I have been digging through my past and my feelings of fear and pain for almost a year now, and I still have more layers to sort through. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.
Being vulnerable to others is absolutely something that takes courage to do (something else that I’m still working on), but being vulnerable to yourself about yourself? That’s the worst job I can think of. Many of us, myself included, spend so many years building up walls and smokescreens, and stockpiles of deceptions and diversions to keep from having to deal with the parts of our being or our history that we’d rather not deal with. Food was part of that system I had in place. But now, with me eating differently and undertaking this major self-improvement work, I have stripped away some of the defenses I used to have, and have made myself more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt.
It’s like living the cool darkness of a small cave and then, one day, suddenly finding yourself in a thriving, open field on a warm, sunny day. It’s so foreign and bewildering, even if it is a positive experience. Nothing in my life has prepared me to experience life this way.
I can understand why some people never choose to face their fears and their demons, and instead convince themselves to be content with the conventions they use to keep the bad feelings at bay. I can understand why it’s so hard to change the course of an unhealthy relationship with food–we all have to eat to survive, so food may be the only constant in our lives as we work to change the rules in other areas of our existence. And when the going gets rough, the food we’ve used in the past as a band-aid solution is an easy one to fall back on.
I am thankful that I have changed some of my thoughts about food during the course of doing this emotional work, but there are plenty of times when I stumble, plenty of times when I just want to quit doing something that kicks up so much emotional dust that was previously swept neatly into a padlocked closet in my mind. Rather than beating myself up after meals or days when I have overindulged on food, I intend to have some compassion for myself, since I know the extent of the challenge I face in embarking on this transformation. I have been a seeker of perfection, but it’s not realistic to think that I will perfectly change into a stronger person overnight. And that goes for changing the way I relate to the world as much as changing the way I interact with food.
Self-work feels like the worst job on the planet, but when it starts paying off, it’s one of the most courageous, rewarding things we could ever do for ourselves. If you are trying to lose weight and work through the emotional issues that have previously married you to unhealthy food choices, I encourage you to keep pressing on, even when you have no energy or desire to do so, even when you find yourself face-to-face with the eye of the psychic hurricane that tears through your life and unsettles your mood. Some days we’ll be able to meet those feelings with love and grace, and some days we won’t be able to shake the feeling that the only thing that will help is burying those feelings with food. But with compassion and practice, those moments will happen less frequently.
As much as I hate how I feel sometimes confronting the fractured parts of myself, it is soothing to know that with time and effort, things can change. That, in the end, makes this job worthwhile.