Life Lessons From a Bag of Chips
They sat at the back of my mind, those deliciously salty chips sitting on top of my refrigerator. Pushed back far enough, so that I’d have to get a stool if I wanted to indulge. A tactic that was meant to keep the weak honest.
Like a zombie, I walked to the pantry, grabbed the stool, shamelessly carried it over to the refrigerator, climbed up on top of the stool, and grabbed the chips. As I sat on the stool with chips in hand, I stared out the window thinking of my ongoing list of chores. I popped chip after chip right into my mouth, and mindlessly chewed. After a few minutes had gone by, I stopped mid-bite and realized what I was doing.
What am I doing? I don’t even really like these chips! I take a second to actually taste what’s in my mouth: dry, tasteless, salty chips. Disgusted with my lack of self-control, I dump the entire bag into the garbage can. Oh, not so fast Chloe, we’ve been through this before. So, I grab a bottle of chocolate ‘flavored’ sauce, and pour it over the garbaged chips. There - that will keep me from them. We can hope.
As I looked into the garbage can that resembled dessert nachos, tears formed in my eyes. I’d been through this so many times before, each time disgusted with my choice to cave into my craving for unhealthy, and unsatisfying foods.
It started right after high school, when I met my fiancé. As we were first dating, we ate out. A lot. It wasn’t until my doctor suggested I keep a food journal to monitor my calories, that I realized I had a problem. I had gained thirty pounds that year, and I knew that if I continued with my current eating habits, I would become seriously overweight and put my health at risk. Plus, I’d have to buy new pants, and that’s where I had to draw the line. I refused to buy new pants.
So I put in the work. I remember running a mile, and thinking, “wow, if I did this everyday, I would be so skinny.” Gradually, I became more involved with my gym (a Crossfit gym), and started running to and from classes, which was a total of five miles. I had gone from one extreme to another. From binge eating, to binge exercising. It was something I had control over, and I liked that.
As I sat in front of my therapist, happily discussing my fitness progress, she gently suggested that my extreme behavior wasn’t healthy. I couldn’t believe the words that came out of her mouth - how could exercising ever be unhealthy? She explained exercising wasn’t the problem. It was the extreme behaviors that were signaling red flags in her little notebook. From obsessively working towards my associate degree while in highschool, to worrying about controlling every little aspect of my life, I did exhibit quite a bit of extreme behaviors. I have come to trust my therapist deeply over the years, so instead of being offended or disagreeing with her, I decided to investigate her observations.
She was right. Extreme behaviors can signal borderline personality disorder and emotional instability. It was time to pay attention to the signs, and understand why I was feeling the obsessive need to control my body. I realized that since I had gained the weight, I wasn’t just uncomfortable with my body - I was uncomfortable with myself.
I had lumps in places that were smooth before. There were stretch marks on my legs that constantly embarrassed me. When I sat down in shorts, there were little ripples that I felt everyone was staring at. So to combat this, I did what I had to do to lose the weight, and fit the mold of “what a young girl in college” should look like. Yet, even after the weight was gone, I was still uncomfortable with the way I looked. I maintained my obsessive behavior, doing whatever I could to look the way I did in high school. Looking back, I pity that young girl. She was so foolish to think that her appearance would grant happiness.
I’m not sure if I will ever be completely happy with the way my body looks, but I can be sure that my inner core and my mind are at peace, and that’s the healthiest choice I can make for myself. So, the next time I am feeling the need to eat an entire bag of chips, instead of googling a picture of Miranda Kerr or picking apart a nutritional label, I will think about my body as a whole, not as something to be looked at or judged. My body carries me through the day. My muscles help me lift fifty pound garden boxes, my lungs allow me to go for a run, and my muscular legs tell my horse which direction I want her to go. That body is my armor. I will not deprive myself from a slice of cake at a birthday party, but I won’t buy ice cream every time I go to the store either. I have finally decided to be kind to myself, and allow my mind and body to find balance within each other.