You’re Unlikely to Find Love if You Can’t Eat a Cheeseburger
What do you want?
I want love. I want food. I want abs and a perfect body.
Because I fear being forgotten.
People remember beautiful people.
I wrote these words in my journal, on January 23, 2014.
I’d just turned 22, and I thought I’d figured out what my main problems were: I wanted a perfect body and long-lasting, romantic love.
I was certain, once I had those things, everything would be ok. No one would forget me.
Looking for love in all the wrong places
I was raised in an uber conservative, cult-ish branch of Christianity, and I was raised to believe that self-love was wrong.
I needed love, but I wasn’t taught (or allowed) to provide it for myself. I grew up feeling dirty, sinful, broken, and shameful. Because of this, I learned to reject myself.
So, I searched for love and acceptance in outside places. For a while, I looked for God to provide me with the love and acceptance I desired. I tried to earn it from my step-dad by obeying him unquestioningly, despite his abusive behavior towards me. I sought love through achievements and accomplishment. I also gave love overwhelmingly to other people, in hopes that they might give it back to me. Unfortunately, they never did.
In 2014, I focused on finding romantic love. I thought I had everything else, and romance was the only thing missing. I thought the combination of “me plus soulmate” would result in a concoction strong enough to fully fill my heart, to erase the inadequacies and insecurities I’d accumulated through the years.
I was certain I’d love myself when I found the right guy.
Once I found a guy who loved me as much as I loved him, who treated me kindly, who understood and trusted me, I would finally love myself — because someone else had shown me I was worth loving.
Once I saw my reflection in someone who loved me that way, I could end the war with myself and my body. I could finally love myself that way, too.
I thought loving myself would be easy, as soon as someone else gave me permission to do so.
I also thought a perfect body would increase my chances of being lovable, and therefore loving myself.
But the horrible truth is, I have lived in a body that weighed 115 pounds and a body that weighed 150 pounds — and I didn’t accept either one. The problem wasn’t my body. It was me.
I’ve learned over the years, as many women have:
“Fixing” your body size doesn’t fix your love problem. Also, as people, we aren’t meant to be fixed. We’re meant to be healed.
I started starving myself in 2008.
I thought I wanted to be skinnier.
But actually, I starved myself as punishment.
By not eating, I was reminding my body that I hated living in it. I wanted it to look, feel and act different.
I was proving to myself that it takes constant, violent work to be lovable.
I was proving I didn’t deserve to eat, because eating was pleasurable and comforting. Eating was keeping me alive, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that.
Several Years Later…
In 2014, I was still starving myself. I only ate a few hundred calories per day, mostly protein, and I exercised obsessively.
I didn’t want to eat — because I still hadn’t found love.
Though my body was starving, some small sliver that I had almost managed to asphyxiate, spoke up when I was writing in my journal on January 23, 2014.
It knew I needed something else, before I could ever hope to find love or satisfaction with my body.
I wrote, “I want food.”
Back to Basics…
In the final year of my psychology degree, I came across Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs chart quite frequently.
Perhaps you remember it from your Intro to Psych class — but in case you are unfamiliar with the pyramid, it looks like this:
Maslow’s theory says people are motivated to look for certain needs, and some needs are more important than others. The needs on the pyramid’s lower levels must be satisfied first, before we can start taking care of the others.
Before we feel safe enough to seek out safety, belongingness, esteem, and eventually, our fullest potential, the basic physiological needs (food, water, rest) must be solid and secure.
If we don’t have those basic things, we devote all our energy towards finding them — at the expense of everything else.
No wonder I couldn’t learn to love myself.
Without food, my body was fighting for its mere existence.
As long as I was starving myself, there’s no way I could fill those higher-level needs. I couldn’t love myself or anyone else.
If I starved my body, trying to waste it away into nothing, how could I feel safe within it?
If my own body was a danger zone, how could I be comfortable sharing it intimately with someone else?
How could I offer myself as a gift to someone, when I was trying desperately to snuff out my own life by slowly starving myself, one missed meal at a time?
How could I ever see my body as a comfortable, loving place to be (much less achieve my full potential) when I was actively depriving it, strangling it, and flagellating it every time I saw it?
Food Will Teach You to Love
I eat food now. I nourish my body with the food it needs, and I even enjoy it.
Sometimes I still struggle with body image insecurities. I’m still learning how to bandage up eighteen years’ worth of wounds.
I used to want a body I could be proud to inhabit, but now I’ve decided I’d rather be proud of the superwoman I found inhabiting my body.
It’s going to take time for my body to adjust, to realize it doesn’t have to worry about survival anymore. But just the simple act of nourishing myself catapulted me leaps and bounds into a more balanced life — an existence where I have energy to read, write, socialize, and exercise.
Now, I can think about things other than my body.
I needed to eat, before I could even think about love.
You’ve Got a Friend in Me
Being a friend to your body means giving it a cheeseburger once in a while, and actually enjoying it.
Being a friend to your body means not reprimanding yourself for savoring that piece of devil’s food cake. It means not glaring at yourself in the mirror, or making snide comments towards your love handles. It means not dragging yourself off to the bathroom at the end of a meal, intent on forcing it all back up.
It’s important to feed your body, so it knows it can relax and trust you.
Watch your body respond with gratitude, unlocking the padlock that holds your heart hostage.