Friday, February 14, 2014
A moment of clarity is often described as that "Aha!" moment when we're finally able to get honest with ourselves and see things clearly after a long period of denial, shame, fear, self-loathing or any other number of negative adjectives we could use to describe ourselves when we're being self-destructive. It's often an important first step for people recovering from addiction, but I think also applies to any number of life's many challenging situations when we have to expend considerable effort to overcome whatever it is that's holding us back and preventing us from pursuing and enjoying the things we love. In that moment of clarity, it's as if our cloud of negativity and self-doubt is finally lifted and we suddenly have a very clear idea of what the problem is, where we want to go and how we can go about getting there without constantly feeling as though we're spinning our wheels.
Often when we embark on a weight-loss effort and start to enjoy a bit of success, people ask us what our "moment" was, but I was always at a loss to describe it. Sure, there were many things about living as an obese person that upset me--the limited mobility, health problems and vanity issues, to name a few--but I had never really had one particular event that shocked me into action.
Interestingly, I believe my moment of clarity came a little over a year ago, after I had been maintaining my weight loss for nearly a year, when I was hosting a dinner party for some friends. I did these often and considered these meals to be treats, so I ate with reckless abandon and often to the point where I would start to feel ill. One particular night, I realized that my naturally healthy weight friends were also eating more than they normally did, but that I was eating FAR more than everyone else. At that moment, as I was beginning to suffer from the physical and psychological effects of knowing I had grossly overdone it, I knew that I needed to change up my idea of what it meant to indulge--that just because I was choosing to have a meal that was more decadent than normal, that didn't mean I needed to eat like it was going to be my last meal ever.
I had already put in considerable work dealing with my emotional eating tendencies, but that alone didn't put an end to my overall tendency to overeat (we humans are lovely complex beings, aren't we?). It was then that I made a pledge to myself that I'd really strive for greater moderation in general so that when I did decide to indulge, I wouldn't feel so compelled to totally go off the rails and the physical and emotional damage wouldn't be so huge. This seemingly simple concept was actually a huge leap for someone who had spent most of her then 36 years living at one extreme or the other. The aftereffects of big food events often seemed to trigger a compulsion to restrict to levels that just weren't necessary, and were sometimes downright unhealthy, which would, in turn, lead me back to wild overeating episodes and perpetuate this nasty vicious cycle. But something seized hold of me in that moment and I realized that I couldn't continue to live like that--not unless I wanted to continue bouncing up and down 100 pounds or more for the rest of my life. (My experience with this cycle also explains my horror and indignation when I see allegedly reputable diet companies encouraging healthy, active young women to eat 1,200 calories a day, but that's a topic for another day.)
It's taken a while to adjust and avoiding the temptation to overcompensate for my indulgences has been tough. I admit, that when I see the scale go up after a big meal, my immediate reaction is still to want to take action as quickly as possible. But over time, by being gentler and more patient with myself, my compulsion to overdo it has lessened and I understand that I really don't have to take Draconian measures like drastically slashing my calories or spending two hours in the gym every day to make up for a few goodies. And I've found that I actually can be satisfied with less. I CAN have one piece of cake instead of four and a sprinkling of other things that aren't part of my normal diet and can end up with a day that's a few hundred calories more than I usually eat instead of a few thousand. There IS a sensible middle ground and I think I finally have the clarity to see that and how I can live there for good.