I wanted to find clarity in the woods, and I sure as hell got it. Only it wasn’t at all what I wanted, or thought I wanted, anyway. At all. It was more like clarity in a cup. A very large cup of vanilla ice cream blended with peanut butter cups and chocolate sauce. Wait 24 to 48 hours. Repeat.
You see–and I know you can relate, dear reader–I had such high hopes for wondrous, self-affirming and healthy things to happen to me this summer. Let me remind you what I stated back in early June, before I left for the Michigan woods:
“I’m going to launch into an 8 Week personal cleanse and clarity initiative. I’ve got to come up with a better name for this and patent the program. I’m not kidding. My brother is joining me in eating clean for the summer. That means, within reason (we don’t want any crazy-making): no processed foods, no white sugar, and no white flour. Not only does this virtually eliminate all of my trigger foods, but it’ll keep my mind and emotions more stable…and I’m going to need all the positive energy I can get.”
I am literally in pain right now typing this. The act of sharing this is so humbling I could puke, if only vomiting wasn’t the worst thing I can imagine doing (next to failing and putting it on public display). OK, there are WAY worse things, but you get my point.
Before you jump in and say, “But you’re not a failure and you can learn from this…,” let me say, “Thank you! I’m way ahead of you!” 😉
So Here’s What Happened
I simply wasn’t able to stick to any semblance of a clean diet, healthy mindset, spiritual practice, or whatever magic pieces I needed to achieve my goal of spending the summer in a “healing space.” Instead, I most definitely put on weight (instead of losing it) and I overstuffed my digestive system most days (even with Michigan cherries), resulting in feeling worse about myself and confused about my ability to self-love and make my health a true priority. Humiliating, disappointing, you name it. Sigh.
All in all, there were (and are) incongruencies all over the place. My thoughts, emotions, eating behaviors…all over the map. One day I’d be in a “healthy” state of mind, the next I was like, “screw it.” And I’d ebb and flow by the hour! God, I don’t like admitting this at all.
Let’s See WHY This Happened
Is it even important? It happened. Indeed, I had a major death in my family in the middle of the summer. THAT’S A BIG DEAL. But also, I was out of my element, away from my regular suburban Illinois life and routine of working in an office and coming home to my husband and kids around 6 pm most evenings. That’s also a big deal. Don’t get me wrong: living in Michigan was MAGICAL! It was soooo great, so green, so fresh, so casual, and so much fun. But obviously, I was completely discombobulated on mental and spiritual level. I lost my health Mojo so quickly and so easily.
There were also food temptations everywhere, especially in the form of ice cream. I think Western Michigan is the ice cream capital of the world! If so, consider me a citizen! (I’ve earned it.) Anyway, I also had vacation-brain, even though I was technically working (in a beautiful arts and crafts style library, no less), and I wanted to enjoy food and experience tasty and generally unhealthy things. Because THAT’s what I want to do. THAT’s where my brain goes…and I follow.
So many reasons to succumb. All more powerful than my aforementioned desire to be “healthy” and “find clarity.” I went back to what works for me…and that’s eating. My life was off-kilter, even in very positive ways most of the time, and I ate to manage the underlying feelings, feelings that unfortunately are still kind of hard for me to identify, even though I’ve been working on that.
The Real Deal
This brings me to a realization (clarity, my friend?) that I most likely–no clinical diagnosis yet–have binge eating disorder. I took step 1 of the 12 steps a while ago, and that’s that I’m powerless over food and my life has become unmanageable. Been there, done that. Still there. And I have had the spiritual awakening promised by the program. My food issues are not solved quite yet, that’s all.
Even in a 12 step program they say there’s three parts of recovery: physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. That little guy in the middle–the mental/emotional–that’s the one I’ve got to pay more attention to, despite years of talk-therapy and self-help. I’ve made some jokes about being insane–or feeling insane–around food, but I do so respectfully, especially now. There are some real issues with the way I think about things (including my self-regard) and the way I address (or don’t address) emotions that need some harder core, deeper dive professional help. And there’s sure as hell no shame in that.
In fact, I think my higher power has led me to this point: he/she knows that for me, at this stage in recovery, I need more than what the 12 steps offer. (I really hope I’m not pissing off any loyal 12-steppers here. But I can’t control that, can I?)
I can’t speak with expert authority (not yet, anyway!) about binge eating disorder, and anyway, I have to talk to my doctor first. In the meantime, I’ll keep exploring some concepts I’ve been thinking/reading about, including:
- The diet mentality – does saying you’re a “clean eater” mean you have a diet mentality? I think swearing off sugar and wheat come dangerously close!
- The “I have a disease” mentality – does taking the 12-step approach, or even getting an eating disorder diagnosis, mean food freedom isn’t inherently possible? Or is it the path to food freedom?
- Food addiction – I’ve waved this flag, bought into the science behind it, and am a self-proclaimed member of the club. But is it really an all-or-nothing game? And doesn’t that circle us back around to the diet mentality?
No Wonder I’m Making This My Life’s Work
All of this fascinates me, obviously. But it’s very real to me. It’s very painful, very personal, and, as I said, very humbling. Yet it’s strengthening, oddly enough. I truly want to get to the bottom of what’s driving my ongoing food problems and address the root issues. And I want to help people find a path to food sanity (not even weight loss, but that’s a result of the work) that works comfortably for them. That’s why I’m more excited than ever to begin my health coaching certification program in October. It’ll supercharge my efforts to understand these really universal challenges, and get closer to serving more people in truly meaningful ways…starting with myself.
So I guess that’s the clarity I asked for?
Thanks for traveling the road with me! Until next time…