I am not fat, as a matter of fact I’m not even an average ‘healthy’ size. I am skinny, many people will call me tiny. I do have self-image issues, and the picture of what I see in the mirror is pretty skewed most days. Except when I follow my eating and training plan 100% and I have a body fat level of 13% or lower, what society considers unhealthy for a female. Logically I know I’m not fat, emotionally I don’t. When someone looks at me and says that I am lucky to be skinny, I feel like smacking them. I’m not naturally skinny, I got my father’s genes in that regard. I have to train really hard and eat a relatively healthy diet to be this skinny. Fortunately I absolutely love training, so the first item in the equation comes easy, we cycle between 12 to 20 hours a week, and then add cross training in the form of boot camp, some running and swimming.
It is the second part of the equation that is problematic. I don’t have a medical termed illness like obesity, anorexia or bulimia. But there are multiple dimensions regarding my relationship with food that are problematic.
First dimension: Most people can eat whatever they want, healthy or unhealthy, and not feel guilty for it. I know I’m not the only person in the world who feels guilty when I eat chocolate or bread or anything ‘bad’ on the list, but I sometimes wonder if I take it to another extreme. I remember a very brief time in my life where I had no guilt when I ate anything, but I was also training twice a day for adventure racing and therefore burnt millions of calories a day. Before I started adventure racing though, I was pretty overweight and to fix my eating problem I had to stop thinking of food as good or bad. Now we’re following a low carbohydrate high protein and fat diet to improve our athletic performance, so food is categorised again. What it means for me is that when I eat a ‘bad’ food I beat myself up emotionally for having no self-discipline and how it will affect my performance and make me heavier.
Second dimension: I can eat ‘good’ for periods of time. Sometimes it can last up to 6 weeks, I think my record has been 3 months. By ‘good’ I don’t mean stick to my diet 100% all the time, but I can have a cheat once in a while and then jump right back on plan again, no emotional rollercoaster. My problem is that I can’t maintain it. At some point something happens, I have a cheat and then the wheels come off. I begrudge myself, feel terrible, and then eat more bad food. I have been fat in my life, and I have an absolute fear of becoming fat again. My husband has seen me breakdown in tears when I have gained some weight and start battling to keep my eating in check, some being 3 to 5kg, not much by most people’s standards.
Third dimension: This doesn’t happen all the time, but when things go really wrong, I get to a point where all I think of is food. I crave all the time, and think about why I shouldn’t eat what I crave for, and then start going into an argument in my head about whether I should get what I think I’m craving and just eat it or be strong and push the thoughts aside. 8 out of 10 times the craving wins, and then dimension two comes to play.
When things are going well for me, I’m in dimension one. When things are going ok-ish, dimension two sticks out its head together with one. When the wheels fall off, all three play havoc with me. It is mentally draining to be in that space, and I find myself there at the moment, again. Usually something comes right and things get better. But that is exactly the point – because I’ve been so out of tune with my inner self, I don’t know or understand what that something is. And I’m guessing that for as long as I don’t understand I will forever be riding this rollercoaster.
From what I’m learning, my cravings are distractions for me to not feel emotions that come up that are painful. In the past three weeks, twice I have been able to move my focus to my emotions and experience what I’m feeling. Generally it is a deep sadness and comes from my heart – an indication that I’m closing myself off to others. Friday some thoughts that came up for me was that I’m feeling guilt because I’m not hectically busy at work at the moment, and I do spend some of the JSE’s time on ‘non-work’ items. We are taking a project live next week, and I also realised that I’m a bit disconnected from the details, as I should be in my role, but I felt a sense of either not being part of the go-live, or that I’m not letting my team feel my involvement and support.
Today, in this blog, I have no answers, no epiphany’s, no lessons to teach. Today I’m blogging to work through my thoughts with the hope of getting some answers. The only answer I have is that for this uphill I should ask my team how they feel about my involvement and support. But I don’t believe that it is the long-term solution to my bad relationship with food, or even the underlying fear that triggers it.
Today, I’m asking for patience to follow this journey without fear of what I may find, and allow the feeling to happen so I can learn and grow.