Written by: Mara
I used to be consumed with perfection. I would look at my body in the mirror, feeling the flesh underneath my hands, and I would think about how many pounds I would have to carve off it, starve off of it, in order to be happy. I used to lay awake creating workout routines and diet regimes that between the hours of two and four I would promise myself that I would stick to. I used to be absolutely certain that my life would begin immediately upon achieving this tightly prescribed perfection.
But I was never perfect. Thus, I was always wrong, and unworthy, because I wasn’t perfect, and for the first twenty years of my life, perfection was all that I cared about. Thinness. Exposed bone beneath thin flesh. Because thin meant: beautiful, popular, loved, romanced, happy, and successful, I put my life on hold, waiting diligently for everything I dreamed about.
For me, the obsession with perfection: a perfect body, perfect diet, perfect day, meant that I was always starting again. Oh you ruined your diet? Start again tomorrow. Start Monday, always good to start at the beginning of the week. Start on the first, clean slate. My struggle with compulsive eating thrived in the fact of my obsession with perfection. I would “mess up,” by eating something that was “not allowed,” and then I would decide that I just had to scrap the entire day. Upon deciding that I had ruined the day, I would proceed to eat absolutely anything and everything that I could get my hands on, quick, because I was starting to diet again first thing in the morning.
I repeated this cycle for nearly twenty years. I found it to be perfectly socially acceptable, falling in line with they way that many of the women around me interacted with food. I learned from an early age that we are supposed to give off the appearance of being on a diet, even if we aren’t, and that this “slip up and start again” method was a very lady-like way to eat whatever you wanted. What I didn’t know was that it was the way that I was subconsciously apologizing for my body, for eating, and for the space I took up in a room.
I don’t diet anymore. And I’ve gained weight because of it. And I’m not afraid. I am busily attempting to retrain my brain to acknowledge my body’s needs. All that perfection seeking merely perpetuated a cycle where I taught myself to feel guilt, and pain, and continue on the binge/purge cycle that was both humiliating and heartbreaking. I’ve gained weight, but now when I realize I am bingeing, I can stop myself and start again with the next meal, next mouthful, next sip. Because every bite is an opportunity to make a choice based on self-love and body awareness, instead of fear of failure or emotional subterfuge.
Bio: Mara blogs over at Medicinal Marzipan (www.medicinalmarzipan.com) about body image, compulsive eating, and learning to love yourself a little bit more every day. You can get it touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mmarzipan.