Bring on the Summer: Mental Health and Self-Esteem

Addiction to Food

I used to go to the grocery store, and buy a tub of ice cream. Then I’d buy chocolate bars, dip the chocolate bars in the ice cream, and eat them. I was so embarrassed living that way. I tried so hard to overcome it. I’m a generally positive person. I usually like to face challenges head-on, but I found it almost impossible to overcome my desire to binge eat. I bought books, I read blogs, I purchased work out videos, I followed a nutritionist on Instagram: but, no matter what I did, I found myself perpetually repeating the cycle of feeling terribly depressed, ashamed of myself, and then binge eating my feelings away. Every few days, I found myself heading over to a grocery store—or worse, to a fast-food restaurant—and consuming thousands of calories that my body did not need. Miraculously, I found myself joining a gym, which was exciting at first, but I repeated the cycle of over-eating so regularly, that no amount of working out would burn off the necessary calories to facilitate a healthier body for me. 

When you have issues about your body, it seems natural to just want to go on a diet. Unfortunately for me, going on a “diet” did not constitute a healthy lifestyle change, but instead just perpetuated the cycle of shame and binge eating, only now with extra steps: I’d spend a few days at a time working out strenuously; each workout intermittently dispersed in between my lowest moments, and often ending in injury.

Which stopped me from moving.

Which made me feel worthless.

Which made me depressed.

Which made me eat.

Which made me ashamed.

Which made me exercise until I dropped.

Which stopped me from moving…

And so on, and so forth, for far too long.

The good news is, I learned that it was possible to break this cycle. First, I had to address the root of my problem. I hypothesized that I was binge-eating to self medicate and treat my depression. If I was going to see any changes in my body—And thereby, in both my mind and my soul, since I believed all three were inexorably linked— I had to treat the depression I had been so afraid to face. 

Counseling

I decided to invest in my mental health and meet with a trusted counselor.  It’s important for me to mention that I learned that I could not address one without addressing the other. I learned that I needed to integrate the two processes into one hole. Through months of therapy, I started to see myself in a new light: as a person worthy of love, appreciation, hope, joy, and life. Through dedicated therapy, I discovered my self-worth.

The Biological and Emotional Origins

When I addressed my problem from a Perspective that integrated both the biological and emotional origins of my need to binge eat, I was able to break down and compartmentalize, enough of the issues in order to address them rather than be overwhelmed by them.

  1. Maintaining a daily routine: this included sleep habits, meal prep habits, and exercise habits.
  2. Journaling and recording: in order to enforce this, I was extremely attentive to my routine and recorded every step, so that I could look through for discrepancies and correlate them to how I’d been feeling.
  3. An evening routine that set me up for deep, restorative sleep.
  4. Contacting a nutritionist (I used a free service offered by a local grocery store chain) in order to restore my “faith” in the goodness of food.

Man in the MirrorAfter a journey towards weight loss, and finding myself again, my body has been battered by the loss of skin elasticity. I have extra skin. It’s not pleasant for me to look at, and it serves as a reminder of a past I’ve worked hard to leave behind. And when I look into the mirror, I can’t see enough of the man that I’ve become, and still see too much of the lonely, hurting I only man that I once was. However, with each passing day, I do see more of my authentic self. I’m even releasing some harmful perceptions about cosmetic surgery, and am considering a procedure to address some of my looser skin. Even though it seems that summer may be “canceled” this year, I am sure that I’ll still have opportunities to take my shirt off and jump into a lake. Two years ago, this would have caused immense distress. Now, I feel only mild discomfort. With each morning, I feel blessed to wake up in the body that I’ve been given, and am learning to love and accept myself as I am. With hard work—counseling, therapy, nutrition, and hard-won new behaviors—I am discovering myself.

Bring on the summer lakes.