It’s no small secret that my issues are control issues. As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I have struggled against my own efforts to protect myself by attempting to control people, places and things. I was in therapy for five years dealing with this issue and understanding how it has affected all of my relationships with others, and of course with myself. This isn’t a battle I consider “won” or even a little bit “over”, but I have learned tools to help me deal with my control issues in a healthier way, even if I don’t always recognize my behavior in time to put them into practice. Learning to accept others and myself exactly as they are, and to make decisions about my relationships and how I spend my time, has been key for me to move towards a place of contentment and peace with myself and the world.
For whatever reason, I have never been able to extend my acceptance of myself to my weight and to how I perceive my body. I suppose that this comes from my teenage years, under the thumb of a very controlling mother, when I exerted the only control I felt I had, which was over my body. I developed what I would call mild bulimic tendencies, and would make myself throw up when I felt particularly anxious, angry, or vulnerable. I did not practice traditional binge-and-purge behavior, and the behavior I did practice didn’t last very long. I saw a school counselor for a few months, wrote part of a play about it, and “purged” that behavior before I finished high school.
I have literally never talked or written about this since then, but I think it’s time I broke the lock on this particular silence. In the past year, I have purged when I’ve overeaten about seven or eight times. It’s not the reason I’ve lost weight, and it’s not become a regular occurrence, but I have learned too much about addiction and denial in the past few years to allow myself to keep pretending that this hasn’t happened or that it’s okay or that I’ve got it under control, or especially, that it’s an option. ‘Cuz it ain’t. My life has literally never been better than it is right now, and I’m determined not to keep repeating the patterns of the past my engaging in self-destructive behavior because…because why? I don’t like a number on a scale? Am I that vain? What’s it really about?
I think I probably need to go back to my therapist to work this out, and my resistance to doing so speak volumes, but part of me has to try to get to the heart of this on my own first. Step one is admitting that I am powerless. This post is step one. I’m a little worried it doesn’t “count” because only a few people here and there even read this blog. But some of those people are the most important people in my life and I hope that they can forgive me for doing it this way. I have reasons, but no excuses for not being able to talk about this before right now. I am afraid this whole post will make me look like a giant hypocrite, and I worry about falling in the estimation of people dear to me. I worry that my problems are petty compared to those of others and I just need to suck it up. I worry, I worry, I worry.
All that being said, I can’t keep saying, “What other people think of me is none of my business,” if it isn’t true.
This is all coming to a point because it’s just about three years to the week that I re-joined Weight Watchers, online, and over the course of those three years I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained the same 8 – 12 pounds over and over, and yes I very much know that those numbers are nothing compared to what other people deal with, but they’re my numbers and if they seem silly, stop reading, go do something else, with all my blessings. It isn’t about the numbers anyway. I am at a good healthy weight right now, all of my clothes fit, and I feel better than ever, but the numbers tell me I am on the upswing…again. My behavior tells me I am on the upswing again, and it’s my behavior that is the real problem.
Weight Watchers has been awesome for me. It taught me how much I need to eat and what balance of things are good for me. It got me working out and being more mindful about my body in general. If learning to care more about how I feel than how I look, about what my body can do rather than how it’s shaped — if those are my goals, then Weight Watchers has gotten me most of the way towards them.
And now, it might be the thing that is holding me back from living the kind of life I want to live. One that is not food-obsessed. After achieving so many milestones, I now feel, three years in, that I am more food-obsessed than ever, and it doesn’t feel healthy. I am eating when I am angry, lonely, tired, bored, anxious and stressed. I am in eating in direct response to those feelings. And worse, my anxiety appears to be triggered merely by the presence of unexpected food — doughnuts in the lunch room, cookies in the green room, etc. Sometimes I am mildly hungry when I go after those things but never as hungry as the amount I eat would warrant. I still have feelings of worry about not getting “enough” or “missing out” on something. They aren’t rational and they aren’t easily ignored or set aside — not that I’ve really made the effort to do either. After I’ve overindulged I feel ashamed and angry at myself and like giving up. Then I have to decide whether or not to track my shame in the Weight Watchers app. That shame is in no way balanced by pride when I tracked my workouts or check off my boxes in the “Good Health Guidelines” section.
I’m 43 years old and I believe that is too old to be ashamed of myself half the time. I’m too old to be eating entire doughnuts one “acceptable” bite at a time, sneaking in and out of the office kitchen seven or eight times to get the whole thing. I’m too old to eat an entire second lunch just because it’s THERE, and I’m too old to eat three cookies instead of just the one I really want because I’m worried about the world ending if I want one later and they are all gone. And I’m sure as hell too old to contemplate whether or not I can have another bag of Cheez-Its at 9 Points Plus a pop if I just throw up in half an hour. That is freaking ridiculous.
I’m not too old to want to live the kind of life I want to live. Let’s turn this post around into something positive.
- I want to eat when I’m hungry because it fuels me for doing things I want to do or need to do well
- I want to enjoy good foods or evenings out without overindulging, but also without constantly worrying about what I’m eating is doing to me
- I want to accept and feel good about my body, even if the number on the scale doesn’t match what I think I need it to be to feel confident (this one is super-tough…what if my clothes stop fitting? what if, what if?)
- I want to push my physical limits with exercise and make my body as strong as it can be, for as long as I can
So I am not convinced that Weight Watchers and the Points/Tracking system can teach me anything more or help me accomplish these goals. I think Weight Watchers is the bomb and am intensely grateful for what I’ve learned from it, but it does not address core emotional issues surround food and control. In fact right now it’s feeding my illusion that I am in control of what I’m doing. I can no longer pretend that I am well because I am on Weight Watchers. I think it’s time I let go and trusted myself to fly right without pretending that I am in control, to make adjustments as my body, rather than scale, tells me I need them. I don’t want to be watching when I could be doing. I want to taste food, not count it. I don’t want to live the rest of my life missing the moments and experiences I have left to me, with the people I love who love me.
I’ll try to update my progress on this new philosophy, as long as doing so doesn’t feel like tracking.