When I was eight years old, I went on my first diet. My pediatrician, Dr. McCutchen (whom I still have nightmares about to this day,) told me I was overweight and I needed to go on a restrictive diet.
Only one hour before, I had no idea what it meant to not think I was beautiful just the way I was. I was a happy child, comfortable in my body and loving life. Now I was on a diet. Following doctor’s orders, my mom took me to a local weight loss clinic.
It was the diet to start all diets; the diet that would eventually lead eight-year-old me to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, restriction, extreme exercise, and massive self-loathing. It would also be the diet that would begin me on this life path; a path of discovery, learning to love myself again, learning to be a woman empowered and carrying this message.
I particularly remember my birthday that year. The diet center had given us all of my pre-packaged and pre-portioned food I was to eat. Instead of normal birthday cake, I ate a frozen piece of their processed, tasteless, “lemon” cake that came out of plastic. I felt accomplished. I didn’t “cheat,” but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
I now know It wasn’t more of the cake I wanted. I wanted to be OK. I wanted to be an eight-year-old girl, not on a diet.
Many years followed of not feeling normal— I was different, and believed that different was bad. Looking back over the last 30 years of my life, the theme that persisted was the idea of enough.
What is enough? When is it ever enough? How do I fill this desire? What is enough food, enough weight loss, enough clothes, enough purses, enough money, enough sleep, enough anything? And when will I ever be enough? When will I ever be able to eat normal birthday cake and it be enough?
I thought all my pain had to do with food and weight. I thought that my inexhaustible desire would be my undoing. I thought I would never have a normal relationship with food. I thought my wanting was a bottomless pit and I would always binge on everything tasty and sparkly in life. Thank God, I was wrong.
It took me many years to learn that it is not about food, or weight, or fitting into that pair of size six jeans. I have been 20 pounds lighter and miserable, and I have been 40 pounds heavier and blissful. I have starved myself, binged, eaten food out of the trash can, eaten laxatives because they were chocolate-flavored, and cried myself to sleep. It was never about the food. It was about this feeling of never enough-ness.
Throughout the many years I have spent doing this work, I have learned from authors like Cheri Hubor and Tara Brach that how you do anything is how you do everything. What I also learned from Geneen Roth and through the daily practice of paying attention to my own relationship to food is this:
How you eat is how you live. Conversely, how you live is how you eat.
When we deny ourselves pleasure with food, we deny ourselves pleasure in all areas of life.
When we are not OK with our God-given shape, we are not ok with how we feel about ourselves in our soul.
When we eat quickly in the car on the way to the meeting without tasting our food, or we stand up at the counter and stuff food in our faces instead of sitting down at the table and savoring each bite, we rush through all of life. We miss the roses, we miss the butterflies, and we miss the experience and the pleasure of enjoying each moment because we are too caught up in the ego; the chastising, ruminating, know-it-all voice in our heads.
When we are striving for a lower number on the scale, and when we get there it’s not good enough and we need to strive for an even lower number, we do not feel deserving of anything in our lives.
It is not about the weight. It goes back to not feeling that feeling of enough-ness. Not feeling you deserve abundance at any size. Not feeling that you deserve real lemon cake.
Lasting change does not happen overnight. My metamorphosis surely did not. Thirty years after that little girl went on her first diet, I have finally found enough. I didn’t find it in a diet book, in a pill or a bottle. There has been no magic infomercial or a special ab master that finally did it. It has been a series of tiny, mostly unnoticeable, little daily shifts that added up to a huge quantum shift.
It has been hours of therapy, hundreds of books and the sitting in painful feelings so that I could come out the other side. It has been this willingness to show up for myself on a daily basis that led me to realize that this is the definition of self-love. It is the fact that I have spent years learning what true hunger feels like and how to eat when I am hungry and feel my feelings when I am not. That I spend time leaning into why I don’t want to stop eating even when I am satisfied and the learning and acceptance that the food will still be there tomorrow. The sitting with the feeling of the guilt and shame that came after eating a “forbidden” food and the forgiveness that I offered myself after I threw it up. It came with many hours of meditating to listen for God’s voice and many prayers asking God to help me when I felt like I was unlovable. It came with me surrendering and giving up and letting go.
The miraculous thing is that once I let go and surrendered, I became a size six. I also ate cake.
I learned to be able to cleanse, or drink green juice, or eat chicken and vegetables for my body and my spirit because that is also me showing up for myself. I cannot do the work God has called me to do while eating toxic foods (although I allow myself treats all the time.) The key is that I do it all now from a spiritual place (as opposed to a dieting/restrictive perspective.) God is in my cleansing and my green juice. Food is no longer my main love, God and Spirit are.
The only thing I truly desire now is the continued showing up for myself every day. I desire the willingness to sit with myself and recognize false beliefs, to sit with the pain so that I may understand it without judgement, and to take the time to be mindful and enjoy my food without unnecessary distraction. I desire daily alone time with God through prayer and meditation and the feeling of being filled to the brim with love from the universe.
I desire to help others and teach the tools I have learned over the last 20 years that led me to love myself more than food or the number on a scale. I desire going to bed at night knowing that I did a little something for myself to become an even better woman, and that I touched at least one person. I no longer run through what I ate that day or what I will be allowed to eat tomorrow; instead, I ask myself what I did today for my God, my body and the people I love in my life.
If you have struggle in any similar way, not feeling you are enough, know that, if it was possible for that eight-year-old girl who felt so unlovable to reclaim her beauty, then you can too.
You are enough, not because of the number on the scale or the fact that you had only 1,200 calories today. You are enough, not because of what you said, or thought, or bought, or achieved, but because you always have been.
This is what it means to be full-filled.