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An imperfect life guide for women
paula galli
Author

Paula Galli, life coach and author of Weighing Love, on overcoming her secret eating disorder

Trigger Warning: Disordered Eating, Distorted Self Image, Bingeing

October 2001

Standing in my perfect pink and purple bedroom, I stared at the naked reflection in front of me. I glanced over at the pictures that were posted behind my bedroom wall. Countless images of perfect models were posted. Ten models in tiny white bikinis captured my eyes. I stared at them. I analyzed their bodies. They were all so beautiful. They were all so perfect. Flat stomachs. Firm thighs. Tight butts. Narrow hips. Perfect breasts. Utterly perfect.

I looked back at myself. My image paled in comparison. Flabby stomach. Fat thighs. Big bum. Wide hips. Imperfect. Utterly imperfect. I grabbed a hold of my large breasts, then my thighs. My stomach. My hips, and then my breasts again. My mind whispered, I hate them. I wish my boobs were smaller. I dropped my breasts and stared at the image in front of me. I looked back at those perfect models. Before I turned to the mirror again, my left hand grabbed hold of my left thigh from behind, getting a nice firm grip of all the inner flesh I wished wasn’t there. With my right hand I did the same thing with the right thigh, tightly pulling both pieces of meaty flesh away from one another. I was left standing in front of the mirror with only half of my thighs visible. My mind spoke a little louder. This would be so much better. This is what I needed to look like.

I just want to eat. I just want to eat. It’s too late now. In order to lose weight you need to not eat three hours before you go to bed. I had read that in one of my diet plans. Don’t eat. Do not eat. Eating this late is bad. My mind started racing as these thoughts continue. I’m so ugly. I’m so fat. My boobs are too big. My thighs are too thick. My hips are too wide. My butt is too large. I have been dieting off and on since I was in grade six. What the fuck is the matter with me? Why can’t I just lose the weight? It’s not that hard. I am such a loser. I am such a failure. I can no longer look at my own reflection because I’m utterly disgusted by what I see. I hate my body. I hate myself. I am going to start dieting on November 1st. Yeah that makes the most sense. Then I will lose weight. I just have to. I just have to.

***

I didn’t know how to deal with those feelings of imperfection, so food became my means of disconnecting from it all. I turned to food as a type of drug that momentarily soothed me and allowed me to escape, punishing, numbing and comforting myself at the same time. The initial high I felt from the beginning of my binges was something that always seemed to numb the pain I would feel in my body from eating too much. After the euphoria of the food faded all I was left with was the pain that spread throughout my entire intestinal tract. In that moment I realized the food had done its job.

I was no longer able to obsess over the imperfect chocolate choice I made.  I was no longer able to feel those uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough. All I was capable of doing was feeling the uncomfortable sensations that were trapped inside of me. I could barely move, let alone walk upstairs to bring myself to bed after my 2am weekly (if not nightly) binging episodes. This was always the time when I re-confirmed to myself how my existence was clearly imperfect. How I was nothing but a failure. How I would never be viewed as that perfect little good girl I so desperately longed to be because when it came to food, I clearly didn’t have a clue how to be her.

***

February 2014

Eating Disorders affect individuals of all shapes and sizes. The reality is that unless you are super thin and it’s obvious to the naked eye, numerous individuals who look “normal” are living a lie, a lie that is fed through our ignorance, lack of education and denial. I know this because I lived it; at the time I never thought I had an Eating Disorder. I was never super skinny and I wasn’t hunched over a toilet bowl, which in my mind meant I didn’t have an Eating Disorder. Since everything else seemed to be normal in my life, I felt that whatever I was going through emotionally during that time was a result of the fact that I was having a hard time losing twenty pounds.

Those twenty pounds, those four extra sizes that I thought I needed to shrink, kept me locked inside a prison that lay within my mind. A prison that had me completely disconnected from my body, food, and myself, so much so that all I could focus on was the shape and size of my body. The number on the scale.  The number of calories I ate. The number of calories I burned. The plan I had to follow in order to attain the right numbers, the right size and the perfection of my body.

Although my symptoms were not so clearly defined or easily characterized by a label from the Eating Disorder world, the truth of the matter is that Eating Disorders encompass a broad spectrum of behaviours and symptoms. The Eating Disorder that I had did not disrupt my ability to participate in life, though it did affect it. I definitely wasn’t affected to a degree where I needed to be hospitalized, and was still able to go to school, participate in extracurricular activities, eat food and hang out with my friends. My weight was viewed as normal and because of that no one would guess from looking at me that my relationships with my body, food and myself were extremely dysfunctional and unhealthy.

I think because no one said anything, I just assumed that thinking this way was normal. When I lost those twenty pounds everything else would fix itself for the better. For over a decade of my life I lived this way and thought this way. I didn’t know that it was a decade way too long. If you or someone you know thinks about, talks about and/or obsesses over food and their body on a daily basis, I invite you to dig deeper and ask yourself what is really going on. If your mind is constantly thinking about this, that is an indication that there is something much deeper taking place, something that I would encourage you to look at.

It is very normal to have insecurities about our bodies from time to time, and not feel completely comfortable with food all the time. However, the real issues occur when these relationships are connected with our identity and self-worth. If the way you feel about yourself highly relates to how much you worked out that day, how many calories you burned and how much you did or didn’t eat, that indicates that you have bigger issues going on.

My mind used to play a trick on me by saying, “I just want to lose weight and when I do everything else will shift. I will feel good about myself when I lose weight.” Stop that lie. Stop it now. You will not feel good about yourself when you lose weight, and if you do, it’s temporary. I promise you that when that initial high fades away, what’s going to be left underneath is really the root issue to all of this. It’s low self-esteem and a lack of self-acceptance and self-love.

As a Transformational Coach, Food Therapist and Author of the Book, Weighing Love, I have dedicated my career to help females of all ages truly fall in love with themselves, their bodies, the food that they eat and, in turn, their lives. Weighing Love touches on all of this. It reads in three different ways: as an autobiography, an essay on ruthless self-love and a practical handbook to help readers overcome their own personal hurdles. The book really paints a picture of the prison we create for ourselves and gives insight and practical tools to help us break the cycle. Weighing Love was written to help anyone dealing with eating disorders, self-esteem issues, body image issues, negativity in their minds or simply for anyone who is trying to be in touch with their authentic self.

I would just like to remind you we were all born very loving and accepting of who we are, our bodies and food. Somewhere along the way this disconnection occurred, but the great thing is, is that connection can be established once again.

I truly hope that you discover your truth behind your relationship with food and your body. It really has nothing to do with food itself, but rather the way you feel about yourself. This and this alone should be where the focus needs to shift and the healing needs to stem from.

You can purchase a copy of Weighing Love here.