I seem to use the word struggle a lot when I talk about weight loss. In fact, a search of this site for the word struggle yields 22 posts. Add the words struggled and struggling, and 11 more pop up (you’d think I’d consult a thesaurus once in awhile).
Yesterday I started thinking about why I use that particular word so often. There are plenty of other words – challenge, battle, journey. And struggle evokes such specific imagery in my mind, of someone tied up or being held against her will, trying desperately to break free. Hmmmm. I looked up the word on Dictionary.com, and this was one of the definitions:
To make (one’s way) with violent effort.
Geeeeez. Are my issues with food that deeply entrenched that I feel like it will take VIOLENT EFFORT to change them? Like there’s someone holding a gun to my head? Perhaps I’m not as well-adjusted as I think I am.
After a week of working through some of the exercises in The Weight School, lots of interesting feelings are starting to bubble up. One of the most prominent is a very real fear of giving up food as a source of comfort, distraction and stress-relief. Yes, over the past 3 years I have greatly reduced my reliance on food for those functions. But I still pull it out as a coping mechanism when things get really crazy. Because I know it works – numbing out with food distracts me enough from whatever the issue is to allow me to get through it without too much pain, or at least that’s how it seems in the moment.
In my very first blog post, I wrote:
Food is my rock, my support system and my dearest friend. I know that last one sounds crazy, but hear me out. Food is the friend that always comes over on a Friday night when you don’t have plans. The friend who is always there to comfort you when you’re sad, celebrate when you’re happy or just to hang out on the weekend. The friend who never criticizes you, agrees with your every opinion, doesn’t expect anything in return and always leaves you with a warm, comfortable happy feeling.
So now I know why I’ve failed every time I’ve tried to lose weight in the past – who would voluntarily cut off all ties with someone that makes you so happy and comfortable! I mean seriously, that’s just insane! But what I’m slowly realizing is that the friend who always agrees with you and never challenges you isn’t really a friend at all. That friend doesn’t encourage you to reach outside your comfort zone and try new things and make new friends.
That was in July 2008, and four years later I am still relying on that old friend, food, when things get tough. Therein lies the true ‘struggle’ – my grownup self knows that food will not solve any problems. But my rebellious teenage self hasn’t gotten the message – and she is fighting with every tool in her arsenal to keep those bad habits around just in case she needs them.
As I become more and more aware of what’s going on under the surface, my rebellious teenager is starting to chill out. I’m acknowledging her point of view, then gently reminding her that if hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution. I’m thinking perhaps I can satisfy her need to express herself by getting a new tattoo, or perhaps some hot pink highlights. But I’m going to have to exert my parental authority about this food thing, enough is enough. Time to grow up and act my age!