Project Reverb prompt: “Did you form a new habit this year? Or continue with an old one? Is it a good habit? Or one you’d like to break?”
The habits I quit were dieting and weighing myself. After years of smashing myself to bits, I experienced a paradigm shift, a revolution of sorts. The last New Year’s resolution I made was to be a better friend to myself, and in the process of learning how to do so, I realized I had been a disordered eater for 30+ years. I had been starving and then stuffing myself, then overexercising to compensate, all in an attempt to look how I thought I was supposed to look, to meet the standards, the norms, the expectations of the culture in which I live.
My paradigm shift required support. I started working with a therapist, doing lots of reading and studying and practicing, and I joined an Intuitive Eating reading group led by Rachel Cole. After much consideration I realized I couldn’t continue to torture myself, didn’t want to maintain this war with my body. I spent so many years restricting and controlling, pushing and punishing, measuring and comparing — all acts of self-aggression. In the process of denying my body, manipulating what I ate and did, struggling to maintain a body that met the standard, I lost myself.
Distracted by either a raging hunger or a dull uncomfortable fullness, I was confused and bewildered. My true power was masked, my innate intuition and wisdom disabled. You can’t diet and practice matri, (“unconditional friendliness to oneself”). You can’t constantly weigh and measure yourself, and cultivate self-compassion. You can’t be focused on what is wrong with you and manifest who you really are. You can’t swing between starving and stuffing yourself, and be healthy, well, or sane. You can’t hate and love yourself simultaneously.
Chasing an impossible standard broke me — broke my spirit, my will, my metabolism, my heart. It distilled the destructive power of pushing, pleasing, performing, and perfectionism into a habit, a routine, a ritual. I was convinced I was “fixing” myself, but I was destroying myself instead.
Stopping is so hard because even if you can quiet your inner critic, stop abusing and bullying and punishing yourself, culture still keeps going, bombarding you with messages that you aren’t okay, you can’t be trusted, something is wrong with you and you must be controlled.
Right now is a prime season for this. Pre-holiday the focus is on what we should be doing to prepare ourselves, how we should behave, what we need, all the dos and don’ts and shoulds. How to avoid gaining weight, how to control ourselves, tips and tricks. Post-holiday the cycle continues, the “help” keeps coming in the form of articles and programs and offers and deals, all promising to help you get rid of the excess holiday weight, assist you in your atonement.
Recently, I read a piece on Medium, Fighting Holiday Food Temptation? Try These 13 Tips. It was written by an author I admire, who writes a lot about happiness and habits, so my normal assumptions and avoidance of such an article weren’t present and I actually read what she had to say. It made me feel compelled to write a rebuttal, which is as follows:
- Buy as much food as you want, all the kinds you want
- Make tempting food easy to access
- Wear comfortable, beautiful clothes that you feel good in
- Spread the food out on a table with a gorgeous tablecloth and candles, use beautiful dishes
- Pile your plate with all the food you want to eat, go back for more as many times as you want
- Add on whatever extras sound delicious
- Sure, brush your teeth, that’s just good self-care, but if after that, you want another cupcake — eat it!
- Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, unless you want more and then you should eat it without guilt
- Eat as much as you want — you can have whatever you want and there will always be more
- Always eat hors d’oeuvres, those tiny little beautiful tasty treats are like a party on your plate
- Obviously, don’t eat food you don’t like or want, d’uh
- There are no exceptions, you can eat whatever you want
- There also are no loopholes — eat whatever the fuck you want!
“Something is wrong with you” is the mantra, chanted over and over. Even though I’ve stopped for the most part bullying myself, there are so many other voices still babbling. Every day a new opportunity to disagree, every moment a new confusion to unravel. My whole life becomes a rebuttal.