Since the age of 12, I've been overweight. All of my adult life I've been overweight. But since the age of 12 I've also believed something was wrong with me because I was overweight.
I've always been a very physically active person, eat healthy meals, and could tell you in perfect detail about the Weight Watchers program (lost 50 pounds once) and how best to train for a 5K race.
Yet still, I've cried many times asking "What is wrong with me? Why can't I actually lose/keep off weight?" and would soon find myself sinking more and more into a cycle of obsession around my body, my food, my thoughts -- my whole worth as a person.
It's utterly draining to believe something is wrong with you, yet despite countless efforts, never discover a permanent way to fix it. As chronic dieters, we fundamentally believe we cannot be trusted and assume deprivation is the only way to control what we feel is out of control.
But last summer after an extensive bout of self-loathing around my weight and body image, I finally had enough. I told my fiancé one evening:
"I'm so f***ing tired of thinking about food, my body, and beating myself up over everything I do and don't do to it. I'm done dieting, done tracking points, done second-guessing myself, and done believing that something is wrong with me!"
If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It
I wanted to latch on to this "something is wrong with me" belief, so I meditated and sat with it. Quickly an image came up and I identified it as the "Repairer." I literally envisioned a frantic man pulling levers, tightening pipes, working around the clock, urgently addressing every single "problem" I had. My repairer was constantly plugging holes and making busy work. It was exhausting just picturing him!
But then I asked myself, "Has my Repairer ever fixed anything?"
The answer came quickly -- a resounding no. None of my "problems" had ever been fixed; I still worry, still fret, still glare at my stomach, still think my bank account is pathetic, still... still... still... You get the idea.
I criticize my weight because in my mind, it's a problem that will always need addressing. But that idea is a trick- - without my fix-it mentality I'm not sure what to work on or what to point a finger at to blame for my troubles. If I just work harder at losing weight, then I'll finally feel better, right? All that approach brought me was more frustration, shame and futility. Hello Sisyphus!
Banishing My Inner Hunger-Demon
The Repairer is a fictional character I created to make me believe I'm doing myself a huge favor by fixing problems, when really he's just blowing smoke over my eyes.
I told my Repairer "you're on permanent vacation" and he left -- then I was totally alone. My stomach went hollow and I automatically felt hungry, but I knew it was a trick -- a test to see how I would handle life without my repairer telling me to grab something to subside the "hunger."
It's not real hunger -- it's fear of letting something go unfixed, so I stayed with the sensation, felt my body tense, felt my mind fret, until eventually, I knew I was fine. I discovered that my feeling of hunger was just a call for greater compassion and attention to my own needs.
And then it struck me -- if I removed the need to fix, then I also removed the notion I was broken, too! And if I wasn't broken, then I wouldn't have to feel guilt or shame when I enjoyed a piece of chocolate or feel self-conscious in sleeveless shirts. If I'm not broken, then I'm able to accept myself for who I really am -- an incredibly creative, tenacious, funny, intelligent woman who smiles at everyone she meets.
This revelation was the first time in my life I experienced unconditional self-love and it felt like a deep sense of peace and calm washing over me. I then lay down with my fiancé for about an hour, just hugging one another -- finally appreciating how a love-driven feeling of satisfaction was way more delicious than any chocolate-covered pretzel could provide.
Life Beyond Broken
Since I let my Repairer go I've noticed big changes in my life. My thoughts no longer surround food, or how much running I'll need to do to burn off what I just ate; my attitude toward my body is one of acceptance and gratitude; and when I look in the mirror I can fully appreciate just how beautiful I am. My actions support a healthy me at any size, because I no longer believe I need to lose weight in order to love who I am.
But the most miraculous part has been the relief I've found by no longer feeling broken due to my weight.
I have had an exceptionally powerful arrival into what a broken-less life can be, but it was only made possible by transforming the piece within me that needed to realize I was never truly broken in the first place. It's my hope that more people take the courage and steps needed to end their brokenness and begin loving who they authentically are. From there, you can then change anything.
Will I ever wear a bikini? Probably not -- but I'm not going to beat myself up over it any longer.
For more by Rachel O'h-Uiginn, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
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