You can find information on Candlemas at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/ and Valentine’s Day at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
I wrote this back in 2007. That’s ten years and a lot of healing ago.
A couple of months ago, my doctor told me that my blood sugars were inching up and recommended I eat lower on the glycemic index. This means eating foods that release their nutrients slowly, rather than flooding the body and causing a quick rise in blood sugar.
Choosing appropriate foods is not rocket science. Lots of fresh veggies and fruit, beans, meat, and fish. Cook only with olive oil. Reduced fat dairy products and mayonnaise. Avoid white rice and flour – brown rice and whole wheat flour is fine. Avoid fried foods and stuff made by huge conglomerates that care about their profits but not their customers’ health.
Intellectually, it’s real easy and I know exactly what to do. On an emotional level, though, it’s a different story. I just don’t understand eating. I don’t get that what I do this minute will have consequences in an hour or a day or a week. Perhaps that’s because my sense of time is so distorted that things don’t seem connected. If I plant a package of morning glory seeds, it doesn’t feel like I will have twenty magnificent morning glory seedlings in a few weeks. It feels like I’ve just wasted $2.19 by burying those little brown thingies.
My favorite comfort foods are all bad for me. Pasta, white bread with butter, donuts, potato chips, Coke. My little parts want all of those at the same meal, and lots of them.
If I get anxious, I tend to eat quickly, thoughtlessly, and therefore over-eat. If I get really upset, I just stop eating entirely. It isn’t a decision: I have no appetite and just can’t wrap my mind around the idea of putting stuff in my mouth and swallowing it. I get all freaked out by the idea that I am hollow inside. Weird, eh?
I know that many people without abuse histories have some of these same attitudes. I also know that many, many abuse survivors have far more severe eating problems than I do, often to the point of being life-threatening. But these things still bug me on a daily basis. My attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around food all feel choppy and fragmented, rather than integrated into a smoothly working process.
I’m also reminded on a daily (minutely?) basis of another result of my abuse, a life-long depression. Back in the days of tricyclics I put on eighty pounds that I have not yet been able to take off. I try to think of my extra weight as a battle scar and to remind myself I won the battle against suicide, for I am still here. Maybe I can win the battle with food, too. Of course I would rather not have battle scars – I would happily settle for a nice medal that I could wear on special occasions.
I’m proud of myself, though, because I don’t throw up my hands and say, “It’s useless. I’ll never change.” I keep on trying, meal after meal, supermarket run after supermarket run. I’m not a fanatic about eating healthily, for life without chocolate is not a happy thought, but I keep moving in that direction. It is paying off, too, because my blood sugars are normal now. I’m happy, for I sure wouldn’t deal well with diabetes.
It may be this way with most parts of healing. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, baby step by baby step. You don’t have to understand completely, you don’t have to completely believe in what you are doing. You just have to decide it’s worth a try and then keep plugging away at it. It’s not dramatic – but it’s doable.
So what was the process like? If I remember right, I didn’t lose very much the first few years. I know for sure I didn’t make a lot of big changes all at once. I just sort of chipped away at it.
The first thing I tackled was potato chips. I told myself I would eat fewer, not that I would never have another potato chip in my life. The less I ate, the less I craved them. Today I have them once or twice a year at somebody else’s house. They are just as delicious as ever, but the next day I have forgotten all about them.
The next project, sugar, was much more ambitious. It’s one thing to eat fewer potato chips but more crispy, salty, yummy tortilla chips. It’s another thing all together to eat less ice cream, fewer donuts, fewer M&M’s, and even, believe it or not, less tomato ketchup. I had to start reading labels seriously, for who knew high fructose corn syrup was added to so many products?
I just found out that loving sugar is not my fault, it is because of some bugs in my digestive system that live on sugar and ask for it. The more I eat, the more they reproduce, and so there are lots more of the little buggers telling my brain to eat sugar. When there are very few of them, their pleas are much fainter and therefore easier to ignore. How smart of my unconscious to decide to work on all products containing sugar, not just one or two!
For several months I would stop concentrating on eating less of things and just add healthy stuff to my meals. After a while I developed a taste for spinach and broccoli. Now I have a salad every single night. My physical therapist says, “Do less of what feels bad and more of what feels good.” I don’t think of pasta and sourdough bread as feeling bad, but I get the idea.
Another thing has helped a great deal. I had my knee replaced and, with less pain, I can move more easily. Comfort foods aren’t as enticing. I started going to the gym and now, after a few years, I really enjoy it. Exercise apparently doesn’t make you lose weight by itself, but it makes you healthier and helps keep the weight off. And since muscle weighs more than fat, I can stay at the same weight but be thinner.
It also makes me more conscious of my body. I am beginning to see how moving one muscle affects another one and this makes me feel less fragmented physically. Somehow, I have gained some idea of how eating works. I now understand that there are, indeed, causes and effects. If I consistently pig out, I will gain weight. If I eat healthy most of the time and only pig out occasionally, I will be fine. What is really neat is that getting in touch with the way eating affects my body has taken no conscious effort. It just happened.
I love looking back and seeing where those baby steps have taken me!