Enough


A personal piece on my eating disorder. If any of this sounds familiar, don't wait as long as I did to get some help. Reach out to those closest to you, and let them take care of you. (Click Here. Helpful Instagram account here.)


5th grade.

September comes. Crisp air. Green grass. Freshly-painted schools. New tennis shoes. The Arizona brand jeans sale at JC Penney. Lunch with Grandma and Mom.
Mrs. Collins’ class. Black leather headband so I can run at recess without my hair getting in my face.

When I was in the 5th grade, I knew exactly who I was. I was as many visits to the school library as I could manage, and I was Neapolitan ice cream nights with my sisters. I was the stories I wrote on my parents' ancient desktop computer and swim team practice right down the street from our house. I was "breakfast for dinner!" squeals and 5pms on the trampoline. I was 30-minute piano practice, six days a week, and dances to Natasha Bedingfield songs in the upstairs bonus room.

6th grade.

September comes. Crisp air. First cell-phone. Texts with a boy. Still some 5pms on the trampoline, but never too far from the phone in case he texted. Middle school. Popular kids. My jeans didn't look like theirs, but I was still too busy reading and laughing with my friends most of the time to really notice. But a small part of me did.

7th grade.

September comes. New school. School uniforms. Small community. Good fit.
The hammer of puberty had come down hard, with glasses and braces finishing off a disproportionate body and a squinty smile.
I didn't know it then, though.
I was too busy making journals, working on projects, or designing my own science textbook. There were still popular kids, but we were all wearing the same kind of pants.

8th grade.

September comes. Contact lenses. Teachers giving speeches about what to expect in high school. Time passes. End-of-year projects. Tearful goodbyes and letters to "best friends forever."

High school meant no more school uniforms, which also meant a shopping trip. It was fun as always to get a Jamba Juice with Mom and Grandma, but a small part of me remembered the popular kids from 6th grade that I was about to see again. I knew what their jeans would look like. I made sure we got them.

9th grade.

September comes. Braces off. New clothes. Locker combination written on a sticky note. ID cards and student-leadership interviews. Asking to borrow my older sister's t-shirts so I looked "sporty" at school. Exciting firsts.

Supportive Mom. Angsty teen. Patient Mom. Unappreciative teen. Hurt Mom. Silent Mom.

10th grade.

September comes. Too much eye-shadow. Choir practice. Winter Ball princess. Student council. Algebra 2. Started noticing waistlines on other girls. Started noticing that mine looked different. Started to realize the kind of waistlines that boys liked to joke around with.

Sleepovers with best friends and gummy worms with cookie dough. Hysterical laughter at an inside joke. Long drives in the car while talking to Mom. Jokes with dad. Better relationship with sisters starting to grow.

Different boy. Kind boy. Liked me for the books I read and the songs I sang. Looked at my eyes instead of my waist. Wanted to travel. I did too.

11th grade.

September comes. Advanced classes. Choir practice. Consistent Friday sleepovers. Lazy Sunday afternoons with family.
Ice cream nights, still. Quickly stashed away in the freezer when approaching footsteps loomed. Why? I wasn't sure then.
Football games. Prom night, fancy dinner. Fearless eating of ravioli with cheese. Guilt came later, though.
Swimsuit shopping. Always a drag. Thighs that touch. Too much shame. Ugly, ugly ugly.

Skip the Jamba Juice.


12th grade.

September comes. College applications. Homecoming Princess. February fundraiser Princess. Prom Queen. Pressure, pressure, pressure. AP classes. Never as good as her.

Questions about  post high-school plans. Any free moment was spent reading, reading, and reading blogs about travel, fashion, literature, and life. Always coming back to that one post about weight loss. Someday.

Senior pictures arrive. Squeals about my beauty from my sister. All I saw were the chubby cheeks and yellow teeth. Bushy eyebrows, too.

How did I still not have the cool jeans? Hadn't I worked hard enough for it?

First year, university.

