The Culmination of My Food Story, aka, Part Two.
I wasn’t actually going to write the second part right away. I was going to let it sit for a few days, maybe get some other work done. But I feel like I need to finish it now. I feel like the beginning was so dark and depressing that there needs to be some light at the end of this, there needs to be something hopeful and happy. Basically, I’m all gung ho to get this done and finished and walk away with a smile on my face.
Until I realized I’d have to write it and share it. Because the first part feels very much like a past me, a much older version that is so far gone that to share her story would not be as vulnerable as sharing mine now (Yes, again I am in split personality mode, I can’t help it. It’s just the way it seems to be going. You’ll just have to go with it.). To continue from where I left off means to enter into more of my present, more into the part of me that people see and face every day (Ha! Well, not every day since I leave my house as little as possible.). It probably seems strange as I did pour my heart out in that last post, but when I hit the publish button, I didn’t feel like I was really revealing something crazy, because it was over, I’ve moved on.
But sometimes it’s not over. Many people were surprised to hear what I went through because I hid it so well. Well, I guess I’m still trying to hide it because to write about it now is bringing on a great deal of fear and anxiety. Even though it’s just a continuation of the first 30 years of my life, it feels different, because it feels so much more real and in my face. Because the person I’m writing about in this part is me now, it is the person you will see when I finally walk out my door and bump into you in the grocery story (Wait a minute, no you won’t. I don’t buy groceries. That’s my husband’s job.) or at my kid’s school (the one day a week they don’t ride the bus), or just simply on facebook.
Yes, the childhood me is still a part of me, but for some reason, it didn’t seem as real as when I wrote about her. But this feels real. (I was gonna say, “Shit’s just got real,” but I couldn’t portray the gansta accent that played in my head when I thought it, so I didn’t. Also because it’s kind of like an inside joke and I’m not sure if everyone has that same joke and watched whatever movie it came from or if it is just me living in my own crazy head, screwing up expressions again.)
Okay, here goes…
Where did I leave off? Oh yeah, 15 years of bingeing and purgeing.
I did try not to puke. All the time. I tried every diet out there. I tried cleansing. I bought probably every diet book that came out from the age of 24 onwards. I tried it all. But because I was so food obsessed, it just didn’t work. The only time I ever lost weight was when I wasn’t focused on losing weight. When it just happened. And no, I wasn’t nor will I ever be one of those people who just “forgot to eat today!” There was a time when I would have said I hate those people. Any time someone said that there’d be this tiny need in me to grab my fork (because I was obviously eating) and stab it in their eye. But now, I can honestly say, well, good for you. You are so lucky to be free of the food demon. And I hope that you are doing it because you are truly free of any food issues and not because you are trying to stay skinny by not eating. Because that too is sad, but also honest.
There was two times in my life when I really did feel good about myself. And that was when I was not focused on food. I was simply being and living and exercising and eating as I should. Like it was all part of a healthy life. I actually ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, and continued on with my life with no more thought to it than that. But that was when I was also happy. Like really happy. Actually, no, I wouldn’t say happy (for some reason I don’t like that word. It’s so fleeting. Content is what I’m going for). I would say it was when life was full of promise and potential for me. The first time was when I was in my last year of University. I was engaged, finishing school and going to have a degree, running and working and basically being young and in love with life. (I actually got this super lame tattoo that year because I wanted to be able to look at it and remember that feeling. Except it was lame. Like, stupid lame. Did I mention that it was lame? But covering it up was also when I discovered how amazing it could be to have beautiful tattoos. But that’s another story. Next post: My Tattoo Story. Just kidding. Then again, people do ask….)
