Now back to today's topic - my lightbulb moment.
Over the last few years I have had a couple of these - when I saw the picture that Moira took of Marko and I at the beach Christmas 2010 (below) which triggered me to begin the process of trying to lose weight.
In order to fully explain my floodlight moment, I'll need to back track a little....stay with me..
I am currently working as a Case Manager for the Samaritans in the Hunter Valley. I work with families who have a child with a disability and some with behaviour problems - often families with both. I was offered the opportunity to attend a two day training course 'Understanding the Neurobiology of Complex Trauma' and due to several of the families I work with having experienced trauma I decided to attend.
It was incredibly interesting. We were taught about the parts of the brain and how trauma and ongoing/repeated complex trauma affects brain development in children. I won't go into how sad parts of it were, I will say that the exciting thing we know now is that we can change our brain and neuron paths if we work really hard at it. For children who have suffered trauma this means that their brain can learn to do the things they missed out on as a result of the trauma.
The topic provoked some amazing conversations at our table. 3 of us at the table have struggled with weight for some time. The part that really interested us was when our trainer Julie spoke about how the brain 'prunes' off the connections that aren't necessary or strong and it mylenates or strengthens those connections which are used regularly. It made me realise why after 2 1/2 years of hard work, my habitual response to an emotional provoking event like the flash flooding at Branxton a few months ago, still triggers uncontrolled eating in me. Its not an excuse - its understanding that for 30 years I have reinforced that neurological pathway in my brain that connects strong emotion to food. That food = comfort and calm. We discussed this at length at our table and the fact that just when you have repeated something often enough to have made a permenant change you almost need to double your efforts and continue on in the same pattern for twice as long to make sure it is a permenant change. Also, now that I know that it is a brain thing, I can look out for the signs and use other coping strategies in those situations - hopefully.
After that, we learned about 'narratives' or internal pictures/stories of ourselves and how this narrative is defined by our early and repeated experiences. Someone who is told repeatedly that they are stupid will come to believe it and it will, to a degree, define who they are. Likewise for someone who is always told they are clever or beautiful. Their 'narrative' reflects their experience and becomes what they know to be true about themselves whether it is true or not.
Here it comes....as I sat there I was almost overwelmed with tears. I suddenly realised that all my life my narrative, my view of myself, has been tied to my weight (der right). When I say defined, I mean it was the central part of who I thought I was. That I was the big girl, the fat girl of my class, family, friendship group. And this has been my reality. I have been the biggest in those groups for a long, long time....BUT it doesn't define who I am! See what I mean about the floodlight. I really thought I would cry sitting there in my training. It was like the whole room faded and I was fastforwarding through my life - through all the moments when I felt big, uncomfortable, like I stuck out in the crowd...and then I thought of who I am inside and what I'm good at and NONE of that relates to my weight. AND THOSE THINGS ARE THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER - THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM...NOT MY WEIGHT.
Now some of you are probably slapping your foreheads going 'der Emily, you are seriously slow' but I have never conciously thought these things. It's been an unconcious knowledge, my truth, why would I question it? And why am I making such a big deal about it? I have been here twice, or close to here. I've lost significant amounts of weight before now and I have gotten within 10kgs of getting under the 100kg mark and I've lost it. I've binged or something has gone wrong and I've given up.
You know what I realised sitting there trying not to cry?
I don't know who I am if I'm not that 'fat girl' in the group. My identity has been so tied up in this that I have held onto that truth/narrative with both hands and sabotaged myself so that my truth was once again reinforced. Well I will not let that happen this time. I WILL change my narrative. I know now that this whole journey is more than just eating right and changing habits. It is about questioning 'What I know to be true about myself'...when she asked us to tell our group one thing we know to be true about ourselves, my first thought was 'overweight and fat' - yes they are the same, but isn't that sad. Obviously that isn't what I said, but it was a huge wakeup call.
I'm not quite sure how to tackle this and change my narrative. I have taken photos at every step along the way since October 2010 and I think I need to print a photo story for my walls. But I think I need to do more. I need photos from through my childhood showing that yes I was unusually tall but not overweight, not until puberty...but by then I already had the internal narrative that I was 'big', in the eyes of the child I was being taller equalled bigger. Perhaps I also need to start making lists of my strengths and posting them on the walls also, so I have to look at them every day.
What I do know is that I am going to change this internal narrative that I have going on in my head. I will change it to focus on who I am not what I think I look like. It won't be easy and it will take me a very long time, but I'm willing to work my ass off to do this.
I am starting by making my blog Turkish Delights my life blog rather than being so focussed on my weight loss, because it is no longer going to be what defines me...sure I'll slip up and have bad days, but change in thoughts is what I'm after. So from today, all my weight related posts will reside here!