I will never forget the day that I got an e-mail from a dear friend saying she hadn’t enjoyed my recent visit because I seemed to be too much in control. She thought I had been far too focused not only on my food choices but on all areas of my life, that I seemed incapable of relaxing and having fun.
Her words stabbed through me. I began sobbing, literally sliding to the floor in despair as I second-guessed myself. Suddenly my loss of 130 pounds no longer seemed like a proud accomplishment. How could it be a good thing if this was how people saw me as a result, and if it meant losing a friend?
I’ve had many years now to think back on that time, to wonder why she had that impression of me, if I could have done something differently. I can’t ever know for sure, but one thing I have realized.
Trying to be in control doesn’t work.
Like some others, my first real attempts at control came through food, when I started on diets at age twelve. Like many, I found that I could control and restrict my food for only so long before part of me rebelled. I eventually went for all the forbidden foods, negating any benefits of the diet.
Yet even as I gave in to my cravings, I hated the fact that doing so gave credence to the social prejudice I felt, that my weight automatically meant that I had no self-control. Wanting to prove that assumption wrong, I did become somewhat particular and rigid – yes, controlling – in other areas of my life.
Only when I gave up diets and started eating mindfully did I begin to let go of that control with food. I slowly learned to trust my body, and to be more flexible not only with food but other areas of my life. It helped that other circumstances reminded me how illusory my sense of control was anyway.
My friend’s words hurt so much because they had an element of truth to them, but more, they made me feel like I hadn’t made any progress. Except then other people, including a mutual friend, said that I did seem more relaxed about food, more willing to go with the flow. Only then did I wonder if she had issues of her own that she projected onto me.
While I will never know the answer, I can say this. No matter how much truth her words had, they did – and continue to – provide a good reminder to let go of control more often, to flexible.
So these days I try instead to be in charge, making my own decisions but being adaptable to change, and finding time to simply kick back and enjoy myself. I only wish I still had my friend to share that with.
Note: You can get more information about being in charge vs. being in control, and mindful eating in general, here or at www.AmIHungry.com.