And How I Found The Courage to Be Healthy
When I think of the word “courage”, the first thing that pops into my mind is a firefighter pulling someone out of a burning building, or a person who grew up in poverty exerting a miraculous strength of will to do what they need to do to live a life full of abundance.
“Losing weight” or “getting healthy” are not the first things I think of when I hear the word courage. And yet, my journey of accomplishing those exact two things – and most importantly, the path of staying there to claim and live in the body size that is the best expression of me in this lifetime – has been the most courageous thing I’ve ever done.
It’s 1999 and I’m 4 years out of a very expensive college degree granting me the title of Dance Educator, accredited by my fancy NYU Bachelor of Science letters. I was 26. My dream was to perform on Broadway and I was deep in the pursuit of getting there.
There were quite a few wins among the scores of rejections during that time. But what caused me to quit and walk away from pursuing the one thing I was most passionate about –the thing I had dreamed of since childhood– was something that had been causing me pain and struggle for years – an eating disorder.
The day I put a tight little leotard on my body was the day I became obsessed about being thin.
The quest for this undefinable pursuit produced an obsession with every morsel of food I put in my body. I analyzed the calories, squabbled with myself over the carb-fat-protein balance in any given meal, and even created charts all over my refrigerator to make sure I was measuring at least four different scientific criteria at any given time to eat as perfectly as humanly possible.
Yes, it was maddening, but that’s not even the most interesting part.
The much more enthralling part to this story is that all of that mental energy for intense nutritional analysis flew out the window the minute I was triggered into a binge eating episode. Trying to control every calorie I ate during the day didn’t do squat to overcome the massive amounts of chocolate covered donuts and chipwiches I was stuffing in my face at night.
The enormous effort I put into being in control of my food most of the time was perfectly equal to the complete lack of control I had the rest of the time. This truly insane cycle of analyzing – planning – control during the day, and complete loss of control just hours later, went on for about 12 years.
This was binge eating, now labeled as Binge Eating Disorder or BED. There is one major factor that separates binge eating from overeating: compulsion.
A binge eater cannot escape the compulsive force that leads her into an experience of eating an enormous amount of food (usually quite unhealthy) in one sitting. Whereas an overeater may feel she simply eats too much at various times, a binge eater feels like there is an evil force driving her to self destruct.
Sounds like an addiction, huh?
Yes, I’d say they are in the same ballpark.
So back to 1999. I’m at the height of my binge eating war with my myself. I’m also the heaviest I had ever been in my life because I did not binge and then purge (Bulimia), I just kept all that food inside. That makes your fat cells blow up and have a hip hop dance party, and mine had been steadily dancing since I started this toxic relationship with food at around 14 years old.
So I had eaten my way to being 35 lbs over the weight my body naturally wanted to be. My digestive health was – well, let’s just say – embarrassing with smell and sound. I was sick with a never-ending cold for months at a time, couldn’t shake recurring sinus infections, a hormonal mess and … deeply depressed. All physical symptoms of the massive amounts of processed, sugary, chemicalized and unhealthful fatty food entering my body.
A very overweight, smelly and sad dancer was not going to grab the attention of any Broadway casting directors. It was over. My dreams that I had worked so hard to achieve since my first performance class at 8 years old had died a slow death with every chocolate donut I had stuffed in my face.
Yet, that’s what food was to me. The enemy at the top of the Most Wanted List. I hated it with a passion. I blamed IT – the food – for all my problems. My career ended; it’s the food’s fault. I was sick and tired (literally); that’s because donuts exist. I was in a deep depression that fueled suicidal thoughts; if sugar had never been created, I wouldn’t be here.
Enter Courage, stage left.
I was at my absolute bottom with my physical body, mental health and emotional state. My 26 year old self couldn’t comprehend that it could get any worse. So there were only two places to go; up and out of the depressive well, or give it one final “screw it” and don’t worry about needing to eat another day.
Thankfully my “screw it” voice did not win. It was the tiny, tiny little whisper of a voice somewhere deep in my highly overwhelmed and confused soul that said to me, “You’re here for a reason, Cyn. What is it?”
And then it said to me, “The journey of ending your binge eating is actually the way to it.”
Ahhh.. those little voices. So simple and clear. So subtle. Yet, they take so much Courage to hear.
And, courage is what it took for me to do all the following, in this order:
- Listen to the little voice over the very loud “screw it” voice.
- Ponder the “What is it?” question.
- Continue to ponder the question six months later, a year later, and beyond.
- Hear the wild, flowy windfall of answers as they came.
- Take action on those not-so-linear answers – over and over and over – and take action on each necessary step to change my grossly detrimental eating behavior.
It was the Courage to See Current Reality and engage with each of those steps that led me to the next step. Trust me, none of it was easy. Just having the Courage to actually allow myself to listen to – and by guided by – the little voice over the “screw it” voice at the start of this audacious adventure was a milestone miracle.
But the steadfast path that finally led me to do #5 – to take repeated courageous actions to create a new life purpose path for myself and new reality with unexpected sources of joy – is the courageous path that ultimately led me to get the thing we started this little story with … lose weight and get healthy.
I didn’t lose weight and reclaim my health because I finally found the magic mix of carbs, proteins and fats in my diet. And I haven’t stayed at my body’s natural size 2 for the past 11 years because I eradicated all sugar from the earth and therefore, my diet.
I live in a trim, healthy body with a vibrant soul ready to engage in this precious life because I had the Courage to see the Truth of which of MY thoughts, emotions and behaviors were causing the weight gain in the first place, and then had the Courage to Act – to embrace the real healing journey that needed to happen.
Are you ready for the same?
Cynthia Stadd, EPC is a Food Relationship & Holistic Nutrition expert living in the surrounding Boulder, CO area. She travels the country as a professional speaker and educator, and takes many special souls through her powerfully transformative program, End Your Food War™: Reclaim Your Weight, Health & Peace.
If you are ready to end your own personal battles with food and your body, please book a complementary Breakthrough Call with Cynthia to see if the End Your Food War™ program is the perfect next step in your healing journey.