September comes. College town. New apartment, 5 strangers. Tearful last dinner with parents at the Applebee's. New experiences. New friends. New boy. New, new, new.
Taco Tuesday with new friends. Cold cereal for dinner. Weekly runs to the soda shop. Walking on the track with roommates to spy on the boys we liked.

That new boy. Quiet, at first. Unfailingly kind. Liked politics. Liked sports. Listened.

Second year, university.

September comes. Back to school. New friends. Athletic friends.

Ring on finger. Daily battles with the mirror. Daily battles lost.

Busy schedule. New job. Date nights. Busy, busy, busy.

Winter semester, second year, university.

January comes. Frigid weather. Breath-stealing wind.
Enough was enough. No cookies. More spinach. Dry chicken. Workout six days a week. Sweat is greater than sleep. Why am I losing so much hair? Go to work, go to class, do homework, see fiance. Repeat.
Wedding dress fitting around the corner.

April.

End of semester. 20 pounds later. Submit finals. Return books. Dad comes. Time to go home. Load truck.
"You look so thin."
Success.
Goodbye to friends. Wedding soon. Anticipation thick.

May.

Marriage. Happy. Honeymoon. Confidence. Safety.
Cruise. Legendary food. Slightly terrified of dinner's bread basket.
Incredible memories. One sneak to weigh myself on the ship’s scale. (I was just curious.)
No time to check. Memories waiting.
Comfort in the crook of his arm.

August.

Daily life. Work. Morning kisses. Instagram. Fitness profiles. Count your macros. Careful with almonds (too much fat).
Happy, still. But distracted.

Weigh the egg whites, research protein powder, call and check on Mom and Dad, e-mail missionary friends, give husband a shoulder massage, one more set, up your weight, watch your carbs, read scriptures, up for work, eight hours of sleep, rice cakes, rice cakes, rice cakes, how is husband? Watch an inning with him. Laugh. He really does have the most beautiful ey---

“Brooke?”

I glance over to see my co-worker offering me a cookie. “They’re still warm!” she beams.

I am paralyzed for a moment. They are probably made with butter, which means more fat. Do you have room for those carbs, too? Is it worth it? Is it worth it?

You could run for ten more minutes at the gym later if you really want it, I finally decide.

“Sure,” I say, smiling. “Thanks.”

I eat it, but it tastes like fear.

My brain swims with what I’m going to have to eat for dinner tonight to afford the cookie. I have to be careful not to vocalize my thought process, though; I wouldn’t want to come across as obsessed.

Enough, a voice says.

I pause. I look around. The co-worker next to me is typing away, not speaking.

Enough. I hear again. I close my eyes.

Enough. All these years. Enough with the second-guessing. Enough with the shame. Enough with the change motivated by self- loathing. Enough.

I pause.

It’s what I do to keep myself in check, I rationalize, straightening up a stack of papers on my desk. If I want to fit into the size 4 skirts, this is the way I have to live. It’s necessary.

You still hate yourself, I remind my brain. You still pick each inch apart in the mirror. When will it ever be enough?

You are enough. The voice says.

Preposterous. Look at my thighs! Look at my stomach! Look at my sisters, who are effortlessly thin and pretty. Look at how happy they all are.

Happy, the voice says, is not a size. Happy is a choice.

No.

I’d put in too much work for it to all come down to that.

But then again...

Could it be right? Could I dare hope that what it says is true, that this war could be coming to an end?
I open my eyes. A tear falls. I close my eyes, hard and tight.  And I try to listen.

~ ~

I was taught from a young age that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” I was taught that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, a princess destined to become a queen. I was taught the truthfulness of an all-encompassing Atonement and Savior.
I was also taught the thrill of finishing a novel, the pure joy (and pure frustration, which leads to pure joy) of being in a family, the magic of a summertime ice cream cone in an afternoon’s middle, and the fulfillment that comes from good, true friends.

