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> Back to Healthy Eating Excerpts List

Healthy Eating Excerpt from Don't Weight

Mic Jagger Saved My Butt

(Long, but this is THE CORE of where this process was developed)

I remember looking into the mirror and wondering how I got two black eyes. I had not been in a fight. I had not bumped into anything that I could remember. What could it be? Oh well, never mind. I went about my normal day. I ate lunch. I ate cookies. I ate popcorn. I ate brownies. Then I felt sick. So, I threw up. As I was rinsing my face off (and planning what I could eat next) I looked in the mirror again. My eyes weren't really black, they were maroon colored all around. At the edges I could see tiny little maroon dots. Then I realized that all these hundreds of tiny dots were broken blood vessels. These broken blood vessels were from throwing up, often six times a day. That was when I realized I was bulimic. That was back in 1978.

Me, my daughter, and my eating disorder

As I looked in the mirror, I asked myself, "Why did I do that? Why did I just throw up? Why did I have to throw up?" The answer was clear. After eating all that food, if I did not get rid of it, I would get fatter. At that time, I was terrified of gaining any weight. I believed that it was worth doing anything necessary to avoid gaining weight. I also knew that I could not stop myself from eating, despite all my willpower. Up until that moment, it seemed perfectly reasonable to "get rid" of the food I had eaten so I would not get fat. "Hmm ... something is not reasonable here." I have two black eyes and I'm throwing up all day. I know that bulimia can cause my heart to stop beating, blow out my esophagus, rot my teeth and leave me in dentures before age thirty. No, this is not reasonable, let me think about this.

I stood in my little yellow bathroom, wearing my red robe. I looked into the oval mirror for an answer. I knew there was a clue here, inside of me, if I could only listen well enough to my thoughts. I found two basic thoughts hanging in my mind: "I can NOT get fatter." "I am compelled to eat." At first it seemed there was no way to live with these two thoughts unless I did throw up. Then I decided to focus on one thing at a time. I started by focusing on my eating. I wanted to understand myself better. The answer must be INSIDE of me. A series of questions hit me: "What compels me to eat?" "What drives me?" "What am I looking for?" "What do I need when I eat?" "What do I want?" As I stood there I heard a voice in my head. The voice was deep and pulsing. I knew that voice. It was Mic Jagger who answered my questions. I am not kidding. In my head, I heard Mic Jagger singing: "Satisfaction ... satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction."

I was looking for satisfaction. I was looking to eating to give me some kind of satisfaction. I tried something sweet. No, that was not it. I tried something salty. That did not satisfy me either. I tried crispy, smooth, and chunky foods. It felt like there was something here in this pantry that would do the trick. I just had not found it yet.

It never occurred to me that I should look into my LIFE instead of my pantry for satisfaction. At that time I was twenty-five. I had two children, ages one and three. I lived alone in a huge house with a huge yard in the middle of the woods, while my much older husband traveled on business six days a week. I thought I was a complete failure. I was fat. My husband constantly watched his weight and made sure that I knew I should too. He told me; "If I don't keep criticizing your fat ugly bulges, you might give up and stay this way." At the time I wore a size 14. I also thought I was lazy. Every other woman in the world could keep a clean house and mine was a constant mess. I only had two kids. My mom had seven kids and she kept the house clean. What the hell was wrong with me? My husband told me I reminded him of a sloth (that is an animal who hangs around doing nothing for so long that moss grows on him.) I could never finish the tasks on my list. I never stuck to an exercise program. I could not stop eating. Of course, at that time, I did not see any other problems except my food problem. If I only got this food thing under control, then everything in my life would be better. I continued my pathological focus on eating, food, and body loathing.

I kept eating one thing and then another, looking for satisfaction. When I wasn't satisfied, I had to "get rid" of the food. I had to "empty out". Isn't it interesting that I had all these euphemisms for throwing up? Before the morning when I noticed my black eyes, I had never even used the words "throwing up" in my mind. "Throwing up" was just too gross. Suddenly, on that morning, I realized that using these euphemisms was one way I was avoiding facing what I was doing to myself. I decided from now on to call a spade a spade. I was throwing up all the time. I wanted to stop.

Since I was accustomed to focusing on my eating,
I used awareness of my eating
to help me stop overeating and throwing up.

If I was looking for satisfaction when I ate, then by God, I would get satisfaction! I made a promise (actually it was a vow, I was raised Catholic after all) to myself that I would only eat something if it was absolutely delicious. If it was not absolutely delicious then I would not eat it. I was not going to spend any of the precious room I had in my belly on any food that was less than scrumptious.

I started really tasting my food. Yes indeed, I savored it. I noticed how the food looked. I set out nice place settings for myself when I ate. I took time to arrange the food on lovely plates. I looked at my food for a while before I ate it. (Note: If the food did not look delicious, I did not eat it. I was sticking to my vow!) Next, I appreciated the aroma of the food. Did this food smell delicious? If it did, I ate it. If it did not smell delicious, I did not eat it. How could something that does not smell delicious satisfy me? Once my food looked and smelled wonderful, I would take small bites so that the flavor would last longer. I savored each bite, giving it time to linger on all my taste buds. (Did you know that when you close your lips with food in your mouth and exhale you enhance the flavor of your food dramatically? Try it. It does!) I was very aware when I ate. When the next bite was not as delicious as the last, I did not eat any more. My only motivation was increased enjoyment of my food -- satisfaction. (I was NOT doing this to eat less or to lose weight. If those motivations crept in, I felt like throwing up again! I put great effort into focusing on the enjoyment of eating as my motivation.) I learned about a new pleasure as a result of this very conscious eating, the pleasure of finding that I was "perfectly full".

My eating habits changed dramatically. Not only did my cookies taste better, but I could only eat a few cookies before they lost their scrumptious flavor. I was not going to waste my appetite on any food that was less than delicious! I started eating more healthy foods too. This was amazing. There was no deprivation, no limitations. My only measuring stick was my own pleasure and enjoyment. I stopped eating a slice of pecan pie on the fourth bite ... because it was not as delicious as the third bite! I was not going to waste my appetite on a bite that was not wonderful.

I vividly remember the first time I ate without wanting to throw up. It was two years after I had heard Mic Jagger's song in my head. This process was not quite as easy as it sounds. Of course I goofed up and ate more than I wanted at times. Sometimes, if I ate a bit more than was comfortable, I really wanted to throw up. I had to strongly remind myself that my body could handle what I had eaten. The world would not change because I was uncomfortably full.

I went from someone seeking satisfaction in eating to someone seeking satisfaction in "perfect fullness". What a change! Food became the tool I used to TUNE IN to how I was feeling. Food was not my anesthetic any more. I discovered a world of emotions and unmet needs. When the next bite was not as delicious as the last bite, I asked myself "Why eat it?" I got amazing answers. I wanted to eat food for comfort, distraction, reward, relaxation, adventure, rebellion, etc. As time went by, I realized eating more food would not really meet any of those needs, not in the long run. I decided to work toward finding more effective ways to meet my emotional needs. My focus changed. Eating, even when enjoyable, was not satisfying enough. I had to find satisfaction in my life.

Now I had something to work on that would make a difference. I could work on what was really important. I could work on my LIFE, instead of my weight or my eating.

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