Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Honest Revealing of Self.

Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog.  I’m wild, passionate, spontaneous, and I’m pensive, poetic, and emotional.  It depends on the day, the level of quality time I’ve shared with friends, and the weather, and probably the food I’ve eaten.

I am a mom.  A wife.  A daughter.  A friend.  

My life has been a mix of pain and joy.  There have been seasons of perfection and times of tragic pain.  I come from a long line of women with eating disorders.  Women who, while amazing, strong, and vibrant, couldn’t seem to find peace with food.

I have been afraid of food since I was 12.  I was in seventh grade when I first learned that girls were supposed to diet, eat less, take diet pills, anything to be thin.  I tried to stop eating so much.  Not easy for a farm girl raised on horses, constant activity, and huge platters of steak, with apple pie for dessert.  I didn’t make it a constant focus, I was just aware that I should always be skinny.  

My weight would go back and forth, but not too much.  I had this friend and every time we were together she would tell me we should exercise so we could lose 15 pounds.  I learned there is always weight to be lost.

My sister dabbled in bulimia.  She tried, it wasn’t for her and she continued life, tall, thin, and model perfect.  At 5 inches shorter, you see a bit more of what I eat on my body.  When I tried, I didn’t just dabble.  I went at it like I do life, full throttle.  

In my early twenties, I was in a painful relationship that dragged on for too many years, I just stopped eating.  I was trying desperately to control a world that had me trapped between my first love and family and friends who couldn’t stand him.  I lied, I was ashamed, and I avoided food like the plague.  

When the relationship finally ended and I found myself in a small midwest town, alone.  I ate and I purged.  It felt so good to let my world slip wildly out of control in boxes of donuts, tubs of ice cream, and mounds of chocolate, then right itself again head down, over the toilet, puking my guts out.

Figuring I needed a break, I went home for a few months, to heal, to find balance.  Because of a painful childhood I had spent most of my life in counseling, I knew all the tools I needed to work through what I was struggling, but I couldn’t quite find my way.  I went to a woman who terrified the life out of me and she walked me through the emotional side.  I read Geneen Roth’s books.  I gobbled up everything I could to try and find freedom.  My sister wanted to institutionalize me.  She’s a little short on compassion and because she is in total control of herself had no concept for my needing to work it out.  She wanted me better right then.  So, I stopped throwing up.  I would eat as much as I could hold and punish myself with fasting the next day, barely any food the next few, and as much exercise as I could handle.  I still started to gain weight.  I also slowly started to stop punishing myself quite so extensively.  I started to look a bit like a chipmunk.  I was a little okay with that.  I just desperately wanted to be okay with food.  To not fear every time dinner was served.  

A good friend of mine had been a raw foodist at that time, for a few years.  I remember being overwhelmed by the idea of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I usually ate one big meal and a party size bag of m&ms.  I started experimenting more with food.  Trying out flavors and combinations.  For a born baker whose family hails from the south this was definitely new ground for me.  Though my mom has always been on the forefront of nutrition and the health movement, this was taking it to new heights.

Really I just started eating raw cookies.

I found a job back in my hometown and I started to find freedom.  I was at my heaviest weight.  I met the man who in a few months would be my husband.  There is something precious for a girl who fears fat like the plague to meet a guy who thinks she’s beautiful when she’s at her highest weight.  

Nine months later we were married and living in Madison, WI.  I had managed to find a sort of peace with my weight and was focused on life in a new city married to an amazing man.  Then I got pregnant.  It wasn’t the plan and it took me a while to reconcile to this new turn that life had taken.  I gained weight.  I was pregnant with an amazing boy and he just turned my narrow hips to thunder thighs, gave me a triple chin, and had me looking a bit like an oompa loompa.  When he was born I was determined to be the best mom I could be.  Part of that was not being overweight.  