These are the things I believe in. (And, more.) Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of what I once held most true. I turned inward by focusing on my outward, and devastatingly, wasted a lot of precious time. It’s time that I can’t get back, but time that has taught me truth.

And the truth, I’ve decided, is this.

Change that is motivated by fear, hatred, and disgust will not last. In fact, it will only lead to further fear, hatred, and disgust. Because once you achieve what you first set out to do---what you were convinced would make you and your life happier---you will soon find out will never be enough.

Recently, my husband asked what motivated me to lose weight in the first place. I rambled off a few things before finally settling on the answer: “Because I was tired of looking in the mirror and hating myself.” He made me stop what I was doing so he could cup my face in his hands. He told me that he loved me and that he loved me before anything had ever changed. He loved me for who I truly was.

I tried to change my body because I hated my body. How ungrateful I was.


On the other side of everything, I can see that I went about it all wrong. Because here I am, still twenty pounds lighter, but still convinced that it wasn’t enough. How would the story be different if it started because I wanted to change because I deserve better, and not because I was the worst?


Not for better thighs, but for better health. More energy. The self-confidence that comes from accomplishing a long run, and the self-confidence that comes from enjoying (truly enjoying, not just surviving) whole, healthy food. What if that had been the end-goal? Would the twenty pounds still have come off?


I think so, and I think a lot more could have come off with it.


It takes time. It takes proper knowledge about nutrition. It takes a lot of patience. It takes me podcasts, pouring over blogs, and talking to God through sincere and honest prayer. It takes telling Him that I’ve been so blinded by other priorities that, in the name of self-improvement, I’ve become pretty selfish.


Don’t get me wrong. I don’t eat pizza and ice cream all day every day. Not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. And not because it would probably make me gain weight, but because of the way it would certainly make me feel.


Pizza and ice cream, though, are not the enemy. Food is not the enemy. Food is not good or bad. Food is neutral.


I eat fruits and vegetables because I like them. And because they make me strong.


I eat cookies and muffins because I like them. And because I love to bake.


I eat rice cakes because I like them. And not because I have to.


And I can eat until I'm satisfied (not uncomfortably full), and I don’t need to only eat a rice cake for dinner because I ate a brownie in the afternoon, and I don’t need to restrict myself from memories at the ice cream shop. That is something I have to remind myself of often, and I will. Sometimes it is still a daily battle.


Eating disorders are dangerous, because a lot of the time, you don’t realize you have one until it’s too late. I fought against concerned questions from my parents for far too long because I was sure what I was doing was in the name of my health. Now, I know better. I know why my hair was falling out. I know why I was cold all the time. And now that I know better, I do better.


I do not blame what I went through--and what I still sometimes go through--on anyone else. I do, however, support, encourage, and plead for proper knowledge about nutrition, compassion for self, and compassion for others. I root for a world that rejects the lies of diet-culture.  


I remember watching a popular fitness television program and hearing them talk about how many calories were in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In conjunction with that calorie amount, they discussed how horrible the sandwiches were for you and your health. You know what a peanut butter sandwich is? It’s carbs, fats, and proteins. It’s food. It is not good, and it is not bad. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can absolutely be a part of your life. For some, that means whole wheat bread and unprocessed peanut butter. For others, it means white bread and peanut butter that is as Jif as it gets. It’s up to you.  And you can make it, do it, eat it (whatever “it’” may be) because you love yourself and because it is better for you, not because you hate yourself and because it might look better on you.


Because at the end of the day--and actually, at the beginning of the day and in the middle, too-- happy comes from the uncontrollable laughter of a baby during peek-a-boo, the comfort and security of a loved ones arms, the crackling of a looming thunderstorm, the truthfulness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and swipes of cookie dough during Christmas Eve baking. Happy is who I am, and it is not dependent on how I look.


Even all these years later, I am still that chapter-book reading girl who loves ice cream on Fridays. And sometimes Saturdays, too. Or whenever I feel like it. I am my dedicated, goal-driven, patient, optimistic self.


And that is enough.







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