficult.

We all hold an astounding intelligence within our bodies, that we are barely conscious of. We innately hold both the poison and the healing elixir.

I truly believe that we all have exactly what it takes to deal and heal. This comes with a caveat; we aren’t in control of everything and not everything manifests or happens as we imagined or thought it would and could, but it does arrive exactly how it should.

For my own healing process to have even begun (it is still happening) I had to find a way to open that door, to be open to feeling and even more so to release what I have been holding onto for years and all the destructive ways I’ve interpreted it.

I also had to seriously work on my courage — to share, to express and to not be afraid of what I’d find behind that door or the many other doors that were behind it.

This is not and has not been easy, as the mind is so loyal to all its habits and very creative in the ways it keeps us doing what it has always done. I’ve had to go down lots of other paths, that were the same but packaged in a different way and still led me to the same blockages.

So how does one get out of the maze before the maze eats one alive? 

There is an abundance of external tools waiting to be experimented with. They are there for us to explore what works best for us and they help to reveal the mere tip of the iceberg. They are a hall pass, a key to unlock the doors that lead to our own inner healer and healing.

These tools, whatever they are, only point to the path — the path that only you know how to walk, experience and share.

In other words, only you hold all of the answers to you.

Re-birthing yourself with food.

I’ve realised throughout my experience that I could not just magically fix or detox my body back into feeling healthy, but that there are other planes to be considered — emotionally and spiritually.

Talk about starting over with a clean slate and completely resetting the dial to zero, but after about a million different attempts, I’ve realised that I have to consider all parts of me and not just burn out one aspect. For me, that was the physical body.

My rekindled relationship to nourishment will come in the next article (note: it is a work in progress — aren’t we all?!), but I’ll finish by saying that from a young age, I learned and taught myself a method of dealing with my emotions through food and I took it out on my physical body — in excess and lack thereof and as they say: old habits die-hard and it took me a lot of trial and error.

But I kept going.

***

By learning to deeply nourish myself with food and through the practice of yoga, I’ve discovered a way that allowed me to organically love myself, to let go and to really feel on a level I never thought possible.

I’m still in this process.

When we gain the ability to make choices that are truly nourishing both physically, emotionally and spiritually, we unlock doors, we let go and we become a little more free.

Stay tuned for more from the Eating Life Series.

 

*****

{Healthy is Beautiful}

 

 

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Tanya Lee Markul
Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Rebelle Society (you are here). She’s convinced that she once swam the depths of the deepest ocean and in the next round, grew over two hundred feet tall. In this life, she’s a vulnerable creation in process. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & a Master’s in Business. In 2009, surrendering to the good fight within, she became a certified teacher of yoga. Now a full-time devoted student to the sacred art of self-discovery and creative expression, she spends her days on her yoga mat, in wellness experimentation and tilling the fertile soil of Rebelle Society, sharing bouts of black sheepish rebellion, self-acceptance and the beauty of darkness and well-being. Tanya is the creator of ThugUnicorn.com and Yoga.Write.Now.org. She is also the co-founder and Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness. Get to know her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and at Yogacentralen.dk. Sign-up for her free, weekly Newsie and contact her via email: tanya@rebellesociety.com.

