Meet 10 year old Me. I wrote this journal entry the very same year that I actually did give up on myself. I wrote this just as I was about to leave my body, not to return for over a decade. I promised myself my dreams right before I began a long and slow process of giving up on them and, more importantly, giving up on myself. What became more important than my passion? Becoming small. Fitting into the world. Looking good.
My relationship with my body broke down when I was 10. It was at that point that I began believing that nothing else I was going through was more important than beating my body into submission. Stuffing my stomach into silence. No matter how talented or smart or good I was, I was never better than my too big body, than my too round hips and my too large tummy. I was afraid, anxious and depressed, and it was my body’s fault, which meant I WAS TO BLAME. So, I spent the next 20 years punishing myself, boxing myself into too tight quarters and squeezing myself into a pretend world where all was right as long as I was thin and fit and looked the part.
The only reason I ever had the courage to break this cycle completely is because I finally got to the place where I was either going to change, or I was going to die. I was either going to face my pain and my fear and my complicated past, or I was going to disappear completely in my hiding. I walked my way into a dark corner and the choice became obvious: Give this up or die striving.
What I know now is that we cannot fully fight back against the weight loss industry, unless we’re willing to face the ways we’ve contributed to it: By hating our bodies and using our relationship with food as a way out of what scares us or causes us pain. Our anger at the media, magazines and advertising isn’t enough. We have to look beneath our rage, and face the frightened 10 year olds we once were. We have to face our insecurity in the world, and the way we’ve mistakenly tied our feelings of stability and happiness to our ability to fit into skinny jeans. We cannot challenge systems until we have challenged our own distorted beliefs.
We cannot be angry at our dieting friends and the way their obsession reminds us of our own struggle until we are willing to remember where all of this self-hatred and anger at life comes from. For me, it rose up out of the unfortunate timing of pre-teen vulnerability and instability in my family and life. It started at home for me, and outside messages only reinforced what I was already hearing from people who I trusted to love me. I don’t share that to cast blame on anyone-I am grown, and any choice to continue on that path is now my own. I share this to tell the truth, a thing I have needed to do in order to get out from underneath the layers upon layers of this old and complex story. It’s my calling and my duty to unpack it, to blow the locked doors inside me wide open and to make things right. Because I deserve that. Because we all deserve that.
It’s our work to conjure the courage to face ourselves, our fears, our feelings and our pain. We can run and hide in our relationship to food, but at some point, we have to accept the fact that it’s only prolonging the inevitable. That we’re only digging ourselves deeper into the hole we feel inside. That we were once people with dreams who felt capable of facing our future and creating our way, no matter what our circumstances may be, but we gave up. We gave up on the wrong things.
We can return, try again, and give up on the right things, this time. Every time is the right time to give ourselves grace, to give up hope for the wrong things and be open to the idea that we are more than our relationship to food. We’re more, and we’re enough.