This post was originally published on February 26, 2015.
Ah, Monday mornings.
For me, Mondays used to be a bright new beginning following Sunday’s binge; and Saturday’s binge; and the previous week’s gradual decline into bingeing after the previous Monday’s dietary determination. Each week was a miserable, painful cycle of self-abuse that I failed to see. The only guarantee was that on Monday morning I was bloated, uncomfortable in my skin and bursting with feelings I couldn’t feel.
My first thought every Monday was, “What’s for breakfast?” My second thought was, “What diet am I on?”
Sometimes it was the same diet I had been on the previous week. Sometimes I was returning to a diet I had tried a few months before. It was a constant mind-fuck a lot like dating; maybe it was the right guy after all, just the wrong time, and maybe this time things had changed enough between us—he messed up, I messed up—that we can work it out. Or maybe I had ditched that loser, having realized he was wrong for me, wrong for everyone, and what had I been thinking? Or maybe I was just confused by something he did last Wednesday so I had acted out in an effort to show him who was boss and surely a fresh start was in order a few days later?
With both dieting and dating I was seeking something elusive: love. Big ol’ capital LOVE. Because isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
Having since found true love in every way, I can use my perfect 20/20 hindsight to see where I erred. I was looking out there for something that was in here. I was broken in a way that I couldn’t see, and no diet and no man could fix me.
Then the Paleo diet set me free. In case you’ve been living in a, er, cave, Paleo stands for “Paleolithic,” the way the cave men would eat—i.e. no refined sugar, processed grains or processed oils. For nearly the last five years, the foods I eat are in their natural state, as they come from the ground or the animal with no processing and no chemicals and maybe some honey or syrup or coconut stuff here and there. As long as I eat this way, I don’t binge and I don’t restrict. I don’t call it paleo, I just call it a food plan, but eating like a cave woman has given me sanity, clarity and serenity.
Let me back up.
Most of my dieting (read: restricting) and bingeing was done while I was actually in a relationship and living with the man who is now my husband. The problem was, I thought, my body. Even though he loved me unconditionally, I knew he was just being nice and, until I got my body right, I couldn’t take his love seriously. I believed I was deeply flawed in the waist, in the chest, in the back and in the arms. When I found the right diet, like a puzzle piece, everything would click into place. I would lose weight and I would be whole and only then, would I deserve the love that this wonderful man was trying to give me.
I dated a lot of diets through the oughts: the Super metabolism thing, the Calorie Counting thing, the Taste Everything Eat Nothing thing, the Vegetarian thing, the Vegan thing, the Juicing thing, the Point Counting thing and the Work Out and Diet Six Days with One Day Off thing.
The one diet I kept returning to, because it seemed to love me just right until I messed things up, was that Meat Diet. Oh, the meat. The bacon, the butter, the steak, the cheese. The beef on chicken on pastrami sandwich with turkey for bread. Each time I returned to its succulent, tender, falling-off-the-bone kind of love, everything felt just right until my eye would stray to a carb or a candy and then all bets were off.
The last diet I was on was the Work Out and Diet Six Days with One Day Off thing (for the third time). That One Day Off was getting longer and longer and I was hoarding food all week, squirreling it away in the freezer to be opened at 12:01 am on Sunday. It was an eat everything day. No amount of exercise-bingeing could counteract the Free Day food-bingeing damage. Then one day, in a burst of consciousness, I looked down at an empty plate that just seconds earlier had held a cheeseburger and an empty ice cream carton and wondered, “Where did it go, and where did I go?”
Like a woman who woke up with bruises for the last time, I realized that love doesn’t have to hurt anymore and I sought help. A brief Internet search for “bingeing” brought me to a questionnaire—my answers to 15 questions qualified me for a food-related 12-step program, and I broke up with dieting for good.
But here’s the thing; even though I’m technically paleo, part of my recovery is not researching diets—they’re none of my business. The most dramatic change that came over me upon entering recovery, was that I became teachable. I was told to get an actual expert’s opinion on how I should eat, and a professional told me to stop eating gluten, sugar and fake sugars. She told me to eat a high-protein diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and to avoid cheese and most dairy. There wasn’t a word for it at the time, but now it’s known as paleo.
The freedom my food plan has given me is small potatoes compared to what recovery has given me. As I began work on my spiritual condition (the real ailment), I finally found that missing ingredient from my life, that love that had eluded me.
It didn’t come from a diet, from weight loss, from the size of my arms or pants. It didn’t come from a man. It comes from the unity I feel with other people who have suffered like I have. It comes from my willingness to remain teachable. It comes from my openness to life, from turning my palms from a clenched position to open and remaining ready to accept.
I now live a full life that gets fuller every day. Most days I can feel the love from my husband and my daughter and it’s the same love I find in the rooms. It’s constantly flowing, and will flow through me as long as I remain open to it.
It’s that Higher Power thing.
And Mondays are now just Mondays. A day like any other day, where I remain open and willing and just for today, follow my food plan, remembering that I am not in charge of anything.