The second time I truly felt great was a few years (wait a minute, that’s more like several years ago now. Wow, time really does speed up with age) ago when I was opening up my shop. I had a big project to work on that I was excited about. I had something to put my energy into other than food. The act of dreaming of what it would be and what I would do with it was enough to keep me hopeful, to keep my thoughts positive and not destructive. And so I worked out, worked on my shop, and was overall in love with my life. I was even making and testing out all of my cupcakes but still not puking. Partly because I gave away the remnants, or ended up throwing away all the duds (there were many!!). When I went to other places I would buy packs of cupcakes, we’d get our forks, and we’d dive in, testing and analysing all the flavors. And yet, I was never taken with the need to gorge myself. I had a purpose to, not only the food I was eating, but to my life in general. It was an amazing time.
And then I opened my shop and it continued to be amazing. Until I started getting so exhausted and wouldn’t have time to eat supper and be stuck in my office finishing stuff up and there’d be trays of cupcakes left over and I hadn’t eaten and….well…then I’d eat them all and instead of getting any work done I’d be hunched over the toilet in the bathroom puking, constantly looking over my shoulder, worried someone was going to come in and discover my deep, dark secret. Worried they would see that I didn’t actually have my shit together, that I was still haunted by my past of fear and self-loathing. Because I couldn’t just eat one cupcake. I needed another, then another, then another, because then I could forget how tired I was and how much I was missing my famly or my friends or just having a life in general other than work.
Puking wasn’t always self-loathing. Sometimes it was stress eating. But with that came a fear of getting fat, of not having it together enough, of not being the person everyone had now come to see me as (this person was in shape, ambitious, and put together. Wait, no, I was never put together. But in pretty decent shape and ambitious is accurate I would think.). I could not let people see how weak I really was, how little self control I had, so I would still puke so there would be no extra pounds of evidence hidden on my body.
At this time, a new issue had started to rise. My body seemed to be losing its ability to digest food. I did not know that that was what it was at that time, however. I was just experiencing severe gastrointestinal distress and had no idea what to do about it. No, I’m not going to go into the major details of my problems (one time I emailed my sister about it and she replied, “I can only imagine how severe your symptoms are as you are actually talking to me about it. You never talk about this stuff.” Or something like that.). We’ll just say that my system didn’t work. To the point that I was in pain every. single. day. I was beyond miserable. It was awful and it is still ongoing. But, I will get to that through the long process of telling you all about it…
I went to the doctor after months of suffering. It killed me to tell him about it. I don’t think the word constipated had ever come out of my mouth to another person before (See how far I’ve come? I’ve used that word publicly, in writing! Unless I go back and delete it, then disregard this side point). And no, that was not my only issue, but it sure as hell was a major part of my problem. The doctor didn’t do much besides tell me to go gluten free. That was all he could really do for me at the time I guess. (When I complained about my issues I never did mention my bulimia, that was a secret, so he was only working on a partial history to help me).
You cannot tell someone who is already food obsessed, who is experiencing severe physical symptoms upon eating, who owns a CUPCAKE SHOP, to go gluten free. Are you kidding me?? Besides, I refused to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. I thought it was just a bunch of made up bullshit to make it easier to manage your diet. I mean, of course you can’t overeat when you don’t eat wheat, right? (Yes, I believe celiac disease is real, I just didn’t believe that as many people had it as they said they did. And GLUTEN INTOLERANCE? Oh, give me a break!) As you can see, I was only in denial. Because if I actually admitted to the fact that gluten was one of my problems, I would have to restrict my diet, and we all know what happens when I do that!
I did try, though. My physical symptoms were so bad that I finally had to limit what I ate, or the kinds of foods I ate. But that didn’t work, because I did not care about myself enough to take care of my body. That’s really what it came down to. I did not honor my physical body enough to do the work to give it what it needed, or eliminate what it didn’t. Plus I was tired from working all the time and my family was still eating gluten and the thought of changing the way I lived and cooked was just too much work. So instead, I avoided it as much as I could and when I couldn’t, I puked.
