I have always had this very vivid image of my weight-loss efforts over the years. I recently tried to draw it but the drawing looked so bad I will have to stick with a verbal description. (can’t draw with a trackpad to save my life!!)
I call it the River. For as long as I can remember (at least in my adult life) I have been on one side of the river, or the other. One side (I’ll call it The Banks of Unconscious Eating!) is where I defiantly stayed for long periods of my life. When I was on that side, I’d eat whatever, whenever and how much I felt like. Often very high caloric, fat and carb-y foods. (think: macaroni and cheese in huge quantities) I’d exercise fairly minimally. I’d thumb my nose at “dieters” and think they were super anal control freaks. I’d feel disdain for people who were “obsessed with exercise.” And, I’d be (surprise?) overweight and fairly unhappy. But really believing that I was “free” because I was not being oppressed by counting calories, depriving myself or flogging myself to exercise. You get the picture. During the periods when I was on that side of the river, I’d look at the Other side and feel anxiety, anger, fear, disgust, whatever. I was firmly entrenched.
At other times in my life, I’d be on the Dieting side of the river. On that side, I felt fairly rigid, usually counted calories or points, was fairly tense. I exercised whether I liked it or not. I steeled myself with “willpower.” I lost weight, but it was exhausting and I could never ever get to my actual goal weight and never maintain it for very long. I was (maybe) happier but also very tense. And when I was on THIS side of the river, I felt disgust and fear and shame about the OTHER side. (ie, “you fat slob,” I never want to be like you again!!)
Sometimes I’d thrash back and forth from one side to the other, in the space of days. Often I’d be on the dieting side for 4-5 days of a week, then after my Weight Watchers weigh-in day, I’d fling myself to the “unconscious” side by giving myself a “treat” day.
The truly remarkable thing about this time around is that I feel like I’m not even near the river anymore. I feel like I’ve gone from a short period on the Dieting Side, where I was very anxious (see January posts) but somehow I kept going, away from the river. I crossed a field. I got to the foot of a mountain. I feel like I am miles away and above where I’ve ever been before.
Even though I feel like that Unconscious side is so far away, when I look down it from here, I don’t feel disgusted or afraid of going there anymore. I feel a lot of compassion and love for all the suffering that happened when I was over there. It makes me sad. And I don’t feel tense OR self-righteous or anything about where I am now. It’s easy to be here. I have these small moments (like longing for carrot cake when I was in Trader Joe’s) but they sort of pass, like clouds. (do you see the influence of my meditation class kicking in?) As my meditation teacher says, “You can notice the train going by. You don’t have to hop on that train and let it take you for a ride.” (okay, HOW many metaphors am I going to use in this post??)
I truly feel like I am geographically, physically, emotionally, in a place where I have never, ever been before. It’s not without its challenges at ALL, but I feel like I’ve moved far away from the banks of that river where I was always feeling battered, conflicted, cold, wet.