"I want to tell you something," grandfather said, pulling me aside after a family dinner. "Don't let yourself go."
I blanched, felt the heat rise in my cheeks. I tried to suck in my tummy. I'd had a baby ten months ago and struggled with losing the baby weight.
I nodded furiously, forcing myself not to cry. "Of course," I said. "You're right. I'll work on it. I'll get skinny again."
He patted my shoulder. "That's a good girl."
That night was my sister's engagement party. The whole family had come together to have dinner at the beach. Sixteen years later, the only thing I remember about that night are the words my grandfather said. And how much I hatred I felt for my post-pregnancy body.
Small. Quiet. Preferably, invisible. These were the virtues of womanhood.
Take up as little space as possible. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Make yourself useful and helpful—but without drawing attention. Eat small portions. And never take seconds.
The first time I had a Coca-Cola I was in high school. It was so sweet, too sweet. But Diet Coke—now there was a soda I could drink every day. It was diet.
Every year or so there was some new "holy" diet. Pritikin. The Zone. Juicing. Cleanses. And if there wasn't a diet, there were prohibitions: no sugar, no white flour, no white rice, sometimes no dairy, millet for breakfast, steel-cut oatmeal. I stayed slender and small the first twenty years of my life. And then I had my first baby and couldn't stop eating.
I gained and lost, gained and lost for the next eight years. If I wasn't pregnant, I was breastfeeding.
My eating was out of control. I developed an appetite for donuts—I'd never eaten donuts while growing up. And cheeseburgers. And fries. And pizza. Now that I was out of my parents house, I could bring home whatever I wanted. Diet Coke, Cheetos, Oreos. I discovered Dr. Pepper.
After the twins were born, I made a significant change. I started exercising regularly. Hard exercise. Bootcamp. I lost twenty pounds—which for a 5'2" woman like me makes a big difference. I was the fittest I'd ever been in my life.
But then I wrote two books.
Since June of 2013, I've gained thirty five pounds.
For whatever reason, the stress of writing two books broke something in me. I couldn't stop eating. I was hungry all the time. Ravenous, really.
I was eating for comfort, eating to numb out, eating to relax, eating to celebrate, eating because I was bored.....
But then I couldn't stop.
Being strict with myself didn't help. Fasting didn't help. Trying a new diet didn't help.
I was burned out on bootcamp. High impact exercise was taking a toll on my joints. My knees ached all the time. My wrists and shoulders hurt.
Six weeks ago I began barre class.
Four weeks ago I attended my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I cried because I recognized my story in other people's stories. Afterwards, I felt sane. For the first time in two years, I didn't eat anything after dinner. I didn't need to eat anything. I didn't feel full but I felt...satisfied.
It's not about the number on the scale. I know the weight comes off—but something inside me needs to change.
There is a big, empty hole of hungry inside me that no cheeseburger can fill.
I can bootcamp my way to physical fitness, but that still won't heal the hungry little girl inside me.
It's time to make a change—but this time my goal is different. I'm not aiming at weight loss so much as I'm aiming at soul healing. I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I want to understand why.
When I know better, I do better.
I'm tired of food running my life. I don't want to feel like this anymore. I want more of that sanity I felt at my first OA meeting.