If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.
For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.
I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)
To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”
If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.
This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.
If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?
I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.
Has anyone else had experience with this?
Every time I fill a journal, I feel like I’m closing a chapter of my life and embarking on a new one, even though nothing in my life changes other than the book in which I write my thoughts. Sometimes it’s crazy to realize that I’ve filled an entire book.
This last journal is a special accomplishment. I’ve never learned and grown as much as I have during the time recorded in my most recent journal. I’ve gone from overweight, depressed, anxious and nearly hopeless to grateful, joyful, conscious, and at peace with my body and life. I’ve reconnected to my creativity and I’m laying the foundation for a career that mirrors who I am.
I always wonder who will end up reading my journals and whether he or she will need the help of a handwriting analyst to do so. Probably my children and grandchildren. They’ll learn more about me than they ever wanted to know. Sometimes I worry about what I’ve written, that it will shame me someday. My journals are intensely personal, and I often cringe when I read my teenage journals; the love drama, disordered eating and thought patterns, over-dramatic musings over things that seem so trivial now.
What can I say. I’m an emotional person. I feel things deeply, and for a long time I didn’t know how to handle those feelings. I thought they’d eat me alive. Every unrequited crush, bad grade, pound gained or bad day felt like the end of the world, like it could swallow me whole.
I’m far from perfect, but I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m far more balanced now than I’ve ever been before, and I feel more alive than I did as a child climbing trees in the backyard. I think I have a healthy sense of perspective, direction for my life and career, a solid foundation for handling emotions and caring for myself, and my self-esteem is better than it has ever been. It’s sad that it took me 23 years to discover my own worth, but not unusual. Everyone hits this point at different times, and some never arrive at all. I may not always be this healthy either, I may have to rediscover this place a few times throughout my life. Now that I know where it is, hopefully it will be easier to find in the future.
I wonder if the word “journal” shares a root with “journey”. That’s what a journal is to me.
On Monday, my American readers and I will celebrate the birth and independence of our wonderful country and thereby, our freedom.
Today (or pick another day) I’d like you to celebrate your own freedom and independence.
What have you freed yourself from? What independence will you celebrate?
Bad self-talk or thoughts?
A harmful relationship?
A job that didn’t/doesn’t suit you?
Or maybe today you’ll begin a journey to seek your independence from something that doesn’t serve you. Whatever it is, acknowledge it, seek support, give yourself a hug, and pass through it. Feel your freedom and celebrate it.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!
“I hate my thunder thighs.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m so stupid.”
How many of us have heard (or said) something like this in the past week? It’s ok, I raised my hand too. Self-hate and criticism is an epidemic, and as part of the initiative to stop self-hate, Voice in Recovery has issued a The April Self Love Letter Challenge, encouraging readers to write love letters to themselves.
I loved this idea, because I believe that the only way to combat negative self-talk is to replace it with positive self-talk, and sometimes we need to write those positive thoughts down to help them stick in our minds.
I encourage all of you to participate in this wonderful challenge, visit Voice in Recovery for details.
So without further ado, here’s my letter to myself:
I wrote to your 13-year-self awhile back, but now I write to the woman you are today. You’re all grown up now, but still essentially the same person as that terrified, overwhelmed eighth grader with no fashion sense who just wanted to fit in. Now you know you’d rather create your own mold than try to fit someone else’s. You’ve realized that your worth is infinite and doesn’t exist in the opinions of others. It isn’t measured by the number on the scale or on the tag of your jeans and doesn’t depend on your compliancy with social norms or expectations.
I know we haven’t always been friends. I haven’t always liked you. Sometimes I’ve been really mean to you, like those months I forced you to exist on 700 calories a day, or when I scrubbed your face with rubbing alcohol and a loofah to tame the teenage breakouts, or when I thought you were weak for feeling afraid of growing up. I’m sorry for letting people take advantage of you because I thought you deserved it. It took twenty-two years for me to realize how strong and brave you are and how much love you have in your heart. I mistook your empathy and sensitivity for weakness.
At only 20, you made the decision to never diet again and to learn to love your body no matter what, which led you on an incredible odyssey of learning the novel concept of self-love. Instead of burying your problems in food and trying to control your body, you were determined to face those issues head-on while still being gentle with yourself if it was too much. That took guts. You learned to love your awkward goofiness instead of trying to act sophisticated. You embraced your introverted, contemplative nature instead of trying to be the social butterfly you felt like you should be. You never let anyone tell you who you are, because you already knew. Most of all, you realized that it’s ok to love yourself, that self-hatred and criticism isn’t right; you didn’t have to participate in the national epidemic of self-loathing.