Obviously, my condition did not improve. It only got worse as my stress intensified, as my work got harder, as the shop became more and more of a struggle. Oh, and just so you know, the shop itself wasn’t a struggle; managing it, my kids, my health, my life at the same time was. And my need to write was getting stronger and stronger and I knew a change had to come about. The final instrument in this change was my dad’s sudden death. It rocked me to the core, partly because I’d never really experienced death, and partly because it made me re-evaluate my entire life. (Among other things, obviously. I mean, he was my dad. He died. All that coming to terms with it and re-defining myself and the rest of it had to happen too, but this is about food, so we’ll keep it at that).
My dad would ask me to come over for supper or breakfast all the time. But by then my digestive problems had gotten so bad, just the thought of eating stressed me out. And I was constantly doing cleanses to try to fix things (that I never followed through on) so I could never eat anything. Which meant having to go to his house and say no to what he cooked me, or eat it and suffer, which I didn’t want to do. Not to mention I was tired and exhausted and stressed from what I was doing to my body and because I wasn’t feeding it properly. I let food stop me from spending time with my father. Food and cooking for others was his way of showing he cared and his way of reaching out. And because I was so wrapped up in my own issues surrounding eating and so forth, I kept saying no. Actually, the day before his accident he’d actually gone and searched out a gluten free waffle recipe for me because he’d gotten this heart-shaped waffle iron and wanted me to come over. What was my reply? “I’m on a cleanse right now, I can’t eat anything.”
Others could go and share meals with my father, but I couldn’t because of all the damage I’d done to my body and I will never have the change to fix that. But I do have that waffle iron and make them for my kids.
And that was when I started to really change. That was when I realized there had to be a better way to live. The regret I felt with dad was enough for me to know I never wanted to experience that again.
But of course, the body can’t just transform instantly, no matter how much we want it to. The damage to my system was so severe that I was still struggling every time I ate. It was like I could not digest food. I went to the doctor again and again but he really couldn’t do anything to help me. I visited naturopaths and natural healers, but I still was unable to fully commit to a healthy eating lifestyle (as in, healthy for me) so nothing worked.
Except one thing. I set out on the road to self discovery (it’s not really that but I don’t know what else to call it). I was finally getting the help I was so desperate for when I’d called the health unit years ago. But this time I wasn’t given an exercise program or eating plan by some bored nurse. This time I had the help of someone kind and loving, who was truly helping me work through it all. Not by telling me what to do, but by helping me to see myself as the beautiful soul I was (she is also the one encouraged me to write this food story, see how all the pieces fit together?). For the first time I was actually, truly, changing for the better because I was not just given a list of ways to get better, like a string of self-help quotes or tools. I was transforming the very core of my being.
And yet, my stomach would not heal. I still blew up like a balloon everytime I ate. And I mean, blew up. I looked about 8 months pregnant after every meal. I had done so much damage to my system from the years and years of puking that now the physical repercussions were taking over my life. I changed all my clothing, making a point of buying shirts that were loose and flowing because they were the only way to cover up my stomach. When going out for an evening it would sometimes take an hour or more to get dressed because I was constantly changing because I did not feel comfortable in any of my clothes. Going on holidays was nearly unbearable because along with the bloating would come such severe bouts of constipation (omg, I said it again!) that it took over the entire holiday in trying to deal with it, finding health food stores to find anything to relieve the symptoms, only to have them come back and then struggling to find clothes as I would be bloated and feel awful.
By this time, I had quit bingeing and purgeing. Well, I quit being “bulimic” in the sense that my self hatred was leading me to comfort myself with food and then puke it up. At least on a daily, regular basis. Once in a while I would regress, but for the most part, I had begun to regain control. My work with my counsellor and help from friends along the way were instrumental in breaking out of that habit. It was like an addiction. Once I had the courage to admit to it out loud, I couldn’t go back to how I’d been, because I felt like I would fail myself and my friends. I’d admitted it as a way of moving on, which meant I had to move on.
