...and the fat closed in around the sword

"Okay. There is no right way to say this..."

I stayed on the surface of my best friend's opening words just long enough to contemplate darting out of the ocean-front restaurant, jumping into the water and dying. But that would have been too easy, and I don't do easy things. Plus, I hate the sand. So instead, I stared into Laura's eyes as she continued on, bracing myself, hoping and praying she wouldn't say the thing...

"I love you and I can tell that you are miserable. I'm so sorry."

I've been here before - that sinking, paralyzing, infuriating stab to the gut when someone spells out our demons. It's the one that makes us feel seen, too seen. Found out. Held tighter than we're comfortable with. And even though it was said with such love, my body reacted the same way it does when I've heard things like:

 "No, actually, you're failing Pre-Algebra.",  "Your checking account balance is minus one hundred forty-five dollars" "I don't have feelings for you anymore", "We've offered the position to someone else..."

I sank into the padded chair, and I felt a nudge from deep in my bones that said, stay. It'll all be okay. Just listen...

I haven't known how to tell you, and I'm so sorry if this is hurtful. Even your breathing is different, I can hear the heaviness. I love you at ANY size, and yet I can see you're in a lot of pain in your body. I can see it in your eyes.
And I don't think you're in recovery from your eating disorder, I think you're in the thick of your eating disorder."

I could feel my face run white. My finger tips, numb. And my heart, already so heavy, heavier. I heard the planet crack, or maybe it was just my knuckles as I yanked them, looking for some relief while my spirit suddenly felt so small and my body felt so big, too big. And yet, I sat. And listened deeply. It doesn't take much for me to cry, so I went ahead and did that.

The thing is, when something, especially words, pierces the body, all of its resources rush to the wound like a pack of detectives. Blood and fat cells gather round, collecting information on mini notepads, asking things like, what do we got? How long has she been like this? Someone grab a blanket to keep her warm. It's like a committee - the committee dedicated to the healing and restoration of my body and my soul. Each of us as one, and sometimes is takes a friend to call them in from eating donuts in the 7-Eleven parking lot. (Thank you, Laura). 

So my friends and readers and students and someone who knows someone who knows someone who stumbled upon this blog, I am Erica Jacobs; a Yoga Teacher, Essential Oil Educator, Eating Psychology Counselor and freakishly funny woman, struggling with an eating disorder. I don't want to be alone in this, so as long as my publishing my recovery doesn't hinder my healing, I have chosen to share my journey on the interwebs.

I thank you for being a part of this committee who closes in tight to help set me free.

Grace and Peace,

Erica

The Myth of Emotional Eating

I'll be brief and I'm not gonna sugarcoat this, because I love you. And I love me. And I've already spend years and years perfecting eating in shame, chronically dieting, binge eating and listening to everyone else, except me, when it came to my relationship with food. I've done all this, so you don't have to. You're welcome :)

If we ever hope to break free of food rules, diet culture and body image issues, we need to be willing to redirect and see things differently. Amen? 

I'm assuming (sorry) that somewhere, somehow, you learned from someone's Great Aunt Beverly that Emotional Eating is something to be avoided, ashamed of and even punished for. 

The act of putting a Milky Way or a Ding Dong (does anyone eat those anymore?)  in your face because you're stressed is somehow a reflection of who you are and how you have no discipline and you're ruining your life. 

First of all, it's not true. It's not true. Again, it's NOT true. 

The problem is not that we are emotional eaters; the problem is us confusing 'emotional eating' with 'shameful eating'. 

Let's explore the difference...

 

I AM AN EMOTIONAL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored

* eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good

* eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating

* think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten

 

Now, watch for the subtle but distinct difference between

Emotional Eating and Shameful Eating:

 

I AM A SHAMEFUL EATER WHEN I...

* eat when I'm bored...and consider myself to be "bad" for it. 

* I eat past the point of fullness because the meal taste so good...and I feel compelled to exercise and burn off what I ate or I promise myself somewhere deep inside that I will never do this again. 

* I eat when I'm not hungry, so that I don't miss out on family dinners or outings, where everyone else is eating...and I end up bingeing because of my belief that if I eat when I'm not hungry I have failed intuitive eating/willpower/listening to my body perfectly. 

* I think about food/plan my next meal while I'm eating a current meal or have just eaten...and I am unable to find pleasure in my present meal. In fact, I feel distracted, displeased, anxious or irritable until my next meal. 

Friends. Not only is Emotional Eating not the enemy, it is NECESSARY, because food is love. It is comfort. It is meant to be pleasurable and deeply enjoyed- why else do we have taste buds?? It's like, why would we thousands have nerve endings on our genitalia if sex was ONLY meant for procreation?? It's the same. And also I wanted an excuse to mention sex stuff. 

