I have been delving, over the past few weeks, through my relationship with my body, with food, with running and the way all three are interconnected; the effort has resulted in a lot of good insight but also a lot of mental instability. I am having a hard time concentrating, or finding motivation to write. And, as I’ve said before, the longer I stay away from writing the more daunting a task it becomes in my mind. And the less I write, the harder it becomes to focus on life. And so on and so forth in an annoying cycle of anxiety and diminished productivity.
Or, at least, diminished perception of productivity. Because I know that the hard work I am doing now is important to creating a stable mental outlook. The more I talk and think and write about the role food, and control of food, has played in my life the more I realize the complexity of the problem. I have only recently had the courage to acknowledge that I struggled with eating for more than a decade. And that I still struggle, although in different ways, today. I thought that by becoming vegan, by cultivating a more forgiving understanding of my body, implementing fewer rules and allowing more freedoms I would be healed. Although veganism and self-compassion have worked wonders for creating freedom around food, they are not panaceas.
As often as I experience joy around food, I also experience stress and doubt. I do not trust myself to make the correct choices; I often second-guess the ingredients on my plate. I worry I am eating too much, or not enough. Simply put, I am not comfortable yet around food.
I have latent phobias of fat that emerge when I am anxious. I have noticed myself recently using food as a reward for exercise, and withholding meals until after I have burned a requisite number of calories, without regard to hunger.
This past Monday, for example, I slogged through a twenty-mile bikeride instead of eating lunch. I did eat when I returned home, but I had not allowed myself a meal beforehand. I think my reasoning was that I did not deserve anything because I had not sweat. I wanted not only the high of exercise, but the euphoria that accompanies eating after pushing my body. The problem with this thinking is that the euphoria is never as good as I imagine, and the letdown leaves me irritable. I snap at my boyfriend. I fall into self-loathing. And then I scheme ways to reconnect with the hunger-high.
This is not healthy behavior. It is not behavior I want to identify with. It no longer describes me, or the version of me that I am cultivating.
The person I envision myself being eats when she is hungry. Eats to fuel her body, and also her soul. She has cake without shame. She does not think much about food, other than as a vehicle for pleasure or utility. Food, in terms of quality and quantity is a minor part of life. Food is delicious and satisfying. It does not occupy my thoughts all day. Food is an accent, a benefit of living in a life of privilege and love.
I am not there yet, to this rational, empowered identity. But I can see it, peeking out beneath the years of maladaptive patterns. As I venture through memories and beliefs, I will probably experience a lot of triggering moments. I can foresee days when I will not want to eat. Days when I have to remind myself that food is good and nourishing. Days when I will not want to do anything but sit in my own thoughts. This is okay, because it is all part of the process of change. I am doing the hard work. I am becoming myself. I am learning to love my body and accept its needs. I am me. And I am doing my best to remember that the messiness of this process is okay.