A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post: Binge/Restrict: the Most Common Pattern of Overeating, and How to Stop (with Love!). My intention with the post was to point out first, the pattern of behavior, and second, to provide a way of moving forward.
Despite the fact that I did in fact believe I was providing a solid answer: “love thyself!” I said, I still received dozens of requests for a follow-up e-mail. “Sure,” you said, “I can ‘love myself’: but what the hell does that mean, and how can I take concrete steps to make that happen? How can I love myself more, and how can that help me relax my grip on food?”
Rather than write one end-all-be-all post on all of the possible techniques and ways forward, I have instead decided to write a weekly/bi-weekly series on the topic. Thus was born, and here I present to you the first,
Food & Love Hack Friday!
This week’s hack is a simple one to start us off: Get rid of the mirror.
Most of us, when we look in the mirror, see flaws. We have been looking in mirrors for the entirety of our lives, so we know exactly what we look like. We know every single blemish as it pops up, and every single roll as it jiggles and unfolds, but worse, we are infinitely adjusted to our positive qualities, and the absolute worst at being objective. What this means is that most of us have a regular and negative reaction to ourselves every time we look in the mirror. This is exacerbated by the ebb and flow of our eating habits and weight status. If we are having a “bad” day with food, we see something even more negative in the mirror. And this will capitulate a vicious cycle of hatred and needing to eat, and loathing, and eating, etc, etc, etc. Mirrors enable us to pick at our perceived flaws, the exaggerate or even fabricate negative qualities, and to continually find new targets for our self-loathing. Activities really do not get any worse.
Sometimes, on the other hand, we feel great when we look in the mirror. This is wonderful, and I encourage people to love themselves and to cherish whatever they think is beautiful in themselves. However, I still do not believe this is a positive thing, not for women with disordered relationships with food. I feel this way for two reasons. One: the mirror emphasizes the importance of our looks in our lives. That is unfortunate, because life really is about so much else.
Secondly, however, whether we feel good or bad, looking in the mirror makes us think about food… and immediately. Because of the world in which we live, and the viewpoint we have about food, we automatically connect our appearance with what we are eating. This revolves around weight gain and weight loss, but can also play roles in acne, for example, or in skin and hair quality, or in muscle tone and shape. For disordered eaters, if we feel negative when we look in the mirror, we might automatically have a self-disgust reaction, and think: “oh no, now I cannot eat for another four hours.” If we feel positive when we look in the mirror, we might think: “oh yes, now I get to eat more!” In either case, we are allowing our eating schedules to be influenced by what we see in the mirror. That is far away from okay.
This is all related to the final case in which the mirror influences us: in self-sabotage. Many times women begin losing weight, and then when they notice, they automatically begin eating more and putting weight back on. This might be because they don’t “deserve” to be thin, because their subconscious brains do not know how to handle change, or because they do not know / are not ready to be someone else, or someone with confidence. These are all issues that merit working through on their own, but the crux of this issue in this post is that noticing and paying too much attention to fluctuations is a bad thing. Just let it happen. So long as you are fitting into your pants, trust me, you are not putting on weight. And if they start getting baggy, hooray, but don’t think about it. Don’t go look in the mirror. Just keep focusing on your life and the love in your life, and fuck the mirror.
Fuck it! It’s not helping you.
And as a final, awesome point: the less you look in the mirror, the more objective you can be. You end up judging yourself much more like you normally judge strangers, without zeroing in on habitual focus points or “flaws.” As a personal anecdote, one time I lived on the top of a mountain for a whole summer. I didn’t get to look in a mirror once. And when I got out, after having completely forgotten about mirrors, I found myself staring at a “stranger” in a rest-stop mirror. What? I thought. Who the hell was this sexy Amazon?
I’m not kidding. Stop looking. And then on the rare occasion that you do get a glimpse, you’ll be able to see your more objective beauty. And then put it out of your brain, and move on, and focus on the good stuff.
Today’s task: Turn your mirrors around; drape sheets or towels over them, put excess mirrors under the bed or in linen closets. It’s perfectly acceptable to briefly glimpse in a mirror to check an outfit. It is not acceptable to do that ten times or do look for more than ten seconds. So in this case sheets or a way to easily cover and uncover the mirrors work well. If significant others are not sympathetic, compromise and shoot for hacking the mirrors that are most central to your own life.