Our relationship with food is complex and fascinating and infuriating and dazzling. Take my advice, just for today: (Did you even ask for my advice?) Be proud, so utterly proud, of your ability and your desire to eat with your emotions. To be connected to the earth, its bounty and the people who inhabit it, in such a special way. That's all you need to do today. 

You with me? Yikes? Hallelujah? Meh?

With love,

Erica 

"Try Another Door" A Darker Poem

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

Photo by: Rodion Kutsaev

“Try Another Door” by, Erica Jacobs

I am a dollhouse.

Mulberry wine paneling,

smooth, brown shingles,

crisp, white shutters.

 

Modest mailbox on my manicured lawn,

White, picket fence,

porch swing.

I don’t open from the front…

Try another door.

 

Ready, set, turn me around.

Do my outsides match my insides?

 

Spoiled, sour, stale

milk.

Cruddy, crazed, crushed

cookware.

Broken, busted, baby

dolls.

 

Jagged spider web mouths

hover over a chandelier.

Chipped, checkered floor,

now an ugly grey…

Try another door.

 

Smelly, soggy, stained

bedding.

Cracked, crooked, coarse

canopy.

Dusty, dingy, dirty

bedposts.

 

No one

wants to sleep here.

No one

wants to be here.

Try another door.

 

Dilapidated, damaged, decayed

figurines.

 

next to a

 

Slanted, severed, smashed

cradle.

 

Watery, wilting, wasting

wallpaper

 

behind

 

Dense, damned, destroyed

Bookcases.

Try another door.

 

Empty wooden rocking horse

calls out,

for one last ride.

 

Who did this to me?

How did I get here?   

 

Compartmentalized,

boxed,

broken,

dark

It’s hot in here.

 

Please

someone

open a…

 

Someone…

try…

another…

 

A Binge Eater Walks Up to a Donut Buffet

*On experiencing my first wedding reception donut buffet, as a recovered Binge Eater*

Like a drunken Prom Queen tripping over the train of her dress to collect her crown, I bolt from the dance floor, rush to the glorious donut shrine and stand in awe. I grab the way-too-small dessert plate from the stack and press it close to my cleavage, like a teenage girl nervously clutches her school books, as the boy she's in love with passes her in the hall.

They're all so pretty, they sparkle and I swear one just winked at me.

My eyes widen and my heart beats a little faster. I'm Excited. I'm Nervous. I'm hungry for a donut. And like a gaggle of mourners at an Amish funeral, a crowd forms around the oval table these round beauties rest on. That's when I hear the rumble of food shaming comments and the noisy arguments of, "Oh, this is dangerous." "Okay, I'll have one bite, but then we have to dance hard to burn this off." "Allen, take this away from me. You eat the rest. I can't be trusted." "You know I have no self-control." "No, you can't eat that, it's full of sugar." "Oh. Gluten."

I remember when I said those things. I remember promising to be 'good'. I remember chewing food and feeling proud for not swallowing it. I remember how much my throat burned when I did swallow, and ran to the bathroom to un-swallow it. I remember all the nights I sneaked into pantries and lost myself in a box of Oreos, or a pot of spaghetti, or an entire rectangle of cheese, or a jar of peanut butter. I remember crying on the kitchen floor, often. I remember when food was bad, and my body was bad and my appetite was bad and donuts were bad and I was bad and everything was bad.

My head is full of the useless chatter and I wonder what people will think of me when they see me take a bunch of donuts for myself. They'll think I'm still a binge eater. They're feel sorry for me, yet proud of themselves. Like, the whole, "Yea I ate a donut, but at least I didn't eat as much as Erica..." I'm about to put my plate down and run back to the safety of the dance floor, where I can burn more calories instead of ingesting them. And that's when I hear the voice; "Go ahead, honey. Take exactly what you want. It's okay. This is normal, now. You're not sick anymore, remember?" This is the new voice I listen to. She's new here. She's the food/body-positive parent I never had, and she came to stay with me when I was in recovery for my eating disorder. She helps me a lot.

I take a deep breath and turn my plate level, readying it for my selections...

The pink one with sprinkles matches my nail polish; I'll have that one. And the caramel one is the same color as my eyes; I want that one, as well. This other one is glazed and shines bright like a diamond in good lighting, just like me; I'll grab that one, too. This one in the corner looks kind of plain but I'll bet there's good inside; Mine. Coconut-covered? Why not! BACON-sprinkled? Um, duh!

Piled high to the starry, summer sky, I carefully walk my teetering donuts back to my table and arrange all nine of them in a line. I take one bite of each, noticing the vast and subtle differences in taste, texture, flavor and appearance. I like the pink one with sprinkles, best. I offer up the remaining eight donuts, who were now one bite shy of a full circle, and my table mates are thankful. And confused. And drunk.

