It just takes one.
One disparaging comment.
One possibly judgmental glance.
One ill-fitting garment, one unfortunate glance in a store window.
One moment for the weakness to set in, for the thoughts to take hold. A single second, and suddenly your world turns. It takes all your strength not to run to the kitchen and rip open bags of tortilla chips, boxes of leftover pizza, pints of ice cream. It takes every ounce of resolve that you possess not to jump into the car and head straight for the nearest drive-through. To drown your remaining shreds of self-esteem in french fries, chicken nuggets, and double junior bacon cheeseburgers.
You’re having a normal day. Maybe even a great day. You don’t expect it. You can’t predict it. It happens so fast. It catches you off guard. And it only takes one.
As you are all well-aware, I’ve been feeling pretty good about things lately. I may still be dealing with my holiday weight gain, I may not be at goal, but in general I’ve been feeling like things are really starting to fall into place. So yesterday, when I dropped by my parents’ house to pick up some vegetables that my mom was trying to get rid of (free brussels sprouts? Heck yes!), I wasn’t prepared for the conversation that came in response to my blog post showcasing the epic Valentine’s Day meal that I had the night before.
“I have too much produce,” she said, thrusting a bag of brussels sprouts, spinach, and a container of blackberries into my arms.
“Thanks for these! Yeah, you do have a lot. It’s going to go bad while we’re in Orlando,” I replied, eyeing an entire drawer full of peppers, leafy greens, and tiny purple eggplants. Suddenly, she pinched the skin on the underside of my chin.
“You had better not eat steak anymore. Look at your face.”
“What are you talking about? I lost a pound this week!”
“I saw. But I can’t believe it.”
So I left. Well, I guess “stormed out” is the more appropriate term. And the very instance I stomped out of the room, my head was filled with self-deprecation, loathing, and hatred. I know that to her, the comment was nonchalant. Moms are moms, and she has nothing but love and concern for me. I know that I’m a sensitive person in general, and I’m extra defensive when interacting with my family. I know that there have been miscommunications between my mother and me in the past. I know that her intention was not to hurt me. I know these things. But knowing doesn’t stop it from hurting. It didn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes as I slammed the front door behind me, or from falling once I got to the car. It wasn’t about what was said, it wasn’t about who said it. It could have been anything. The point is that it happened: one comment got under my skin, and brought with it an emotional flood that I hadn’t experienced for some time.
I wrote a post a while ago about trying to figure out my identity as someone who has lost a significant amount of weight (“My Name is Gretchen, and I Used to be Fat“). In it, I questioned why I have such a hard time letting go of my “old self”, as it were, and embracing my new mindset and my new body. I talked about not wanting to forget who I was, for fear of slipping back into those habits. My experiences today only affirmed those feelings. Without fear of backsliding, without the constant reminder of how you once were, you forget. You let your guard down. You are vulnerable, and it takes just one thing before… you slip.
I was fortunate this time. My mind may have slipped, I may have let in that self-hatred and beaten down my self-esteem but I had the strength to resist the temptation to binge. Instead of eating $18 worth of Taco Bell, I came home. I chopped onions and roasted brussels sprouts and sauteed mushrooms and I didn’t succumb. But I wanted to. I wanted to binge. I wanted to fill my stomach with crap until it felt like I was going to burst, and then I would have wanted to purge. I managed to fight against that, and I’m both grateful and proud that I was able to. But the physical act of bingeing is only one side of it.
The worst part is the emotional damage that one simple, innocuous comment can do. How it can unravel you. How in a split second, it can undo a year’s worth of repair to your self-esteem. Sure, I won the binge battle, but the emotional war? It’s still raging, even now. I’m my own enemy, fighting against all the thoughts I’ve been trying to keep out for so long. And not only do I have to fight against old thoughts, but there are new ones too. Like feeling that being happy about my life and making peace with my appearance is the very reason why I let my guard down in the first place.
I’m still fat.
I’m not good enough.
Nothing will ever change.
This is your fault.
You’re soft. Weak. Complacent.
You’ll never make it to your goal because you’re too content with how you look. Hate yourself more.
Having this blog helps, it really does. It lets me go back and see where I began. It lets me reflect on how far I have come, in so many ways. It helps me rally the strength to fight, because I owe it to myself, and I owe it to you, to try. It convinces me that instead of wallowing in a pool of self-pity and dysmorphic self-image, I should try on my newly delivered dresses. It allows me to revel in the fact that I fit firmly into a regular ol’ size L, something I would simply not have been able to do a year and a half ago. It proves that change has occurred.
Chalk it up as cheesy, self-indulgent, narcissistic. Label it as just another trend. But blogging helps me see the progress I have made and will continue to make. As long as I keep trying. As long as I can rebuild, stay the course, and be prepared for the next time this happens. Because, as much as I wish it weren’t the case, the sad truth of it is that it will happen again.
It just takes one.