iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jan Shepherd

GET UPDATES FROM Jan Shepherd
 

Fat, Feelings and Freedom to Love Yourself

Posted: 05/26/10 10:48 AM ET

I have learned much by living with and then overcoming an eating disorder. Such disorders involve amazingly complex behaviors that bring body, mind, emotions and spirit all into play at the same time. And every time you think you have a handle on just what is going on with your eating or not eating, you discover that it's even more complex than you first thought.

Like many of you who commented on my last blog about emotional fillers, I, too, knew when I was in the middle of destructive behavior; it was whenever I was eating to fill an empty place, eating to make whatever was hurting feel better, or just eating to numb myself all together. I knew that no matter what I ate (in one particular case, Oreos), or how much I ate, (in that particular case, way too much) that when I finally stopped, the empty place would not be filled and the pain would probably be worse.

But did I stop? No. Could I reason myself out of it when I was trying to fill the hole inside? No. That's because it's not just a matter of reason. Even though I knew the pain wasn't being caused by something in the moment but by something that may have started a long time ago, I was still stuffing or trying to numb out. And even though I knew that my body was yelling at me to stop, nothing was more important at that moment than quenching the emotional fire that was burning me alive from the inside out.

I was touched by an email from a reader who related that during his last stuffing episode, he felt "... like Rotten Luck Willie in Paint Your Wagon. I felt so lost, so gone and lost, not even God can find me." I've had those feelings as well. And it was precisely at those times that I needed me more than ever, for it was me that I couldn't find. I needed me to love me, just the way I was, even with Oreo crumbs still on the corners of my mouth. Even with my stomach getting bigger and thinking, "I just can't do this any more." Even when judging myself to be the worst me I could be.

Believing I was unworthy of love and ready to give in and give up on me, I needed to love every aspect of me. And if I couldn't do it all on my own, I would be open to asking Spirit or God (or whatever you may call it) to assist me. This was the time to look beyond my behavior, past my physical appearance, acknowledge my emotions for the passing feelings that they are and pour out my love and acceptance all over me.

I realize there are a lot of cynics who dismiss the concept of self-love and acceptance, but they are most probably people who do not or did not enter into self-loathing or have addictive issues. Don't allow them or anyone else (including yourself) to discourage you from taking whatever steps you can to love yourself. Take a few minutes each day to look into a mirror and tell yourself simply, "I love you." Even if you don't believe it, or don't believe that it will have a positive effect, believe me, a part of you will hear it and will start to resonate to it.

As for self-acceptance and self-love, it may be a chicken and egg issue. But it doesn't matter which comes first, because they both come together. I wrote a poem, called "My Mansion," at 350 pounds, as I was starting my journey toward recognizing my wholeness and discovering and loving whatever I found inside of myself. It is just as important to me today, a decade later, as I continue to maintain my 200-pound weight loss. It is my pleasure to share it with you as one of the keys that worked for me.

Enter beloved and discover what looms
My house is a house with many rooms
Some closed up and lacking care
Some well lit and full of air
Some expansive
Some quite small
Here is the key
Explore them all
Do tread freely, beloved guest
My love resides here, I bid you rest