I sit back in my chair and take bites of my pink sprinkled donut, knowing this is just enough for me. I'm eating exactly what I want. No need to binge. No urge to purge. No reason to cry on my kitchen floor. No big deal. It's not a special occasion that makes donuts okay...it's me who makes donuts okay to eat.

I smile enough to pick a stray blue sprinkle stuck between my teeth, when I hear the voice again- that voice that had found its way back to me, by the grace of God, just when I thought I could never get well. Through blaring music, loud, silly wedding guests and clanking glassware, I heard her. Loud and clear: 'I trust you with food, Erica.' Your body is good. Food is good. Donuts are so good. Your appetite is good. Remember? I trust you with food, Erica. I trust you with life.   

Wholeheartedly,

Erica

When Sushi Taught Me About Trust

All these thoughts came back to me as I sat, pretending to listen to and engage with my friend, which was almost impossible. By the time they brought out the second small plate to me, my mind was so lost in the loud argument of: "will this satisfy me? How much more food are they going to bring me? When will they bring it? What if by the end, it's not enough. What if I want more? What if...what if after all this time, all this healing, all this work, I still have an eating disorder...?"

On a normal, no-particular day in August, a friend took me to SugarFish— a trendy sushi restaurant in Marina del Rey. And by trendy I mean it took 45 minutes to be seated, at lunch. By trendy, I mean the place is the size of an airplane —like a Southwest airplane. Not a Delta one. By trendy, I mean the walls are grey, with nothing hung on them, and everyone, including the homeless guy outside by the fountain, looks so chic. Finally, after chit-chatting about sunglass cases and iPhones, AND how we can solve world hunger, we were finally seated and handed menus.

I should remind you that sushi is my favorite food. I could eat it everyday and I pretty much do. Also, sushi was my go-to food when I was a binge eater. For years, I'd go to Whole Foods, Sushi Boy, Hop-Sing's Good Time Sushi (that's not a real place, but you get the idea) and buy a lot of whatever I wanted, take it home and go to town. It would have been easier on my wallet if fast food was my thing. Just saying.

I hardly looked at the menu before my friend told me I should order a dish called, "Trust Me." I assumed it meant they'd bring me a meal the chef recommended or concocted in the kitchen, which excited me, because some days, the less thought I have to put into what I want to eat or food itself, the more sane and better off I am. I ordered the "Trust Me", and a few minutes later, the waiter brought us a small plate with two pieces of sushi on it and almost immediately, I began to panic. I realized this particular meal was designed to be eaten carefully and slowly, meant to be enjoyed with focus and appreciation, and intended to give me, and recovering binge eaters everywhere, a complete nervous breakdown.

I'm not a slow eater. Never have been. And in my line of work, the first thing I ask my client is: Are you a slow eater? Fast eater? Moderate eater? The idea being to bring the body back to homeostasis and free from a stress response, caused by eating too fast, judging the food you're eating, etc. I'd say this has been the hardest part of ED recovery, for me; eating slowly, with pleasure and awareness of all the things in and around me. For so many years, my story had been I am not to be trusted with or around food. I don't trust my body to digest food or burn it off without a pill or supplement of some kind This food must be hidden from me. And If I am to eat this food, I am to hide as I eat it.

The good news is I've gotten so much better about speaking up in my life. I told my friend I couldn't focus on our conversation. I told her this is a new and nerve-wracking experience for me and I need to talk about that instead of anything else. She was happy to do this. I told her how anxious I felt, not knowing when my next bite would come, and how many bites there would be. I told her I was afraid that after they brought the last piece of sushi, I'd want more. So much more. All to which she gently replied, you CAN have more.

And I remembered she was right. There's always more. There's always enough. I spend my career reminding clients, friends and strangers at dinner parties that there is plenty. That it's normal to eat a meal served by somebody else and realize that it isn't enough for you. But the trick is to thoroughly enjoy what has been provided, first. The key is to be able to engage with your surroundings with ease, as food is one part of the eating experience. The point is to slow down. I still work on this everyday.

The minute I think to myself Wow, Erica Jacobs! You are officially cured and recovered in your relationship with food and body. Well done. You're the brightest, most evolved human being in your field, the Universe says, Don't get cocky. And it sends me to places like SugarFish to remind me that I, as an eater, am a work in progress. That my relationship with food is always evolving. That above all else, I am to be trusted with food. That my hunger is to be trusted and honored. That my body knows what it's doing and I am to let it do its job.

Trust is a very big word, built in very small moments. Trust is built each time we sit down to a meal. Trust is manifested when we allow others to feed us. And trust is nurtured when we keep showing up to the table, ready to take slow, present and thoroughly enjoyable bites. This can happen at Chick-fil-a, it can happen at your kitchen table and obviously, it can happen at the trendiest sushi restaurant on a normal, no-particular day in August. Trust me.

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