I was a compulsive eater out of my mother’s womb. The youngest of eight children in an abusive home, and I used food to feel safe. I overate every day, hated myself for it, and yet could not stop.
I started out addicted to food, and by my teenage years I was addicted to alcohol and drugs as well. By age 24, I was designing my ending and talked regularly about taking my life. I was a fat, depressed drunk who hated herself.
Self-hatred controlled my life for a long time. I hated myself and didn’t think there was a way out of my pain, fat or thin. After my difficult childhood, I moved from New York to California. I was in college in San Francisco, enjoying school for the first time but still not loving my body or myself. I had turned to bulimia and laxatives in desperation to control my weight.
In the fall of 1987, I went to my first Overeater’s Anonymous meeting because I knew my primary addiction was food. The first meeting I attended was in a church on 19th Avenue in the Sunset District of San Francisco. I can still see the room clearly – a large, open, spacious room with chairs placed in a circle. What I loved about that meeting was the love you felt from the moment you walked in the door. We humans have an amazing capacity to heal, to transform, and to become our best selves, all the while loving and holding and supporting one another through the darkness into the light.
Although I had taken the hugely important step of wanting to get well and joining OA to do so, I really was not ready or willing to take my life back and turn things around … not yet. Though I continued to go to meetings, my pain was obedient to the addiction, and I still felt defective. Even though by this point I had begun to wake up and see my pain more clearly, I was still also living in my old world of self-abuse. I had recognized my self-harming behavior and had been in Overeaters Anonymous for months, but my patterns were the same.
After meetings, I would go straight to the grocery store and buy all the carbohydrates in sight – chips, breads, and anything to dip them in. Then I would binge my brains out in the car, thinking, “Well, I’m not ready yet and I am doing the best I can right now.” Part of me was seeking something better, and the other part was desperate; one part wanted to live, and the other did not, but still I hung on to the belief that something might change.
Then came the day when I heard four words that rocked my world forever. It was February, 1988. My latest New Year’s resolution to heal had died, and I was using food like crazy and drinking to numb my pain. There was a daylong OA conference, and as disappointed as I was in myself yet again, I knew I needed to go.
The very first speaker, a woman who was not obese, had a story similar to mine – a lifetime of yo-yo diets and self-hate. She talked about feeling desperate and determined at the same time, of living her life in two parts: the one who knew there was more, and the one who felt defeated. She talked about all of her excuses and stories and lies and self-betrayals, and how they were digging her grave deeper. She, like me, had wanted out of the quicksand, and could never find a hand or a rod or anything to pull her out.
Then, one day in a meeting, she had heard a woman share a similar story of attempts to save herself until her life was changed by four words. Those words would forever change the life of this woman and, as soon as she shared them, they changed mine too. “If not now, when?”
When she shared those words, I burst into tears and experienced an actual physical release in my body, an earthquake in my cells. My world was literally rocked and my life forever changed. Just then, I got it.
If not now, when?
What was I waiting for? As I cried, I thought, “how long am I going to play this game of dieting and cheating, dieting and lying to myself? How long will I walk this earth feeling so ashamed of myself? How much longer will I allow myself to hope for death, and fantasize about taking my life?”
If not now, when? Until I heard this, I had been sitting alone in a conference room full of people, feeling fat, isolated, stupid, useless, and helpless. The words took me home, home to who I was. Home to the person who was NOT defective, who was capable of healing and changing her story. It all flooded in like a tidal wave as I sat there, weeping in pain and joy.
I knew then that the part of me that wanted to die was right in a way: some things would have to die in order for me to live. This was my life, and I was taking my power back. I danced my way through the rest of the day’s conference, feeling myself slowly crossing over from shame into glory. After this angel’s talk shifted the tectonic plates of my soul, I was home.
We should never underestimate the incredible power that sharing and reaching out has to change lives. I believe so much in this truth that I am now a body image and weight loss coach and have my own practice, @OnePinky.
When I set out to create OnePinky, it was clear to me that I wanted to create a movement – a revolution. My interest was and still is overturning the obesity epidemic, the one I nearly succumbed to, by changing how we women see our bodies. It’s my intention to wake up women who hesitate to look at the reflection in the mirror or the number on the scale, just the way these women woke me up from my denial. I want to wake them up to the truth that saved my life – self-love is the ultimate healer.
The following years have not been without their setbacks; the road to self-love and acceptance is not a purely easy one, but the gift of words this woman gave me has sustained me through all the ups and downs. If not now, when? I learned from her that there is always another chance, there is always the now in which anything can happen, anything can change, anything is possible.
If not now, when?
TODAY, I am beginning a 4 week tele-class called “enjoying the summer diet free”. If my story resonates with you, please join my class so that you can start moving along the path to self-love. If you can’t start class today, I am offering another class beginning July 21st. I would love you to be a part of it!
body image, inspiration, motivation, self-love, weight loss