I spent much of my childhood/preteen years insecure about my weight, but when I hit high school, I lost weight and got to be a thin person. Things changed when I got to college, and I developed an awful binging habit. Sometimes it gets totally out of control, but now that school is out, things have calmed down, and I have room to breathe and reassess.
I know what I’m doing is not good for me, but it’s hard, it’s really hard sometimes because I realize that the pressure to be thin does get to me. I used to have totally healthy eating habits, but now I binge and have gained weight and that bothers me. I want to stop the craziness and make peace with my body but, at the same time I also want to be thinner.
So, how can I make a mental 180 going from making my weight and body the focal point of my life to letting go of the weight fixation and making peace with my body, oh and do it while living in an environment where I am (or at least feel like I am) under pressure to be thin from family members, my circle of friends, and yeah even certain stores where you need to be a size too small to look hot in anything.
Just a person
Steph responds after the jump...
Dear Just a Person,
Your question is an excellent one because so many young women like yourself feel enormous pressure from what seems like everywhere to be “thin & pretty”.
There’s also the pressure to be the “super girl” and not only look good but also to be high accomplishing; excel academically, join social groups, date Mr. Wonderful, play a sport, try out for the play, run for class office, be the perfect [insert religion, social group, or family name] girl, feed the poor & starving, plus, oh yeah, help the children. It’s insane. Can’t a girl just be a girl and not feel the crushing weight of everyone’s (and her own) expectations on her back.
And if that isn’t enough, you are now coming into the realization that you are no longer a child but now an adult facing adult pressures & responsibilities, and that’s scary. It’s scary for everyone even us growed up folks.
Give yourself a break from the over load
So, first, not only stop and take that breathe, but give yourself a break because all the pressures and fears you face just being in college are a lot for anyone to handle, and you don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to “do it and have it all.” And that includes feeling like you have to do a 180 in order to get better. 180 is half a pie. Dang girl, that’s too much for anyone to take-in. How about you start yourself off with something more manageable that won’t stress you out even more like maybe a 5 of 10 degree shift?
...Making small yet manageable changes will help you reach your goals with far less stress, and it will give you long term success. ...
Over time, those 5’s and 10’s will add up, you will feel like a success because you’re giving yourself smaller goals to hit, and before you know it you’ll be at 180, then 270, etc. This is why I emphasize taking a “Two Tiny Changes” approach. Making small yet manageable changes will help you reach your goals with far less stress, and it will give you long term success. I know you’d like to get better in a hurry, but it took time for you to get where you are today with your health, and it will take time for you to get back to vibrant health. That’s the part most people don’t want to hear. Our fast consuming culture, wants fast results. And yeah this is cliché but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even the internet wasn’t built in a week.
Binging is not about the food
Let’s focus on the binging because this concerns me the most. The thing with binging which many people don’t realize is that the problem is not the food and the concept of eating healthy because you are a smart girl and you know what to do or if not you know how to seek information. The binging is a life/stress coping mechanism. Food is just a tool. You are binging because you are feeling enormous amounts of feelings that are overwhelming you and terrifying you, and you are trying to alleviate those feelings with food. Some people use drugs, sex, shopping, or gambling. You use food. There is no judgment there. This information is important to help you start tackling the deeper associations you have with food and coping with life because there is a relationship there.
From my own experience, I can tell you that food will never be able to alleviate any of those overwhelming feelings you feel long term. Yes, you will experience a short term relief but that relieved feeling quickly turns into self loathing over the binging you did to ease the initial stressor. Most importantly, you cannot and should not try to handle the binging or “fix it” by yourself.
Partners in Prosperity are a girl's best friend
I know I’m sounding like a Mama now, but I tell you this because I’ve tried it myself dozens of times. The women in all my treatment groups tried fixing their disordered eating issues too, and what happened? Nothing effective that is until we finally got help.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Like I tell everyone, sources of healing like counselors, therapists, doctors, anonymous groups like OA, or women’s groups, are groups of people you need to start looking at as “partners in your prosperity.” These people are here to help you have the life you want. They are not to be feared but to be embraced.
Getting help can be scary but it's imagined scary
Yeah, it is scary to go get counseling or go to anonymous or women’s groups or even call a hotline, but that fear is really only in your head because I can tell you that in the majority of times if you can hurdle the fear and go to the sessions you not only feel better, you feel less alone and stigmatized, and those things are crucial for long terms results.
...your partners in prosperity, they will help you, uplift you, and be on your side to help give you perspective and support during the tough times...
I remember in college I used to go to the building where my local OA had meetings, but I’d never actually go in. I did this for weeks. I’d go to the building but I just couldn’t commit to going inside and taking a seat. I did the same thing with a therapist. I can’t tell you how much money I spent in cancellation fees. Yes, I had the intent to get better, but intent doesn’t count, action counts if you want to heal.
Dealing with pressures is better when you have support
In order for you, to start making that transition from where you are today (binging and over weight) to where you want to be (healthy and at peace with your body), you have to start by developing a support system which must contain at least one of the folks I mentioned above. You also need to start finding friends and other people who are just generally supportive and uplifting people; positive influences.
Yes, you’re family members love you, but some of them may actually be downers instead of uplifters. Someone who one day says “I love you” but then the next moment says, “Haven’t you had enough dessert?” Is actually not being loving to you. It’s dragging you down, and it is tough because they’re family. You can’t just kick them to the curb like downer friends. But your partners in prosperity, they will help you, uplift you, and be on your side to help give you perspective and support during the tough times dealing with family.
This is your priority for now
For now, I’m not going to go on about other tips or suggestions because the priority for you is to find a trained professional to be on your Partners in Prosperity team. This is something very loving you can do for yourself right now. You need to start talking to a professional who can help you with all these intense feelings you are carrying because until you deal and face those underlying emotional issues, you will continue to binge because the binging is really a symptom of a bigger issue. We want you, my dear, to have that healthy life you desire, and most importantly that peace treaty with your body, and you need help to achieve that.
What if I don’t have money or insurance?
(This question wasn't in the original letter, but I felt it important to add on because it's a common reason people don't seek out health professionals.)
Lack of money is not a good reason why one can’t get help. To be blunt, it’s an excuse, delay tactic. For some people, they can’t seem to find money to get help for their health, yet when they need cash for new Manolos, new clothes, or Bingo Night, notice how money seems to magically be available. What you spend your money on the most is what you value (good or bad).
There are free sources everywhere ranging from online sources, college campus resources, free anonymous groups and even your church (if you go to one). You can also ask your parents for financial help. That would also be a good time to start talking openly with them about your feelings. Again, this is where someone like a counselor or therapist can help walk you through that process. I know exactly how agonizing getting real with the folks can be, and it’s a much better experience when you have an objective ear to guide you and listen to you.
Hope this helps!