Living on Anna Maria Island the past 10 months has given me plenty of alone time. I have always been a social person, but enjoyed introspective moments as well. I prefer a balance of both. However, it has become evident to me that I needed this year of (not quite) solitude. I always knew I should love myself, and in parts, I did. I loved my mind and my spirit, but as for my body — I had an abusive relationship with it. I’d reward it and punish it, and believed it wasn’t good enough.
I knew my issue with food and binge-eating was all emotional. I thought I handled the emotional issues a while ago, but still, I found myself yo-yo dieting, bingeing a few times a month, and felt out of control. Guilt and shame were common feelings that accompanied my lifestyle. I never felt in control of what I ate or my body.
Being with myself mostly this past year, I was able to take a step back and observe my habits and connections with food. I decided to stop pushing myself to lose weight and just listen to what my body and my mind were telling me. I realized emotional triggers and habits I picked up from growing up in a family that used food as punishment and rewards.
Child abuse is a beast that never fully goes away. It may seem like it did, but it’s always there, buried alive inside of you, just waiting to react and come back up like bad acid reflux (which I have actually suffered from). I have suffered from both physical and mental child abuse. After reading about how abuse affects adults, it became so clear to me how many things in my life have been staggered by it.
I was punishing my own body with food because that’s what I was used to. I gave up being vegan because I was holding onto my deceased mother and all of our good family traditions, which centered around food.
Finally, I knew I wasn’t being true to my needs, beliefs, or taking care of myself because I still felt like I had no control. I turned to journaling, therapeutic reading, and made it all about ME.
If I woke up one morning and wanted to go for a walk, I went for it. If I woke up and wanted to write, I did that and didn’t push myself to spend an hour at the gym, drink protein shakes, and jump on the scale at the end of the week, like my father had always encouraged. I didn’t want that number to loom over my head like it had so many times in the past.
I can still hear comments my parents made to me growing up. “You’d have a nice body…if you lost weight.” “You can’t eat this.” “Finish your food or you will sit there all night.” And most of the time, it was what they didn’t say. It was the glares I got from my father if I picked up a cookie at a party, or him giving me a once over in disapproval of my appearance.
While living in Florida, I had the opportunity to face the abuse; to decide if allowing someone who would hurt me back into my life was the right thing for me, no matter whether they’re family or not. It became clear that I was doing myself more harm than good by allowing an abuser back into my life. It made me realize I also needed to stop what I was doing.
Telling myself in a mirror, “I love you”, was no longer enough. It was as if I became my own abuser. After beating myself up, I’d apologize with meaningless words. Actions speak much louder.
On January 27, 2014, I made the decision to become vegan again. I haven’t looked back since. The vegan lifestyle is in tune with everything I am and who I want to be. Ethically, I never liked the idea of consuming animals. This lifestyle fits in with my desire to conserve the planet and to save its beautiful creatures. As for its effects on my body, I feel healthier than I have ever felt. I am in control of what I put into my body. I am constantly learning about ingredients and the food industry that keeps us prisoners in our own bodies.
The difference in my veganism now, as opposed to it a few years ago, is the quality of items I am consuming. I wasn’t a healthy vegan before. Chips, cookies, candy – there are plenty of accidentally vegan food on the market. Does that mean it’s good for you? Not at all. Now, 95% of the time I eat whole foods and items that haven’t been highly processed.
I can feel the difference in my mind and body. I hardly ever get acid reflux now or any of my other autoimmune problems I suffered from growing up.
I am in tune with myself and I am falling in love more and more. I didn’t step on a scale for months, afraid whatever number came up would derail me in some way. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. 50 pounds down!
Regardless if I never lose another pound, the weight isn’t really the issue. It truly is about taking care of myself. I stopped suffocating that little girl inside me. I like to think I’m nurturing her. I’d love to set her free, but I don’t know if she can ever really be. I’ll let you know how she’s doing in a few years.