When There Is No Middle | Christmas & Food Sobriety

Dear pilgrim,

I recently featured on new Irish podcast ‘The Grapple’, hosted by journalist Joyce Fegan. She had invited me on to talk about chronic dieting and recovery.

This episode was originally meant for a January publishing. We imagined it might position itself as a thorn in the side of the rose that is the ‘new year, new you’ aka the diet industry’s attempt at marketing violence as a form of self improvement.

A predatory offering of the solution to our unworthiness.

But Joyce decided on our meeting that it may be more beneficial to release it in the run up to Christmas because Joyce wants not only to shine a light on that with which we grapple, but also to share what we’re learning in the process, that might help another.

While this was not my first time to speak about binge eating and recovery, it was my first time to tell the story of my relationship with my body and from the vantage point I’m at now, where I’ve finally stopped regarding my body as this impossible asshole, making a dieting show of me.

 

Finally, not every morsel going into my body, is ‘the last supper’.

 

I’m only very recently discovering a way to be around food and with my body that isn’t about trying to moderate or control. Isn’t about clinging in desperation and for dear life, to either end of the diet-binge spectrum.

What you hear on the podcast from me is very much the experience of a woman at ground zero, not really knowing what the answer is yet, but also knowing precisely and absolutely what the answer is not.

I’m a woman with a lifetime’s experience of diet and weight shame. I’m 7 years in recovery, 18 months in sobriety and only now am I open to considering and more importantly - willing to risk - showing up in a different way than on my high functioning coping bicycle with two gears only.

 

“Fuck it” and “Oh fuck'‘.

 

So when Joyce asked me on the podcast, what advice I might give about how one might approach Christmas and new year when there is no middle gear, my answer was ‘with eyes wide open’.

I knew there was nothing I could say in that moment or now, that is going to take away the pain of not knowing how to ‘be’ in your body, around food.

Nothing I could say that would change how anxiety ridden occasions like Christmas can be for ALL the reasons, someone at war with her body will be all too familiar with.

I know nothing I could say in that or this moment, can unravel a lifetime of messaging that your body and therefore you, in spite of all your efforts, are getting it wrong.

That you can’t be trusted.
That you must be controlled.
And what’s fucking point anyway, because it will never not be this way.

 

I know that nothing I can say right now will inoculate you against the oncoming epidemic that is, the January diet cure.

 
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January for me used to be the month reserved almost exclusively for me to haul my shame filled self down to the freezing cold local community hall to self correct.

To stand in line with other women who ‘failed’ over Christmas. To look at my weight on a scale and hear the operator say on seeing my despair, “It’s alright love, just think it’s the last time you’ll see those numbers”.

To know she’s not right.


I’m sorry I don’t have anything to say right now that will make this whole charade play out any other way. But I’m not sorry enough to lie to you either.

So, what do I mean by ‘eyes wide open’?

I mean, to notice.
To stay awake.
To reject the role of being your own ‘fat controller’.
To surrender.

To do the UN-intuitive thing and to not intervene in any way, about how you are going to be or not be around food this Christmas.

You have permission to give none of the fucks or all of the fucks. There is no right way to distribute the fucks.

BUT, there’s a catch. It’s something I call ‘awareness and Grace’.

You must stay.
Stay present.
With your self.

Allow yourself to notice but to stay neutral IN that noticing. Instead of using your precious energy on the double shift that is self monitoring and self abandoning, you will be self accompanying, all the way.

You will pretend you’re Martin Bashir following yourself around the place like he did Michael Jackson on that shopping spree asking, oh we’re doing this now? And this? This too? Ok. I see.

Only you’re not going to be an asshole about it.

I give you this scenario because I believe it’s a really good metaphor for what we’re doing when we’re operating from the very tender place of unmet needs. When we’re trying to get the known outside of us, to comfort and soothe the unknown, inside.

And giving ourselves shit for it.

I think Michael here, represents the lost self with Martin in the role of witness. This witnessing can be done from a place of kindness or cruelty. Martin here is being unkind. Notice the quality of your own self witnessing and make an effort to start a practice of following yourself around, from a place of loving kindness.

And maybe even ask why? Why are we doing this? And this? And that? These?

And then believe her. Don’t argue. If your self says she’s doing a thing because this or that, you don’t argue. You say, Ok. I see. And you witness.

 

The biggest damage we are doing to ourselves, is pretending not to see.

 

Be curious. Sit with the questions. What is the truth here? What am I trying to achieve? What can I see?

You don’t have to DO anything with the information, just write it down and allow it to have been said and notice how you feel about it.

I truly believe pilgrim that this is where to begin. We have to learn the compassionate witnessing of self. To stay awake where otherwise we would sleep.

Look inside, pilgrim. IN. Fuck ‘out there’.

I believe it’s important to begin the process of separation from the internalised idea that what you need, is to lose weight. Begin to notice all the ways this message is perpetuated ‘out there’. All the ways weight loss and thinness is idealised, suggested, congratulated, ‘complimented’ and rewarded.

You don’t have to intervene, all you have to do is notice. Once you begin noticing, you begin the process of un-blending.

 

We are being sold a pup only to take it in and discover it’s a wolf.

 

This is going to take some time. Let it.

Here are some things I will be doing this Christmas, to help me stay in close, loving contact with myself:

  • Journaling. Doesn’t have to be a big production, just a notebook and pen will do. I just downloaded the free Body Trust workbook from Be Nourished.

  • If you want a more creative journaling experience, join me on the Solstice for a free lesson.

  • Essential Oils. I’ll be inhaling, ingesting and bathing in these babies. My favourites right now are Lavender, Lemon, Basil, Frankincense (the oil of truth) and the serenity blend.

  • Herbal teas. I carry these around with my oils in my handmade Mr Kite, small purse. I call this my self care, rescue kit. I also have a paidirín and a metta prayer in there.

  • Pure, organic, handmade Irish skin care products from Anú. Nothing feels better than self care smells.

  • Epson Salts. Because, MAGNESIUM. I plan on spending the majority of my Christmas, in the bath.

  • WATER and lots of it. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. This is my elixir of life.

  • These downloadable Guided Meditations by Patricia Fitzgerald.

  • Earplugs. Sleep disturbance is a deal breaker for me.

  • Nature. Movies. Music. Podcasts. Audiobooks. Fluffy Socks. Silence. Sex.

What about you pilgrim, how will you self care this Christmas? What is your middle?


You can listen to my conversation with Joyce on The Grapple Podcast here.


Join me for a FREE Facebook LIVE Journal Session for the Winter Solstice (December 21):

Slán: The Art of Letting Go.
In the lead up to the launch of RAW(e):nergy, a 30-day email course to energise and inspire creative process & practice and in celebration of the Winter Solstice, join Amanda as she facilitates the Pilgrim Soul Facebook community through a process in our journals, of reflection and letting go as we cross the threshold from Darkness to light.