For my birthday my roommate bought me a chocolate cake. It was the same delicious cake that I remembering buying for myself last summer – the one that I binged on for two days, followed by… well, you know what comes after. However, this time was different.
Staring at that cake, I realized I barely even wanted it. Not that I was ungrateful for my roommate’s kind gesture, but I had eaten well throughout the day, and wasn’t feeling especially hungry. Still, something sweet sounded good, so my roommate and I both cut a small slice and shared it together. Instead of my mind being flooded by self-deprecating voices about eating dessert, my focus was instead on how much I enjoyed celebrating my birthday and sharing food with a good friend. I ate it slowly, enjoying the experience, and felt satisfied when I was finished. I considered throwing the remainder of the cake away so that I wouldn’t be tempted to get up in the middle of the night and eat the rest, but instead I chose to trust myself and left the cake sitting on my kitchen counter.
The following evening, I came home from work and saw the chocolate cake sitting there, just as I had left it. Instead of agonizing over whether or not I should allow myself to eat the cake, I heard your encouraging voice reminding me that “all foods fit”. I decided to have a small piece while preparing myself dinner, and once again felt satisfied and didn’t want anymore. Again, I left the remainder of the cake sitting on the kitchen counter.
The next night, I once again returned home from work and saw the cake sitting in my kitchen. I considered cutting myself a piece, but was really more interested in getting ready to go out with friends to celebrate my birthday. Plus, we were planning on having gelato later on, and that sounded way better! I got dressed, went out with my friends, and had a great time. Most importantly, I didn’t even think about the cake – a stark contrast from the past when I may have passed up an opportunity to socialize to stay home and binge.
Fast forward to the end of the week. The cake was STILL sitting on the counter top. I considered having a piece with my morning coffee, but when I opened the box, I realized the cake was dry. This definitely wouldn’t have stopped me in the past, having binged on stale leftovers without even tasting them, however, the new me didn’t want the cake unless it was GOOD cake. I ended up throwing the rest of the cake away – not from fear of bingeing – but simply because I didn’t want it anymore.
Last year, this scenario would not have been possible. If you had told me last year that I would be able to throw away unwanted leftovers, I would have said you were crazy. I was out of control, and knew I couldn’t be trusted around food, especially dessert! However, you changed all of that. You were the first person who has ever told me that I didn’t have to restrict calories or deny my cravings to maintain a healthy weight. Instead, you told me to eat foods that were satisfying – which includes a balance of everything from carrot sticks to French fries! You told me that my hunger was my body telling me that it needed fuel, and that the only appropriate response to it was to EAT! (Who knew??) You also told me that beating myself up for every time I ate a piece of candy was not going to solve anything, and that the best thing for me to do if I did experience a lapse in eating was to let it go and get back to a normalized eating schedule.
To be honest, I didn’t believe you at first. Your “mindful eating” plan sounded too good to be true. I thought that surely all of these diet-book “experts” couldn’t be making millions if the solution was so simple. However, I was REALLY burned out on trying to control my food and weight, one failed diet after the next, followed by a sense of failure and numbing my painful feelings with more food. What I was doing wasn’t working, so I decided to give your way a try.
I can still remember my delight (and shock!) the first time I stepped on a scale and saw the number had gone DOWN! For the past several years, I had only seen it go up. My attempts at weight loss had never worked, and had led me into a disordered eating pattern that completely ruled my life. Instead of dieting, I was finally giving up control and listening to my body – and it actually worked! My body was becoming healthier and losing excess fat naturally just be eating normal foods and listening to hunger cues.
While I am happier now with body that I have ever been, I really can’t attribute that to a simple dress size. In addition to a healthy eating lifestyle, you also taught me how to love whatever body I have today. Instead of always looking for happiness “if” and “when”, I was able to start accepting myself as a whole person in that moment, flaws and imperfections included – something I had never been able to do. For the first time in my life, I actually LIKE myself AND my body, and it’s not completely tethered to the number on the scale!
My life today is completely transformed. I really can’t put into words how thankful I am for your positive and encouraging support in working towards a healthy relationship with food and my body. From the start, you made me feel like I didn’t have to be ashamed of my eating disorder, and that I was fully accepted just as I was. I will never forget you, Elyse, and the kindness, patience, and compassion you shared with me on my journey. I am truly grateful, and forever changed.
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