August 30, 2015

I Woke Up Like This: Moving Forward from my Diet Obsession.

Zak Cannon

Like many girls, I love me some Beyoncé so of course I was hooked when Flawless came out.

What’s not to love? A song all about being sexy and perfect? Yes please. “I woke up like this” quickly became my go to mantra. If I could just fake it till I made it, if I could just keep listening to this song, I could convince myself that I, too, was flawless. My inner Beyoncé would finally be set free and all the b*tches would bow down to me.

Yes, I needed to be flawless.

I have been fighting an ugly war with my body for almost 11 years now. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t on a diet.

My “weight loss journey” was nothing extreme like the people on The Biggest Loser and I was never sent to rehab to get my purging under control. Through my dieting career I managed to never get over 215 or below 115 pounds, so I am by no means Dr. Phil material.

This is a battle that I have fought on my own. Although everyone knows about it, it has always been more of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell kind of thing. To most, this whole diet ordeal was just me being like all the 20-something-year-olds out there: always worrying about my weight, because that’s what all girls do.

So I started to sing my mantra and hold my head up high. This was it—I was going to kick this eating disorder and body image garbage to the curb. As long as I saw myself as flawless, I was good. Don’t worry be-yonce, right?

This worked for about a month.

Then the magic of my new found theme song and attitude started to fade. The feelings and thoughts that I would never get over myself and be normal around food, social situations and with myself, started to creep back in. The weight I was so sure I would lose as soon as I turned into a diva wasn’t budging. If anything, it was just holding on tighter. I no longer felt flawless, just hopeless. It wasn’t long before chewing and spitting out my food or going all the way and throwing up in the backyard became a thing again. Fasting Monday to Thursday and weekend binge-fests were back on the calendar.

After I realized my inner Beyoncé had officially moved out, I was back to square one.

My body was a problem and the only solution was another diet. I couldn’t keep binging and purging, so obviously, I needed to find a more controlled plan again. First step, Google! I needed to know what new supplements I could get to help burn fat and keep my cravings away. A miracle pill that would jump start my new improved life. Once these extra pounds were gone, I would finally be happy. Once I got that feeling that I’m in control again, I would finally be normal—I would quit crash dieting and going to bed hungry. Then I could love myself full-time, no theme song required. Yup, just 10 more pounds and all of this will go away.

But when I was searching Pinterest for my next get skinny quick plan, something changed. The little voice in the back of my head that tries to keep me sane finally spoke up and asked “Why are you doing this? Again?! What are you trying to prove? What are you so freaking afraid of?”

Then it hit me. I wasn’t just trying to avoid going up another jean size by the end of the year and I was certainly not doing this for my health. I wasn’t just looking for control or happiness. I was avoiding owning myself and my life. I was avoiding letting myself open up and bloom, as is. I wanted to stop, but no matter which wat the scale was moving, it was never right or enough.

I was looking for some kind of insurance plan that promised I was covered no matter what. I needed to know that by paying my deductible and staying thin, I would be wanted and that I wasn’t going to be dropped and left behind. I was waiting for a big red “approved” stamp to be stamped on me so I could have a permanent reminder that I was enough.

This constant hurt in my belly wasn’t from a food allergy or any other health or weight related problem that I could blame it on. No, this paralyzing pain is what fear feels like. What is it I’m afraid of? Everything.

I knew deep down all along that all of this craziness was fear based but who wants to admit their crazy and afraid? Especially when I had managed to hide so much of that craziness and fear behind a diet.

Of course I’m moody—I’m starving and despite what my favorite fitness blogger says and no matter how hard I’ve tried to image it, this boiled cauliflower tastes nothing like McDonald’s fries.

Of course I feel left out. Everyone around me is eating pasta and drinking my favorite Merlot! And they’re not even mentally calculating their carb count. What the hell?

Of course I’m scared. Yes my husband tells me I’m perfect and yes he has been with me through many different weights. Not nce has he ever once said anything even slightly bad or mean about my body but what if he changes his mind? What if he wakes up one morning and sees me in a different light? What if a thinner, cuter, perkier girl comes in and takes him away? It happens all the time. I hear what his friends and the rest of the world say about women and I know that my frame doesn’t necessarily fit into the ideal category.

What if not losing this weight and keeping it off means I lose everything?

I know it sounds insane and extreme and looking back, I admit that it was. I had convinced myself that as long as I was on some kind of diet, I had an excuse—an excuse to be crazy, bitchy and constantly hungry for control (and blueberry muffins). I had an excuse for all the totally, not ever going to happen “what ifs” I had created in my head. I had an excuse to put life, people, and all my other problems on hold.

