From Guilt to Weakness

Leon and I had an argument this weekend. Not a huge one, but big enough to stop conversation for the rest of the evening. It was triggered by something he said, but it was something that pushed my button, not anything he did. Our fight was about weight and the food choices I make (surprise, surprise). I have been extremely good the past week and a half at eating well, staying away from foods that aren’t on the list. On Friday we went to the movies and had dinner, and we both decided to have a free for all night. To be quite honest, what we call free for all other people would probably see as their diet. I didn’t eat anything off the list at dinner, except the biscuit that came with my coffee. So at movies I decided to have raspberry liquorice. Saturday Leon was talking about how he is at his racing weight, and instead of sharing his happiness I shared my disappointment in that it feels like I’ll never get there. He then brought up the liquorice…and then the fight started…

Two lessons I learnt here:
First lesson: The fight was not about the liquorice per se. People with eating disorders, self-image problems, people who have a bad relationship with food – all of them experience cravings, diets, and everything that could lead to weight gain very differently from people who don’t have these issues. Probably 60% of women experience these very differently to what most men do. I have been down the stick your finger in your throat path. I have been down the binge yourself until you feel sick path. In my darkest time I managed to gain almost 8kg in a mere 3 weeks. You need to eat pretty badly to be able to do that. I look at really obese people, and the first thought that pops into my head is that I wonder what is happening for them in their life. Most people look at them and ask if they don’t feel terrible to be that large. The fact is, yes they are feeling terrible, probably more than terrible, which drives them to food, which makes them feel even worse, which drives them to eat more, and the cycle continues. What angered me in our fight is that I expected Leon to understand that fighting a craving (sounds like the hot-wings ad), can some days be like World War III raging within you. The hot-wings ad is actually a very good depiction of this feeling. You know you shouldn’t eat the chocolate because it’s either going to cause weight gain, or make you feel extremely guilty, and in most cases both. Leon doesn’t understand, he will probably never understand. At that moment he also explained to me how hard he had worked to get there, and that it wasn’t something that just happened. My response, and this was the lesson I learned, is that in that moment in time I didn’t want to compare problems to try and illustrate that my life is harder or his life harder. In that moment I wanted him to put his problems aside, and acknowledge that I have something I’m grappling with and that right now, right here I wanted acknowledgement that my problem is real, and a worthy one of attention.

Second lesson: I understood from the minute that we stopped talking that the reason something as stupid as liquorice turned into the chainsaw massacre, was because it is a button for me. My processing only started the next morning, but I knew I would have to process the minute I decided to not say one more word. It has been a button for me since I was a teenager. I had asked my brother to call me on it when I eat sweets as a teenager when I wanted to loose weight. The first time he called me on it was ok, but by the third time I would verbally attack him, even though I knew I was the one who asked him to do it in the first place. It is a button I have not dealt with, and I’m learning that my relationship with food is probably where my biggest lessons will come from. I’ll talk you through some of my processing.

First thing that came up for me was fairness. Fairness is extremely important to me, and with many things in my life I sometimes fight this. It is not fair that Leon and Steve can be SO in control of what they eat. It is not fair that my brother could eat koeksisters every day and be skinny. It is not fair that some of the girls I race against can train 6 hours a day. It is not fair that my time to train is now even less with a child in my life. Maybe it isn’t, but as a friend said to me earlier this week, so what if it isn’t. By playing the unfair card I am taking away my responsibility and effectively giving away my power. The short answer here is to stop it – take ownership of my decisions, and if I need to work harder, then so be it. It didn’t give me the comfort that I found the root of my button.

I then thought about what my flop is, the thing that often makes me think I’m not worthy or good enough or capable. I have a couple, but I’ve been working with “I am guilty” for a while now. This one doesn’t fit though, because I’m actually getting better at keeping my guilt at bay when I eat foods that aren’t on my list. They aren’t wrong, and I’m not doing anything to hurt anyone, I just choose not to eat these, so I don’t feel the guilt anymore. And then it hit me between the eyes – I found (another!) flop.

I am weak

Now for most people who know me they’re either going to ask how it is possible that I even think that, or a lot of things will make sense for them about me. I thought about all the things that stir up some form of jealousy or guilt feelings within me. When anyone brags about their weight-loss, specially when I’m in a bad body-feeling space, I feel resentment. When people win races and I can’t, I feel like they judge me and think badly of me. When I eat liquorice and Leon comments on it, it feels like he is judging me. For any of these to be true for me, I need to be seen as weak. When Leon can achieve his goal weight and I can’t, I am weak and not strong enough to achieve it as well. When my team mates can stick in the bunch and win races, I am too weak to race with the top of the crop. When members in my team at work leave and go work in another team in the same role they hated in my team, I am weak as a leader and can’t build strong teams.

Am I weak? Most definitely not. I can ride 300+km on a bicycle over a weekend. Give me 4 weeks of dedicated training and I can build a six-pack. I can pack in a 9 hour day at work and be like a robot, remaining focused and getting the job done. I have a way of getting people to do tasks that people in my team struggle to get them to do (I always joke and owe it to my fluttering eye lids). I can feel emotionally beaten down and still put my emotions aside to support someone else who is going through a tough time. Hell, I’ve even noticed that on days when I truly step into my power, when I’m driving on the motorbike the cars make way in front of me like the red sea parted, and people push chairs between them and me because it radiates so strongly. What I’m getting at is that I can use this new piece of information, and create an even better life for me, and all of this out of a fight over liquorice.

To set things straight – I have subsequently acknowledged Leon for his achievement, it is amazing to see him being this dedicated to a goal. I have also apologized for snapping at him, and shared with him what I learned. His feedback and piece of wisdom – top CEOs make millions out of their companies but may be divorced three times. This doesn’t make them weak, it is just a thing they struggle with, and it is ok.

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