Hello, Reader! This is the first in a three to four part series to kind of give everyone some insight on my journey and my struggles with self-acceptance. Feel free to comment below or follow me!
There are certain memories that stand out in my mind like I’m experiencing them in the present, like I am experiencing them all over again, and I wish I could tell you that they were pleasant but most of them aren’t, and most of them involve food. I guess this is just my lot in life, to struggle with this particular brand of self-harm, because as far as I can tell, food and I have been and always will be at odds.
It’s not really a secret. I’m a big dude and big dudes are encouraged to eat a ton of food. I remember being full and not wanting any more food, being handed a plate and being told I needed to eat it. My grandparents still try to do that. I don’t know what it is about me that says I need to be handed more food after normal human sized meals but rest assured, I’m fine. Another note: Do they really think I need food that much? Do they not remember the time I went back for food so many times I made myself short of breath? I don’t know if everyone knows this, but if you eat so much food you have to gasp for air, that is a problem. And I used to do this all the time!
Why? It wasn’t like that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t remember ever thinking, “boy it sure would be great to eat until I gasp for air like I just fell in a cold river”. In fact, I remember very clearly wanting to stop eating but not being able to stop myself. I remember seeing the thinly veiled looks of shock on my family’s face as I’d return to the food for a fourth or fifth serving. I used to feel such deep shame and resentment. Why would they be judging me? It’s just food! I’m not full. Keep your shame to yourself. I’ve got enough of my own, thank you very much.
I know now they weren’t ashamed of me, they were just worried for my safety and wellbeing…
As I’m writing this, I realize a lot of this is only in the past and now I’m completely different, and that’s just not true.
I have nothing figured out. I’m still obese (280 lbs and holding) and I still battle extreme anxiety, depression and self-hatred. I binge eat still. I will do well for three weeks and then gorge myself at night for one week on everything I’ve abstained from. I used to steal my roommates food (I apologize to all of you. I have no excuse. It was wrong and I have a problem)
Why? Food is a major stumbling block for me in my life. I remember trying to lose weight by eating very little during the day, and binge eating at night or early in the morning. I did this because my mom told me that if you wanted to lose weight you have to eat less. So I would. During the day. I’d eat less. I would! But then, at night…let the feasting begin! And I know this might paint my mom in a bad light, so let me explain: she didn’t mean starve myself. She actually had a good point but like a lot of decisions I’ve made, I didn’t ask for help, I just decided
As a child I would get grounded for eating food out of the trash.
Yeah, out of the trash. Like a raccoon at a campground dumpster.
If you threw away a corn dog you’d only eaten a third of, I’d be close behind you to clean the Popsicle stick. Why did I do that? We had food. I didn’t have to eat out of the trash! In retrospect, I guess I couldn’t help myself? Maybe on some level I thought I needed it.
As an anecdote: I remember the time I had my breakfast of sandwiches and Doritos thrown in my lap. My mom did that. She was really mad at me. She had asked me not to eat junk food for breakfast anymore and I did it anyway. You know, I guess I can understand her frustration…I don’t think I would’ve done any different.
People always bullied me about my size and I turned to food as an escape, which seems to be a huge irony to me. I eat and balloon in size, I am then tortured for it, so I then turn to the cause of my suffering for relief from said suffering. I used to joke about my excessive eating habits. I’d tell people “hey, at least cheese doesn’t call you names.” Or “Ice Cream won’t flick your tits and call you worthless.”
I eventually started making positive changes. I cut out soda, I tried to only have bread once a day, I introduced salad into my diet and I did Tie-Bo and went for walks. I was just so desperate for change.
Lo and Behold, change did happen, verrrrryyyyy very slowly, but it did happen. I began to experience more energy, I slept deeper, and I experienced some weight loss. It made me happy! I felt amazing!