26 Comments

  • Melissa commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
    We are all in process. I was victim too of the diet craze on 80’s that have carried me too far into my adulthood and finally feel (while I still struggle with emotional eating) I’m discovering who I am apart from what I eat. In the same boat and jumping in the water with you. Love
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on May 19, 2013 Reply
      It’s such a process — lifetime project. :-) Also, how do we not separate ourselves from eating but allow what we eat to truly, truly become us? Emotional eating — oh yeah, sister, I have so much more on that one! Love.
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
    Wow. Deeply grateful to you, soul sister, for speaking your heart out so beautifully. Imaginary weight problems that result in physical imbalance (to say the least) is a common denominator to so many of us – until we realize we have the power and ability to liberate ourselves (and no one / nothing else does), we’re ruled by our perception & past hurts. If I had more Amens in me right now, I’d be a preacher. LOVE YOU.
    • SR Atchley
      SR Atchley commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
      Amen to you, as well, Rev. Rebelle. You speak the truth. Liberation from perceptions and past hurts…yep.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on May 19, 2013 Reply
      OH yeah — imaginary disorders — that topic will come too! Amen to YOU + LOVE the hell out of you.
  • SR Atchley
    SR Atchley commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
    Your courage has budded, your expressive nature is flowering, and you, my darling, are a beautiful bloom of a woman. You move me. This piece reeks of healing and growth. I can’t wait for the next installment…but I will. Thank you for bringing out so many important issues and topics as of late. You are opening so many eyes and hearts. Amen and Hallelujah, Rev. Rebelle!
  • Thea commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
    I love this and can really relate. Beautifully written. Thank you. ps.Have you read The Religion of Thinness by Michelle Lelwica?
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on May 19, 2013 Reply
      Thank you, Thea! Haven’t read it, but thanks for the rec – I will check it out for sure! xxx
  • Catherine Ghosh
    Catherine Ghosh commented on April 19, 2013 Reply
    I thank you for your brave sharing, dear Tanya! I hear a narrative of such vulnerability and also the strong voice of a woman who is clear about healing herself and accepting nourishment. I look forward to part two, when you’ll tell us more about that part of your journey. I especially loved your definition of courage here: “…to share, to express and to not be afraid of what I’d find behind that door or the many other doors that were behind it.” I congratulate you for doing that here! It has inspired me. And thank you again for letting us peek at this “work in progress”. Raw beauty!
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on May 19, 2013 Reply
      Thank you Dear Catherine! Means so much coming from you. So much love to you sister! xoxo
  • Pab lo commented on April 20, 2013 Reply
    chatting with the body, “clean”´ is a open word. In anyway i did then i got the way into my internal body. that´s emotional body i mean. I met my liver liver. THAT´s A REAL TRIP! i was completely strange there. so, what´s the next i discover in my flesh? LOVE and LIVE
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on May 19, 2013 Reply
      Ohhh, I bet it was a trip!! Yes, what is next?? :-) LOVE!
  • Kaitlyn Workman commented on June 24, 2013 Reply
    I loved so much about this article, it speaks to more than just the disordered eating so many, including myself, struggle with daily. I did have one slight issue, being that portions of the piece, especially the list of things women have tried and other examples of unhealthy behavior could be very triggering to someone experiencing an eating disorder. A warning might be helpful. But I love where you’re going with this series!!
  • mamarap commented on September 30, 2013 Reply
    Sometimes I fell true despair…like I want to drop to my knees and say My God, My Goddess, what have we done…then I find a blessing like you and I know we are returning to a more loving place. “When we gain the ability to make choices that are truly nourishing both physically, emotionally and spiritually, we unlock doors, we let go and we become a little more free”…. And the path is the same and different for all of us…being the Mama of two girls, I’ve experienced much of the Feminine process that’s been so fucked up by the media, magazines…you know, of course you know, or you wouldn’t have been able to share with such vulnerability, authenticity and LOVE! Bless you precious one! Love, Laurie
  • Gara Steinfeld commented on December 13, 2013 Reply
    I have no words, just love.
  • Adam commented on December 20, 2013 Reply
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My relationship with food and my body has driven me to the edge several times since age 12 but words and thoughts and love from people like you keep me hopeful. I feel momentum for change, and though I am still haunted daily after 14 years of this shit, the momentum will carry me through. The time is now. Thank you for your wisdom, insight, the simple clarity that comes with accepting these insecurities and of course, your love. So much love back to you. -Adam
  • Y. Butterfly commented on April 23, 2014 Reply
    I feel you. When I lose control, or maybe it’s focus, I naturally start planning out my restriction diet and exercise regime, and the inability to look in a mirror comes back. At least it’s a very obvious marker of instability.
  • Carlota commented on August 17, 2014 Reply
    So raw and honest. Thank you. About ten years ago I walked into an Iyengar yoga class and said to the heavens that I didn’t care anymore. I will fall on my face, I will show my ugly feet, I will cry, laugh and give myself a break. I learned to love myself…even with the skinny, bendy-flexy all around me. Self-loathing is exhausting and I wanted to laugh. I had to learn to love myself from the ground up. You are not alone. The aging process, hormones, popular culture…it’s a tough battle. Bravo to you!
  • Gee commented on January 27, 2015 Reply
    I have been living through this hell for awhile now. Painful childhood memories led to to binge eating and throwing up since I was 18. Early twenties, put on so much of weight for a small frame (4′ 9″) that i could not even walk without my knees hurting. I ate junk and exercised like a mad person. Mid twenties, got into a relationship and manage to heal myself somehow. Obsession with food and exercising came to a healthier level. We did so much food exploring and exercising together. Our best memories were food and dessert hunting. Yet, we both were healthy and happy. Late twenties, all hell broke loose..our five year solid relationship ended..now here I am back to where i was in my early twenties… like you, i am associating sweet sugary dessert with the beautiful memories with the ex..i try to re-live the memories every other day..it is a vicious cycle this one..
  • Kayo commented on February 13, 2015 Reply
    I really colu’ndt ask for more from this article.
  • sylvia mull commented on March 31, 2015 Reply
    i dont wanna be fat anymore
  • Kathleen commented on June 28, 2015 Reply
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I look at it when I get into a crazy cycle and somehow dig myself back out. You inspire me to aim for healthy, and not skinny or thigh gaps or model body. Thank you thank you thank you thats all I can say.

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