“listening to the siren song of more we are deaf to the still small voice waiting in our soul to whisper ‘you’re enough’”
In this journey I’m on with living with more intention I have done a lot of getting rid of physical clutter and actual STUFF around my home.
It’s a never ending journey and monitoring how many “things” sneak into our home will be a constant task, but now the major heavy lifting in that area is done to a certain level I’ve been starting to think about other types of clutter in my life-namely mental and emotional clutter.
I’ve been questioning what is important to me, what things affect my life in positive and negative ways.
One of the biggest areas of mental and emotional clutter for me has always been food and body image. Over the past few years I’ve worked really hard on trying to overcome some of my issues around food and my body but alas with every new season of life comes a new challenge.
I’ve struggled with eating disorders since my early teenage years and continue to have problems with food today as do the majority of women in Western society on some level.
As I’ve been learning about letting go of ideas about wealth and the “ideal life” where how much you own defines how much you are worth as a person, I have seen links to the same ideas in our culture about our bodies.
We are taught that we are not good enough as we are and are held up against unrealistic ideals, we are sold diet after diet that never seem to work and yet we are told it is US that have failed not the diet.
We are made to feel guilty about our food choices, we starve, deprive and deny ourselves and then we binge in a reaction to that deprivation which only serves to fill us with guilt and dread and we begin the cycle of deprivation and punishment again and again.
Imagine if we didn’t punish ourselves for eating? Imagine if instead of starving ourselves or starting a new diet every time we “over ate” we just got on with our lives and broke this cycle of starve, binge repeat?
Having disordered eating is a lot to do with feeling in control. Especially as women, but now with men too, we are taught that depriving ourselves and taking up as little space as possible with our bodies makes us worthy human beings. We try to control our bodies, fit them into smaller and smaller jeans, sculpt them into different shapes, starve them and punish them for feeling hungry.
And why do we feel the need to do this? Because we are SOLD the idea that if we do not fit into this “ideal” then we are not worthy of love, happiness, respect.
With my recent health problems that have revolved around food (I’ve been diagnosed with gluten and dairy intolerance) I lost some weight. We are told that losing weight is a good thing. The problem is I was actually very poorly. I lost weight because I wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from my food. I had terrible pain in my stomach and back, I had burning red itchy rashes and eczema on my hands and arms, I had constant nausea, diarrhoea after every meal, I was passing out, always tired and fatigued, my mouth and gums were swollen, I was depressed and had migraines regularly.
I felt good about losing weight but I felt the worst I had ever done physically. The first doctor I went to told me it was good that I had lost weight (I’d lost about a stone at the time) and seemed more pleased about that, than actually concerned about the fact I couldn’t keep any food inside me.
Due to having to restrict my diet to find out if I had food allergies or intolerance’s I started to see my old habits with disordered eating return. Instead of just cutting out the foods I was told to I started cutting out all Carbs and counting macro’s. I got out books from the library about the Atkins diet. I started to listen to podcasts about the Ketogenic diet and Paleo diets.
I’d become afraid to eat anything in case I had a bad reaction to it. I started weighing myself everyday and getting obsessed by the number on the scale. I started worrying about processed foods and whether things contained sugar and whether I should eat meat. None of which was causing me any problems health wise.
Food and eating had started to gain too much significance in my life again. It had too much power over me and my self worth has plummeted in recent months.
When I started eating totally gluten and dairy free recently I started to see my symptoms disappear. I stopped having diarrhoea, my eczema disappeared, my migraines stopped.
I felt great physically but I also put on a few pounds. So even though I no longer felt like I was going to keel over at any minute and I was brimming with energy I found myself getting upset because I’d put a few pounds on.
I was upset that my body was no longer starving of nutrients. In short my desire to be thinner and smaller trumped my desire to not be in constant pain and discomfort..
This is when I got a reality check. I already HAD to cut out gluten and dairy from my diet. Why on Earth then would I try and restrict myself even more? Why was I making life so much harder for myself and the people around me?
I thought losing weight made me a better person. But you know what? It doesn’t.
Just like owning a big house and a fancy car (or two) and designer clothes doesn’t make you a more worthy person, eating “clean” and starving yourself and wearing smaller sized jeans doesn’t make you a more worthy person either.
This has made me remember, I have more important things in my life than worrying about food and my body. Imagine the stuff I could achieve in my life if I was no longer obsessed by food and how big I am.
Giving up the mental and emotional clutter of body hatred can free up so much space in my life for fulfilling my values.
Food is going to always be a bit of a pain for me because of my intolerances but I can’t let them gain control of my life.
Just like with physical clutter it’s possible to clean up your mental clutter too, by getting rid of the excess, which in my case is to stop comparing my body to other peoples, to stop looking at unrealistic images in magazines and media, to stop unnecessarily restricting and depriving myself, to stop getting obsessed by “healthy” or “clean” eating or following diet plans. None of those things fit in with my values and beliefs.
It’s time to make space in my life for positive things like caring for my loved ones, being creative, laughing, reading, connecting with others.
There’s so much more important things out there to keep me occupied than worrying about the size of my jeans. I am already enough.
And so are you.