Except, my body wouldn’t let me. And the puking started again, but not in a purging, hating myself kind of way (most of the time), but as a means for relief. Oftentimes after meals my stomach would get so bloated and so painful that the only means for relief was to puke up the food. Or, it was the only means I knew of (I’d tried many, many, many things). So as I was trying to come out from the pain of bulimia, I was having to resort to it again just to feel somewhat comfortable. And this has been, basically, the story of my life up until this point.
As I mentioned before, my dad’s death really instigated a change and propelled me on a path to self discovery. In the past 6 months I amped it up, joining a daily mentorship program and doing regression sessions with a therapist (the aforementioned counselor). I knew it was time to become someone I wanted to be, someone I was proud of, from the inside out, not just this person pretending to have it all together. It came down to the fact that I wanted to love being me. I wanted to be happy with who I was. I wanted to be healthy and wanted those damn self deprecating thoughts to be gone, permanently. A good example of the behavior I was trying to change was when I was having dinner with a friend. We’d spent the weekend at an I Can Do It! conference in Vancouver (part of my journey to becoming self actualized) so we’d spent a great deal of time together. This friend didn’t know the old me, just the me now, or at least the me I was trying to be. The me who’d been on this path to self discovery and who was thinking she was starting to get it all figured out, or at least trying to act like it. My food issues weren’t great, my stomach still sucked at being a stomach, but I had found ways to manage and thought I was coming to terms with it all. From the influence of all that I was doing I was focusing on acceptance, as in, accepting other people and losing my need for judgment and criticism (I focused on not being judgmental and critical because I felt I’ve spent a great deal of my life like that. And I had learned that those who judge and criticize others are the most critical and judgmental of themselves. So I figured by lightening up on others, I would be lightening up on myself). So I was feeling pretty good, until we were having beer and nachos at the end of the weekend and I made some comment about the waitress. What I thought I had said was, “I love her hair.” What I had actually said was, “I want her hair.”
I can’t remember what my friend said exactly, but she called me on that comment. She called me on it because it was part of many comments I’d been making all weekend without realizing it. I thought I was simply admiring other people’s style, look, whatever. But I wasn’t. Because I never did “admire” something, I wanted it, for lack of a better word. I wanted it for myself because I believed it was better than what I had. For instance, I didn’t like a girl’s clothes, I wished I had her style. I didn’t like the waitresses’ hair, I wanted her hair. Basically, she made me wake up to the fact that I thought everyone was better than me. How they looked, even how they acted and their personalities, seemed so much more appealing than what I had. It was like coveting your neighbor’s property in the most extreme sense.
That was another one of my turning points. Here I thought I was doing so good and yet, I had so much focus outward that I still could not see any good in myself. But 34 years of negative thinking and poor body image does not go away in a couple of months, no matter how many conferences you go to.
And 15 years of self-deprecating behavior does not resolve itself quickly, either. It is painfully, horribly slow. I have done an allergy test and because of it, I have had to eliminate almost everything I ate on a regular basis. Eggs, milk, wheat, almonds, beans, the list goes on (and on and on and on). Basically, I have been living on smoothies and chocolate. Well, not that bad, but sometimes it feels like it. Now I am obsessed with food, but not from a weight maintenance stand point, but from a health one. I am so sick and tired, in a real and psychological sense, of feeling like crap that each time I put food into my mouth now, I am full of fear. Will this make me sick? Will I blow up like a balloon? Even one glass of wine left me wondering if I will be hungover the next day or if it will make me a congested mess (nose-wise, not digestion-wise. Lets not add constipation in there more than is necessary, okay? Alcohol gives me severe congestion and hangovers. I just needed to mention it to segue into this next part).
Then I was listening to a phone call with the mentorship group I am part of (the self discovery stuff) and it was said that your soul speaks to you in three ways: Through your relationships, your wealth, and your health.