But…a fall was coming…
For every good day I had, a bad week of eating would follow. One day, I’d have nothing but Chicken, Broccoli and brown rice, while the following week I would stuff myself with hamburgers and milkshakes…
A new cycle began (and sadly still continues) until one year I just gave up. I gave up and ballooned to 330 plus and ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. After that year, I swore to never let it happen again. Ever. I would never allow myself to drift that far away from myself ever again.
Eventually I made even more progress and my willpower became stronger. I found ways to resist temptation and I tried to live by a new code. A code meant to give life: “Food is fuel, not life”.
These good choices I was making were meant to override the vicious cycle of shame and self-loathing. They were supposed to give me some self-control and fully end the Binge and Hate Cycle, but the cycle is hard to beat. It’s been around longer than most of us have been alive and it does not like to be trifled with. Like a dragon, it guards its hoard of ill-gotten gains with great voracity. If I ever found myself having good meal after good meal, you know, balanced and well proportioned, and they led to good weeks and good months, then I could feel the dragon waking, feeling its treasure slowly creeping away from the pile, making its way towards freedom…and dragons, as the stories say, do not let treasure go lightly.
Here’s how it works:
I come home, tired and irritated. Work isn’t what I want it to be. It’s not bad, but it sure isn’t great, and man am I hungry…
Well, lucky for me, I’ve got lean protein thawing in the fridge, some fresh greens ready for eating and a small helping of complex carbohydrates! Day saved by a healthy choice!
“But…”whispers the dragon, “…you’ve gotta cook and that takes time…ugh…that’s too much…wouldn’t you rather eat, oh I don’t know…anything you can microwave? We did get corndogs the other day…”
Nope. I’m gonna cook.
“You’re too tired…eat what you want! You can eat healthy tomorrow!”
The claws sink in, and I’m slowly put back onto the middle of the pile with the other trinkets. I eat corndog after corndog until I say enough! Then I eat candy and sweets until I feel too full…So I clean my plate and leave the kitchen hoping no one comes home to find evidence of what I’ve just done.
Then it begins to sink in. Then I try to make it right.
I feel shame that I did what I swore I would never do again.
I feel the regret of knowing I won’t like remembering this moment.
I feel the crushing anxiety that I will immediately gain all the weight I have lost and lose all of my progress, strength, coordination and flexibility.
I fear that I’ve let my God down and disgusted Him.
I fear the judgement of those who might walk in on me eating.
I fear that my girlfriend will leave me because she’ll see the horrible, insecure monster I think I am.
So, I hit the gym extra hard in the morning, sacrificing common sense and technical mastery for pure exertion and sweat. I forget to stretch and neglect active recovery, almost willing the pain to be more intense to serve as my personal brand of self-flagellation.
And all because of food.
Food. Inanimate, opinion-less food. It has dictated how I have allowed myself to feel and how I have acted. It has damaged my self-image and tarnished my relationships…
I know this is mostly negative, but I didn’t intend it to be. I wanted people to get a glimpse of what happens on the journey before the journey reaches a photogenic moment. The before and after photos are a lie. I will not lie to any of you. You will see me when I celebrate and you will see me when I cry. I want you to see snapshots of the gravel and mud that I am slogging through to get to the finish line so you can see you aren’t alone and you aren’t a failure. I hope you can see that I am not giving up and don’t ever plan to give up again. I don’t think I’m going to let food do this to me or anyone I love, anymore. I hope that by writing this down, and letting others into my struggles, giving them an opportunity to be in the mess with me, maybe we can overcome the mess. God’s given me a wonderful opportunity to articulate my struggles and not go through them alone. I’ll be praying over this from here on out and If you need prayer leave a comment below and I’ll join you.
Just keep in mind that you cannot win on your own. Please don’t try to do this yourself. Talk to God, talk to those you trust.
And most importantly, don’t give up. Remember why you fight, and why you sweat. Pick up the barbell, lace your running shoes, and get back to work. And, please. Leave the corndogs in the trash. You’re better than that.