The Balancing Act
There is a balancing act that needs to happen with reclaiming your life from food.
Here it is:
On one hand you need to go easier on yourself.
I did this not through empty affirmations of I love myself (I really didn’t, and had made sure that my behaviour reinforced this lack of self love for decades. You can’t just plaster an I am great, aren't I? affirmation over that).
I did it via curiosity. I realised that my food compulsion was a tool to mismanage my life.
I realised that Food compulsion is NOT proof positive that I was worthless.
Food compulsion can be a way to express toxic messages about yourself that were handed down to you in childhood. It is an invisibly powerful way to rebel against the culturally stifling messages about your body being more important than you as a person, as a measure of your worth.
Overeating often replaces healthy boundaries - how many times have you said yes when you should have said no, paid the price in terms of people walking all over you, then weaponised the subsequent anger against yourself with a binge?
On the other hand you need to develop the ability to withstand discomfort.
This can be hard to do, because so much of compulsion is about fleeing from discomfort. It may seem like the victim story is the only coping mechanism you have.
I was a dyed-in-the-wool victim storyteller for years. It felt like the junk was more powerful than my ability to resist. Handing over all my power to food allowed me to sink into what I told myself was passivity (It’s too powerful for me to handle!) but absolutely wasn’t.
While I told myself that I was a victim, what I really was was a food rebel - and there is NOTHING passive or victimy about your Inner Food Rebel.
Important: The victim story is not bad in itself. If you have just had a near miss on the road and feel pretty shaken up about it, the victim story serves a temporary purpose. It can enlist help from others and allow you to rest from your normal responsibilities and process the threat you experienced.
However, victim stories that become well worn fables and permanent residents in your head are harmful to you.
Every victim story should be temporary.
How The Balancing Act Works
So let me explain more about how the balancing act between going easier on yourself and silencing the victim stories works.
The act of getting curious about your food compulsion and asking I wonder why I am mismananging my life in this way? allows you become neutral about it.
This is incredibly powerful. It feels great too! Wow - I am not actually the worthless piece of crap I thought I was. Maybe change IS actually possible for me.
Indeed, the field of possibility is wide open and stretches farther than your eye can see.
Now the tricky part is letting go of the victim stories.
Think of reclaiming your life from food as driving a car.
The neutrality is the fuel you put in the tank.
The victim story is the brake.
The role of any victim in a story is to be rescued. To make the hero/ine look better and the villain look more dastardly. Would you ever go and see a movie in which the main character was the victim (I do not mean literally, as in the victim of an accident. I mean in their attitude to the problems the plot creates for them)?
Nobody is going to rescue you from your food compulsion. There is nobody else to blame for your sugar addiction and binges - not the food corps, not your passive-aggressive mother, not the playground bullies who made school such a misery for you.
I am not moralising here. My point is entirely practical. The truth is that if you blame someone else for the choices you make today about what you put in your mouth, you are also handing over the power for you to change to them.
Politicians say that with great power comes great responsibility, but I say: with taking even a bit if responsibility comes great power...to reclaim your life from food.
A Replacement For The Victim Story
Now, what is super important is to understand that to ask you to silence that victim story (and not give you anything to replace it with), is like releasing someone from prison (in this case, the prison of your useless, toxic guilt) without any kind of support system.
Who are you without your victim identity?
The answer is that you switch from the victim identity to the hero/ine’s. Your life is the hero/ine’s journey, and you are the centre of it. Don’t cast yourself as the victim AKA the bit part player.
This TED talkhas a good intro to the hero/ine's journey, and how it applies to us living our lives:
The core difference between the victim and the hero/ine is that a victim is waiting to be rescued, and constantly honing their story in the hopes that it will be good enough to accomplish this task.
Change is somebody else’s responsibility.
A hero/ine is imperfect, but understands that they must try to tackle the challenges placed in their way. It is this acceptance and willingness to take action that moves them from victim to hero/ine. Change is their responsibility, and they relish this because they know that responsibility equals power.
Don’t Feel Up To The Task?
If you feel too weak and full of flaws to be the hero/ine of your own life, let me present some heroes and heroines that are not your Avengers
Be the anti-hero/ine of your own life. Here are some examples:
Amy Schumer and every character she plays. My favourite is Rennee in I Feel Pretty
Sam Gardner, the protagonist of Atypical who has Asperger’s Syndrome
Supermodel Ashley Graham
Oscar The Grouch - Sesame Street
Rooster Cogburn - True Grit
Rebel Wilson (A slightly controversial one, because opinions differ on if she is an empowering role model. I leave that for you to decide!)
Jane Craig, played by Holly Hunter in Broadcast News
I have real affection for many of these real and fictional characters, far more than the bland perfection of Superman or Wonder Woman.
Make a choice to seek out and focus on real anti-hero/ines to inspire you on your own hero/ine's journey.