I remember being shaky in the early days. Food had such a grip on me. Sometimes it’s terrifying to surrender, to try something new, even if your old way feels broken and what you’ve been doing never really worked at all.
When I first quit dieting there were days when I ate and ate. I’d binged in the past but this wasn’t bingeing. I was allowing myself to eat food groups I’d previously eliminated and to eat whatever and whenever I liked. I was scared, but for some reason I trusted a small, strong voice inside, telling me this was what I needed to do to move beyond demonizing certain foods and my “all or nothing” mentality.
This is one of the hardest and most important things I’ve done in my life.
In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t put on more weight than a few extra pounds. Whilst I may have trusted I was doing the right thing, I still stood in front of my full-length mirror every morning – just as I’d done for years – holding my own flesh in my hands and silently screaming obscenities at it.
My self-loathing felt black, and there was a thickness to it that scared me far more than my relationship with food ever had.
I knew deep inside if I were to ever truly change my relationship with food, I would need to change my relationship with my body. I knew that would require me to change the way I thought about and spoke to myself, and I’d have to surrender old ideas and stories about who I was. I would need to find a way to look at my body with new eyes.
I had no idea where to begin.
Several days later a large envelope arrived in the post. My mother had sent me some old family photographs. Amongst them I found a picture of myself: I was innocent and red-cheeked and just a few months old. I knew immediately what I would do with it. I felt ridiculous, but I taped that photograph to my mirror and told myself that any hatred I was directing at myself, I was also directing at her.
I also apologized. I said aloud, “I’m sorry.” I said sorry to all the selves I’d ever been but especially to that baby girl on my mirror who was a younger version of the woman I saw in the mirror. I apologized for everything I’d done to cause her pain and for all the horrible things I’d ever said. With tears streaming down my face, I promised I would love her.
I no longer have that photograph taped to my mirror. I don’t need it anymore because somewhere along the way, my love grew far stronger than my hate.
Sometimes what our bodies are really longing for is our compassion and grace, our unconditional love, not less food and more exercise. Would you speak to your children or your grandchildren the way you speak to yourself? To quote Alanis Morissette, “To whom do I owe the biggest apology? No one’s been crueler than I’ve been to me.”
The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the first entry here or the next entry, “How To Actively Participate In Your Transformation” here.
Beautifully written. I think this is going to stick with me for a long time. Thank you Esther.
Thank you so much for your kind words.
Dearest Essie, Your new blog post is beyond moving! You’ve dug deep to pull out these words. I hope you’re really hearing them… taking them in and believing them, not just writing them down. To say “I’m sorry” to all the selves you’d ever been… That’s quite a concept to take in! That’s brave! You may not have known where or how to start looking at your body with new eyes, but this was something your inner Essie knew before you did! Truly a heartfelt, stunning piece of writing.
I have a little role of fat around my middle I brought back with me from Italy. I don’t like it. I’m mildly disappointed it’s there, and it’s so far been difficult to get rid of, but like you, I don’t hate it. It wasn’t accumulated out of frustration or dislike for myself. Instead it represents one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Every bite of pasta, gelato and glass of wine and vodka tonics were just what my spirit needed.
I look forward to the day when you really, truly, deeply let go of all of your “humanness” and “self loathing” FOR GOOD and wrap your arms around the beautiful, smart, funny, compassionate woman the rest of us see. Much love, Brenda
Brenda, I’ve just seen your sweet comment and it reminded me that I haven’t replied to your email, I’m so sorry! Thank you for everything you wrote, I’m so grateful for your support and for your love. I’m so glad you don’t hate that little role of fat – now that’s a real ‘love handle’ – not something to hold onto, but rather, the result of living and loving life! Still, I do understand that it can be frustrating when they don’t disappear once the fun is over, that’s the story of my life! Essie xx