Now, you’re a terrified 22-year-old who still has no fashion sense but is confident enough to wear tee shirts and jeans anyway and not give a damn. You’re not the life of the party and you’re ok with that. You’re ok with being the quiet girl who would rather be at home watching The Muppet Show, baking cookies or cutting up magazines to collage.
I’m sorry for thinking you were worthless; that no one would ever love you or that you deserved horrible treatment because you could never get any better, that boyfriends cheated because you weren’t good enough for them, or that you couldn’t do anything right just because you couldn’t fulfill someone else’s expectations. I’m sorry I tried to force you to be something you weren’t so everyone else would accept you, and for taking so long to realize that the only person who truly needed to accept you was me. I love you the way you are, the oddball sense of humor, the dirt under your fingernails, and the flipper feet. You’re special, no matter who loves you or who hurts you. I promise I’ll always be there for you. I might let you down sometimes, but I’ll do my best not to. Remember how special you are, just for being yourself.
So, this is a blog about authenticity but I have to apologize, because I don’t think I’ve been very up-front with you! When I read a blog, I like to know who’s writing it, and why. How do they know what they know?
I thought I’d give you a little background on how I got to where I am and why I chose this path of striving to live my life in a way that feels free to me.
First of all, I was a big kid. We’re talking a ten-pound baby and a toddler twice the size of other kids her own age. I wasn’t fat, but I was tall and stocky like a little line-backer. I was stinkin’ cute though. Just throwing that out there.
I had a great family life and my best friends in the world were my cousins, who, unlike me, were very thin and took dance lessons while I always had my nose stuck in a book. My closest cousin was a full head shorter than me and half my weight and I always compared myself to her, and while neither she nor anyone else in my family did anything to perpetuate the idea, I grew up believing the way I was- artistic, introverted and big- was wrong.
Finally, I entered junior high a total wreck and hating everything about who I was. I dreamed about losing weight, wearing the cute clothes everyone else wore and being a cheerleader or dancer or something cool like that. In the eighth grade, I went on my first diet. Granola bar for breakfast, lettuce and fat-free Italian (blegh) for lunch, and a bit of whatever mom made for dinner. Throw in the same Tae-bo tape every day, and I lost forty pounds in three months. I was the exact same person, and that wasn’t good enough. I bought a ton of clothes that I hoped looked like everyone else’s even though I was miserable at putting outfits together. I tried styling my stick-straight hair, applying make-up with a paint roller, swearing like everyone else did, etc. Didn’t work. Boys still didn’t like me and I still had no friends, so I while I still restricted my food intake, I gave up on trying to act like everyone else, so I went back to drawing and writing. Oh yeah, the weight came back too.
Finally, I started high school and literally stumbled into the theater program. Actually, I fell down the auditorium stairs, dislocated my shoulder and the drama kids saved me. That’s also how I met my husband, but that’s another story.
Finally, I had a group of friends who appreciated me for who I was, all 185 pounds of me, all the weirdness. Also, they appreciated what I could do. I’d always been terrified of performing, but acting gave me so much confidence and I realized that I could act. I even took voice lessons and sang in front of hundreds of people. I love theater, I love my friends, and I loved my life. I gradually dropped weight too.
In college, I dumped my theater scholarships to study art, then changed my major to English. I married Sam, one of my best friends from high school when I was nineteen, changed jobs, majors, moved and went on birth control all in a few months and developed an anxiety disorder and starting restricting again. Then, I discovered intuitive eating, which opened up a whole new world to me.
I realized, my life needed an overhaul. I’d wasted so much time trying to be something I’m not. I discovered the blogosphere and read about how other people overcame their self-esteem issues, eating issues, and restrictive mindsets. I read about unschooling, food production, lifestyle design, unjobbing and minimalism. I decided I didn’t want my life to be controlled by anything outside myself. I needed to take back my body, my ideas, and my potential. I want to be McKella, and this blog is my journey, and hopefully it will help you with yours.
So this is me: writer, book-worm, art and music lover, non-dancer, adult unschooler and size 8. And I’m happy with that.