Since every woman in my life knows how diets go, I never even really had to explain myself either. They know that it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, starving to binging, skinny jeans to blown out sweat pants. They know I’ll either say “No, thanks” to cake because I’m on South Beach, or I’ll eat two pieces (and then scarf down the rest after everyone goes to bed) because I’m coming off of South Beach. Either way, they mostly understood. They know what it’s like to worry about what men think about them and if they’ve still got it. They know how degrading it feels to have to bend down to the bottom shelf, get on all fours, and dig to find their jean size at American Eagle. They just never understood why it mattered to me so much. They just didn’t get how I had let this take over my life.

During my a-ha moment it hit me: this eating disorder had taken over because all my life I’ve been told the worst thing that I can be is fat. Bitchy, mean, fake, stupid? Nah, people will look pass all that as long as I maintain a size 4. I can be anything, just not fat.

I was told that if I couldn’t control myself around a bag of M&M’s, than obviously I couldn’t control anything else in my life either. I was told to be afraid of not fitting into everyone else’s idea of perfect. I realized that I was afraid of being fat more than I was of getting cancer—that’s a freaking problem. I realized that in my quest to be skinny the only thing I lost that didn’t yo-yo or come back to me, was my confidence. I realized that it wasn’t my waist that was getting smaller, just my life. I hid behind my diet and rated my day by the number of calories I consumed. Anything under 1,000 meant things were golden, anything above 1,200…well, that just meant I suck.

How did I become so weak? How can I get past this and live my life? I knew then that there was no workout or juice fast that could cure me. All of these weight and fear based issues I had created could only get flushed out by me and my thoughts. I had looked at it all wrong. I didn’t need to be flawless. Flaws are good! Everyone has them and is it really a flaw if I don’t have a problem with them?

I didn’t need to be flawless, I needed to be fearless.

Now I wish I could say that since this personal intervention things have been peachy. Truth is, this was just the beginning. Learning to love something that I have been taught to hate is a lot harder than is seems and ti takes a lot of time.

It’s like learning a new language—it’s a challenge and I have to practice everyday. I’m learning to use new words like worthy, enough, loveable and ditching words like fat, useless, and ugly. I’m learning that being fearless isn’t as easy as “laughing in the face of danger” or being the first to volunteer to walk into a dark room.

Being fearless means saying yes to dinner, even if I know if my best friend doesn’t use gluten free soy sauce in her stir fry.

Being fearless means letting my husband touch my belly, no matter what time of the month it is.

Being fearless means wearing stripes, even though my mother has always told me that all stripes do is draw attention to my back fat.

Being fearless is not even worrying about back fat, because I had the balls to walk into Victoria’s Secret and have myself properly fitted for a bra.

Being fearless means being present and fun while enjoying date night, instead of worrying about how many jumping jacks I’m going to have to do to burn off two glasses of wine.

Being fearless means looking people in the eyes and telling them how I feel, even if I know they don’t want to hear it.

Being fearless is accepting myself and not letting anyone else’s opinion get to me.

Being fearless means listening my heart, not just my biggest and meanest enemy, my ego. Being fearless means checking in with myself and doing what’s best for me. Some days that means waking up at five A.M. and running four miles. Other days that means turning off my cell and binge watching Seinfeld all day.

Being fearless means living a healthy balanced life and taking the time to figure out what that means and entails.

Being fearless means taking care of myself from the inside out.

I now know that in order for me to get better I have change my focus, not my calorie count. “Live more weigh less” kind of mind set.

It blows my mind how fast I went from “I don’t eat bread,” to “I don’t eat anything.” What started out as a quick fix to slim down for a Vegas Vacation became the only way I knew how to function. What started off as a no carb diet ended up being a no fun plan. I didn’t just give up cookies, I ended up giving up on my friends, family and myself.

Once I realized that my body and I weren’t the problem and that it was constant shaming and crash dieting that was keeping me stuck, I was finally able to step back, get up and move forward.

Now, every morning I get up, appreciate what my body can do and all the people who love me for me. Every morning I get up and know that the weight of my life is not measured in calories, carbs or a dress size. My life is measured in love, laughter and happiness.

Every morning I get up, look at myself and smile. Some days are harder than others, but I make it a point to live each day as the rock star I want to be. I make it a point to let myself shine instead of hide.

I’m fearless, and that makes me flawless. If anyone ever asks me how I do it, I smile and tell them “I woke up like this.”


Author: Ashley Johnson

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Zac Canon/Flickr

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