Under the Weight of it All
This topic has been on my mind for a while, and I have many thoughts that I would like to share. I’ve actually had two false starts to this blog that just didn’t feel right… so here we go again.I struggle with an eating disorder and with my weight. I have for years. About 5 years ago, I was at my heaviest, a number that I promised myself I would never hit again and yet I am currently only 11 scary pounds away from that number right now. I’ve tried dieting, I’ve tried certain ‘weight loss systems’, I’ve tried everything and I’ve succeeded a couple of times… but I always return to my eating disorder habits, which do the opposite of what I would like, and actually pack on the pounds.In my opinion, having an eating disorder is similar to being an alcoholic – you will struggle with it for the rest of your life. Michael Lohan Jr said about his sister Lindsay recently, “She will never get over her addiction, but hopefully she will learn how to live with it”. It’s true. It is a continuous battle. The difference is that with an alcohol or drug addiction, you can choose to stay away from it. You do not have to revisit it every day of your life. With a food addiction, you are forced to face the thing that you struggle with the most, multiple times a day. Suffice it to say, it is not easy. And a lot of us struggle. A lot of us. And we will carry this burden forever – but hopefully we will learn to live with it.When the picture above was taken, it was the opening night of a production of Yeston’s The Phantom that I was in with RuBarb Productions in Saskatchewan, in 2006. If you had asked me at the time if I looked fat in this picture, or if I felt fat, I would have answered yes. Now looking back at it I realize that I had a very skewed perception of myself (and I long to look like that again). For my whole life, I’ve believed that I would be considered ‘fat’ unless I was a size 2. Now, I am an intelligent person – what is wrong with me? The truth is, I have never been happy with the body that I have. I recently read an article about Beyoncé in an old Vogue magazine from 2009. She said in this magazine “I am not a thin person”. This statement shocked me. But when compared to society’s perception of thin, I guess she is not. She is strong, athletic and curvy. And she is exquisite. I will never be a size 2; it is not in my gene pool. BUT I can be a strong, athletic, curvy, fierce woman. I have always failed in the past at weight loss and I’ve finally realized why: I didn’t believe that I deserved to feel better about myself. But this time, I will succeed.If you know anything about me, you know that I have a passion for reading – especially biographies. I love learning people’s stories, good and bad. I also grew up listening to the Backstreet Boys, so when I recently came across a book that Nick Carter had written, I picked it up, no questions asked. It turns out that he has written a sort of self-help book about overcoming addiction. While his struggle is with drugs and alcohol, a lot of it rings true for me. The statement that hit me square in the chest, however, was this: “…working hard and achieving your dreams won’t bring true happiness and fulfillment unless you believe in your heart that you are worthy of it”. I’ve never really believed that good things will happen for me, so it is always difficult for me to become excited about things. I have never believed that I was worthy of being ‘skinny’. I know that sounds ridiculous. But it stems from a deep-seated dislike of how I’ve always looked. (At a heavier weight or otherwise).I have a lot of pressure to lose weight, as I move further into this career (Already this year, I was turned down for a role because of my weight, and yes, I know this for a fact). For a while, I tried to lose weight for the sole purpose of singing opera. Again, this didn’t work. I was talking with a wise friend recently who, a few years back, had a drastic weight loss of over a hundred pounds and she said that she was not truly able to keep the weight off, or even start dropping the pounds until she realized that she was beautiful at any weight. That is key, I think. It is so important to love yourself, who you are, what you look like, at any weight. The key is this: If you are overweight or underweight, even if you ARE comfortable with this fact, you need to love yourself enough to know that that is not good enough for you. There comes a point when it is no longer about how you look, but your overall health. I know of a man who recently died of a heart attack at the age of 39. This is shocking and saddening for his young family, but also eye opening. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to love ourselves enough to want to lead healthy lives. I’m not saying you need to dedicate yourself to running a marathon, but make small changes. Cut out pop and go for walks. Gradually build into a workout routine that works for you and really pay attention to what you put into your body. I am slowly trying to start looking at food as fuel, not as an enemy that will make me large. It is very hard for me. I’ve been to counseling more than once for my eating disorder, I’ve seen dieticians, I know all of the information and have all of the tools that I need to succeed. But putting it into practice is what is challenging. I am blessed to be a part of my friend Larry Brownlee’s online ‘fit club’, which includes a lot of opera singers and other theatre professionals who are aiming to live healthier lives. The people in this group have been a Godsend to me and they are incredibly encouraging fountains of knowledge. Find people to come around you to encourage you, who will keep you on track. I faltered in the past, but I learned something from every time that I failed. You will likely fall as well. But you know what? We have to get back up and we have to succeed. This time, I WILL succeed. Why? Because I deserve a better, healthier life, and I finally love myself enough to deliver it. Until the next one, xo, De.
Ps. If you have any questions about what I have written or just want to dialogue about my own journey, please do not hesitate to contact me via my contact page. I would love a chance to encourage you and help you on your own personal journey.