I monitored what I ate.  I focused on small servings and because I was constantly attending to my baby, food became a very small thing in my world.  I rarely finished meals because I would need to nurse or change a diaper.  There was always something and I threw myself in to being a mom.  I got thin.  Very, very thin.  We moved back to California and life was full and beautiful.  I was thin because I nursed, because everything was so good I didn’t need food to fill any voids.  I was happy and part of a sweet little life.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I grew a big belly and kept my skinny arms and legs.  I looked like a spider.  Food wasn’t an issue for me.  I lost my baby weight in the first month of having my daughter.  She nursed, I shrank and it was good.

Then we sold our first house at a loss and bought a second older home, needing quite a bit of work. I started to stress a little.  Eat a little more.  My son was 2 1/2 and a handful.  I had well meaning individuals telling me I needed to have him tested, he could be on the spectrum.  I was panicked that I was doing something wrong.  We cut out gluten, dairy, and sugar.  It felt incredible.  Our lives were calm and peaceful.  We were figuring things out.  I was highly controlled by our diet, but there was a visible change I could see so we kept going.  Then we went on vacation and we cheated.  I would try to get us back to our ‘healthy’ ways of eating, but it felt like constant try and fail.  

We moved, again.  To the northern California coast.  It was 55 dgerees and grey all the time.  I had a three year old and a one year old.  I needed family, friends, and lots of support and I lost them all.  I was lonely and struggling.  So, I turned to food.  I would try to restrict everything we ate to find some control, only to fall back in to popcorn and wine the moment the kids were in bed.  I’d go gluten free, until I didn’t.  It was constant back and forth.  Which was a lot like my childhood.  I was allergic to everything, so my mom would restrict me for a week and then she wouldn’t.  So I would learn to not eat pie or eat the whole pie.  I had lost all boundaries and connections with food except as a means to fill my lonely life.  We moved two years later to the bay area and the cycles I had begun to overcome came right back.  I eat when I’m lonely, when life gets too quiet, when I feel lost.  

It’s taken a while, but I’ve found a measure of peace with food.  I know that when I’m lonely I want to eat.  I know that if I try to restrict myself, I will binge.  It is best for me to avoid any and all dieting.  I’m working out my food allergies and finding what works and what doesn’t.  I did the whole 30 diet for a little over a week and I felt amazing.  Diet’s however aren’t sustainable for me and are mostly a chance to binge the day before.  I’ve had to make them off limits.  I simply try to eat the best I can.  Without fear.  

I am doing my best  as a wife, a mother, a friend, a woman.  There is so much that I have learned on this life journey.  I hope that through my successes and failures I can encourage you.  I will be sharing more about my relationship with food and I hope that you find encouragement.


 The bottom picture was taken by Kara Stewart.  It is our most recent family picture.  I am 31.
The top was taken by my husband on our journey across the country.  I was 24.

So much life has happened in between.


Dani said...

Honestly, the above picture you look beautiful. I know that you have had issues with food your whole life and I admire you for always trying to work on them and especially be vulnerable when raising your children to be healthy eaters. It's amazing to look at you and think you would ever see yourself as anything other than "skinny." I will never have a "skinny" body and it's something that I used to think is what is desirable, but it is something that isn't even attainable to me, so I learned many years ago that I only get to be me. You are gorgeous and you work so hard to show your family what true beauty is. I admire your honesty, depth, and courage. Love you friend!

charis said...

i love you. i am really proud of you for writing about all this stuff - i think you will be an encouragement to a lot of women. it is such a huge issue, even for people who don't have "disorders," body image is a struggle. i know that body image has been a struggle for me in the past, and i also have to just eat what is good for me, not worry about any type of fad diets (even the healthy ones), not own a scale, and never have the fashion women type magazines around. if i can just be me and not worry about what anyone might want me to be, i am happy. God made us to each be different and be beautiful, and i know it makes Him so sad that so many of His daughters think He made a mistake when He made them. anyways, that was long to say that i think you will really help a lot of women as you write about your own journey.

Cherylyn Petersen said...

Dani and Charis, Thank you both so much!!

My heart is definitely to share honestly from my own journey and to encourage others as much as possible. I think that both of you are such beautiful and amazing women and I am blessed to count you both as friends!