Tuesday, September 06, 2005


“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.
“What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.

AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh

I always thought I ate because I loved food, and because when I got bored, food was my entertainment. Duh! Doesn’t everyone love food? I knew I didn’t need to do a lot of psychological work in this area. After all, I already had this problem solved. I was a bored eater. I just needed a hobby or something to keep my hands busy so they didn’t have time to shove Doritos in my mouth. I definitely did NOT need to do a lot of work thinking about what was wrong in my head that made me eat because I had it all figured out already.

Looking back I’d tell anyone who tells me they eat because they like food or food is love or they eat when they get bored that they’re just bullshitting themselves with easy answers, because there’s a simple easy fast answer, and underneath that bullshit fake answer is the REAL answer.

My real answer came to me after I’d already done a lot of the work on the outside of me. I was well into running and not watching so much tv and not spending all my weekends on the couch. I knew how many pts were in 22 peanuts and what kind of oatmeal had the most fiber and would make me the most full. I’d given away my size 12 jeans and was wondering if my winter pants were going to fit. And I still thought of myself as a bored eater who needed distraction from eating if I had any chance of losing the last 20 pounds to make it to my goal.

But that was a lie I was telling myself so I didn’t have to change anything else. I didn’t want to get too close to the pretend world I was living in inside my head. That seemed like SO much work, to figure out what was really wrong, why I was really fat.

But one night I was watching a travel show on PBS, and they were visiting New Orleans. Somewhere I have never been but always wanted to go. The host went to the bayou and interviewed an old Creole woman about voodoo. She explained that voodoo was actually misinterpreted all the time, and it wasn’t in fact about sticking pins in a doll to try to cause someone else pain. It was, in fact, simply a way of identifying your own issues, the things that other people did that bothered YOU, because, after all, and here she paused, “YOU CAN ONLY EVER CHANGE YOUR SELF.” That moment, that sentence, that idea, pretty much changed everything in my world for me. In a split second, I realized what a complete waste of time my control freak existence had become. Why why why was I spending so much time worrying about everyone else all the time? Why not just worry about me? After all, you can only ever change yourself.

I am the ultimate control freak. I worry all the time about what people might do or say or what someone might try to make me do. It’s really who I am. I never ever thought before that this might be a fruitless endeavor. That I might be wasting my time trying to make other people do what I want. And honestly, when I began trying to change myself, that is when the real change in my life began, but it didn’t happen overnight. And this was not the end of the lesson.

When times got tough for me, I reverted back to trying to make other people do what I wanted them to do. I began to worry again about how someone else would screw everything up for me. I freaked out whenever I thought someone might try to make me do something I didn’t want to do. Sometimes I remembered my new mantra (You can only ever change yourself), sometimes I didn’t. But mostly, I did. And the more I focused on changing myself, the more I felt like I was the one in control. See what I did there? I shifted the control. I couldn’t control other people. Instead, I’d control me. As long as someone was in control, and that someone was me, I felt ok.

One night after dinner, I was talking to Mr. E about a trip that I was about to take that I knew was going to be really stressful for me. It was going to be a lot of family time. This particular group of people is a group that I don’t get a long with all the time. We’re all really bossy and we like to get our own way. And travel is really stressful for me anyway. I thought this would be a great time to try out my new way of thinking in a practical setting. I kept saying over and over to Mr. E “How can I make sure I have a good time? What can I do to make sure it’s a fun non stressful trip for me? How can I ensure that it’s a good trip for me?”

And then, something snapped.

And I realized. I didn’t have to have a good trip. It wasn’t about me. I was going on this trip because my mom and my sister wanted me there. And I might not have a good time. And that was ok. I would have a good time, some other time, during me time. Mr. E and I would have fun some other time. This particular family trip wasn’t about my good time. It was about doing something nice for someone else, so that they could have a good time. I might have to do some stuff I didn’t want to do. I might not have a good time. And that was OK.


Something was lifted off me in that moment. I finally figured it out. I didn’t need to control my mom to make sure I had fun. I didn’t need to control my sister to make sure I had fun. I didn’t need to control me to make sure I had fun, and I didn’t need to control the food I ate that weekend to make sure I had fun. I could just not have fun.

So that’s my reason, right there. I used food as a safety net, to pull a good time out of times that weren’t so good. I craved a fancy breakfast when I was traveling because I thought I was owed a fantastic experience every time I traveled, because I didn’t have fun when I traveled and life owed me fun, dammit! I needed brownies to redeem disappointing family vacations, and I ate chocolate donuts in the car over Christmas break at my mom’s because I wanted something to make it better and I couldn’t do it myself so maybe the donuts could.

The real secret here? That weekend I was so nervous about? I ate oatmeal for breakfast and salad for dinner, and I did a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to do, and I didn’t tell anyone what to do or try to make anyone do what I wanted them to do. And I had a really really really good time.

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