I went to a yoga class recently. At the beginning of the class, the together, well-spoken, fit yoga teacher who had recently adopted a child said, "I used to binge eat."
If she can do it, I can do it. It is time to own it, I thought to myself.
I'm getting certified as a health counselor. I write food articles for healthy living magazines. I actually enjoy exercise and teach yoga and Pilates. But I only came to this way of living by going through some struggles and learning some hard lessons
About 13 years ago, when I lived in England, I gained some weight. I was happy to be where I was but also panicked because I had just ditched grad school to live in Europe. The two warring emotions led me to seek comfort in food. I increased my portion sizes and decreased my exercise. I worked a lot, traveled a lot, and met a lot of friends.
One day, I decided to lose the weight. So I did. Since I had only been my larger size for a year, reverting to my old habits of portion control and exercise was relatively simple, and I lost the weight easily.
But somewhere along the way, my diet devolved into a pattern of disordered eating. Although my weight held steady, my health and my habits were askew. Some days, I would eat salads at every meal. The next day, I would wake up starving and eat a whole jar of peanut butter. I fluctuated between extreme hunger and over-the-top fullness.
I. Couldn't. Stop.
I would make pacts with myself. I'm going to drink less alcohol, I would say, and then I would be invited to an amazing party and I would drink five glasses of wine. I won't buy anything tempting, I would say, and then I would order takeout for a family of four.
When you look the same, no one is the wiser. More often than not, people told me I looked great.
One day, I decided to really, truly say no to exciting weekend plans. As a twentysomething, nothing was more difficult for me than believing I was missing out: FOMO. I went to bed early.
I woke up the next morning and I cried.
Having space and quiet meant that I finally allowed myself to feel the ugly, painful feelings I'd been ignoring. The years of swallowing my feelings in order to be fun and ambitious and keep moving forward began to surface. I cried in the shower. I cried on the couch. The tears kept on coming.
Until they ran dry.
A huge relief washed over me. Something had shifted.
I started to meditate in the morning. I had no formal meditation teacher, and I really had no idea what I was doing. It was just my no-BS "feeling" time on a cushion. This time made me realize that even though I "had it all" (an apartment that overlooked the Alps!). I wasn't truly happy. I sold all my furniture and glossy cookbooks and I went home.
Seven years later, I am once again an expat, but I find my life comes from more of an intuitive place. If my schedule is full, I can say no to a job, even if it sounds exciting. If I am exhausted, I can exchange a night with friends for a night with my cats. Learning to be honest with myself allows me to stop eating when I am full. I can keep treats in the house because I'm no longer a slave to their power. I enjoy feeling good in my body, which is a result of allowing myself to not feel good in my mind.
Happiness and peace and inner calm are beautiful things, but not when you're faking it. We have to keep moving forward, even if we don't think we're moving at all. We have to give ourselves permission to feel everything.