That really stuck with me, because I do feel like I’ve made huge strides in my personal life. I have spent these past couple of years trying to be a better person, and it must be working because my relationships have improved. My wealth as well, or my issues with it I guess you could say (I don’t spend like a crazed lunatic anymore because I do not need to buy stuff to make me feel happy. I could probably write a second money story but just substitute manic shopping for bingeing and purging and you’ve basically got the gist of it). So why was my health not better? Why was I still suffering so badly? Why could I still not digest anything without the assistance of a great deal of help in the form of acid supplements and digestive enzymes and even then, still have food sitting in my stomach like a lead weight.
(Bulimia, I believe, has eliminated my body’s ability to digest and break down food. Did I mention that, or did you pick up on it already from all the other things I’ve said?)
And it came to me. The core of my issues are sitting, like dead weight, in the core of my being. That food that feels like lead has been holding me down, but it wasn’t just that. What was really weighing me down, was me. As much as I’ve changed and grown, I still haven’t in the most basic of ways. All of my efforts were aimed outwards. I was focusing on being more loving…to others. I was much kinder…to others. I was no longer judging and criticizing…others. It was like I’d created this imaginary circle around me of all that I’d learned and become, but that’s where it was, outside of me. That was why I could see the outside benefits but not those inside. I had still not learned to love myself. I was not being kind to myself. I had not yet accepted myself. I was still looking in the mirror and seeing the flab, the pounds I still had to lose, the protruding tummy reminiscent of that little ballerina I was at seven. And I finally decided I’d had enough of it.
That night, I sat down and with a glass of wine. I had a glass of wine not because I was stressed and needed a break. I had it because I really do love to sit down in the evening with a glass of red wine. And I truly allowed myself the enjoyment of it. I gave myself permission to drink it because I deserved it, because I wanted it, and because everyone is allowed joy in their lives, and at that moment, that joy was in the form of red wine. And you know what? My nose didn’t get stuffed up and I did not wake up the next day with a headache.
So now I am focussing my energy inside, not out. For who I am has to start right at the core of my being. I will watch what I eat because my body needs to heal. But I will allow my body to heal not to alleviate the symptoms, but because I deserve to feel good. I will honor my body for what it does and for what it is. For the fact that it is a part of who I am. It houses my beautiful soul and if I don’t love my body it cannot support me as it should. It is failing me because I have failed it for too long.
When I sat down to write this I didn’t want to call this the end of my food story, because obviously, I have many more years in which to eat food. But in a way, it is the end of this story, the one where food has dominated my life. As a child, I didn’t understand food or what it did for me, I simply ate it because I loved it. But I didn’t love myself so my body could not work at its highest potential. I had headaches and stomach aches and allergies as young as ten years old. Around the same age, food became a way to hide my self hatred. And then it completely took over in a way to hide all that was wrong in my life (or what I perceived was wrong), which resulted in me losing control of it. And now I have created allergies and physical problems for myself because of the damage I have done to myself because of these issues.
I want food to go back to being just that. Food. Fuel for my body and fuel for my soul. I want to find joy in cooking and eating again, and the only way to do that is to find joy in myself. I am going to make peace with my body and who I am. I am going to look in the mirror and love every aspect of myself. I am not going to look at others and think they are better than me, whether they be prettier, skinnier, younger or older. I am going to look at them and see a beautiful soul in a beautiful body, just like me. Because we are all beautiful and amazing and we deserve to believe it from the very core of our being.
I do not regret one bit of my food story. If I did, that would take away from who I am now. Sure, I have a long way to go in healing myself, but I will take that as an opportunity to truly take care of myself, to truly honor my body and with it, my soul. I do not blame anyone along the way for any comments they made because they too were struggling. They too were lost in their own stories and they were necessary to propel me along mine. Nor do I feel bad for myself one bit, because as lost as I was, there was a tiny light inside of me that others could see and now that I can see it too, that little girl growing up can shine just a little bit brighter.
So here ends my food story as does the energy spent on it. Now I can focus on the others that have been taking a back seat, a supporting role. Now the rest of my life can begin.