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Moira's Story: The Long Road to Freedom and Self-Acceptance

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Hi, my name is Moira, and I live in the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa.

I first heard about the OO book when I was in therapy. My therapist, Hannalie, had correctly ascertained that food was a problem for me and I exhibited all the behavior patterns of a compulsive eater. She gave me a copy of Overcoming Overeating.

When I read the bit about "no more diets," I went into a bit of a panic, but once that subsided, I continued reading, and this led to some serious reflection on events in my life and how I had responded to them by eating.

Growing up I was fortunate because weight was never an issue. I was naturally slim and led a fairly active lifestyle. The problems began once I started working. The work was sedentary. I was no longer the active teenager but an office worker; yet, I continued to eat the same quantities of food that I had consumed before. It wasn't long before my clothes began to feel a bit tight, and I in my naivety, thought that all my cloths had shrunk. I remember asking my Mom if she had changed to a new washing powder that had caused this drastic shrinkage. I was appalled when I realized the truth. And so began the first diet… I was to continue in this fashion for the next ten years or so—losing and regaining the same 14 pounds. "Fourteen pounds, what is she worrying about?" I hear you ask. Remember it is not the amount of weight that is the issue—it is what is going on in your head and how you feel about yourself. I hated the way I looked; I had to be perfect—otherwise, I would not be an acceptable person. That's right—zero self-esteem was the actual issue here.

The compulsive eating/dieting cycle really kicked in once I got married and moved away from my family and friends. The marriage was not good, and I tried to ease the pain with food. After the divorce, the food issue escalated and I would diet and then binge and diet and binge—you all know the pattern. The diet was my crutch—the thing I could come back to that would get me to behave normally around food. I couldn't keep food in the house, but of course that didn't stop me. If I had decided to binge, the shops were just a short drive away.

I ended up in therapy, and when Hannalie gave me a copy of the OO book, I didn't realize how it would change my life. I began to follow the program, and it was so liberating. I stocked up all the cupboards with all my favorites, told close friends what I was doing, and asked for their support. Cleaning out the wardrobe was a great event, and shopping for clothes that "fit" was one of the most fun shopping experiences I have ever had. My weight went up a little. I don't know how much because I had thrown my scale away. Slowly, it actually started to come down a little. I began to deal with the pain that had normally sent me to food. It hurt, but I needed to do it.

I thought I had broken free from the cycle and that my food issues were over. To all intents and purposes, it sure seemed that way. I stopped obsessing, ate what I wanted and plenty of it. No food was off limits. I didn't see the warning signs and the transfer of my obsessive behavior. I have always exercised. Aerobics was my passion, and I started doing more and more classes each week. I even qualified as an instructor and began to teach. I started to include weight training and spinning sessions in my workouts. The weight disappeared. I loved it! Here I was thin, fit, and not even trying very hard to be that way. Some people said I looked gaunt and could do with a few extra pounds, especially in my face, but I ignored them. I felt wonderful. People compared themselves to me, and it felt good.

Then my life changed. I met the most wonderful man at my high school reunion. After four months of telephone calls and a few long weekends together, we decided to get married. I was over the moon. Here was the person I had been searching for. Getting married involved many changes. My husband-to-be lived in another province, and without hesitation I agreed that I would move to where he stayed. I sold my apartment, resigned from my job (which I loved), said "goodbye" to family and friends, and made the move. Suddenly I was in a new place—no job, no friends, no family—and nothing was familiar. Guess what? I started to eat. I was feeling the pain of change and the loneliness of being away from family and friends. I was bored and battling to find a job. The weight piled on. Not a lot by most people's standards but enough to make me miserable and feel like a complete failure. I thought that the eating issue was resolved, and yet here I was again—eating like there was no tomorrow. I felt myself beginning to change. I lost confidence and started dressing in baggy clothing. There was a huge pile of clothes that didn't fit anymore. Did I throw them out? Not a chance. I went on a diet, or rather tried to go on a diet. Someone lent me a copy of the Weight Watchers program, and I tried it out. I don't think I lasted one day. The next one was a fat-free diet. Easy to comply with, as I do tend to eat fat-free by choice, but it was still a diet. I couldn't eat this, I couldn't eat that—and the restrictions were back. Needless to say, I never lost an ounce and my self-esteem continued to plummet.

However, I was very fortunate in two respects… First, I kept in touch with old friends via email and the telephone. Communicating in this way led to a greater intimacy between us, and I discovered that one of my friends had also had (and continued to have) issues with food. We discussed it often, and it was comforting and encouraging realizing that I was not alone. Secondly, I came across your web site and started to read everything on the site. The personal stories were so encouraging, and I realized that I had never totally accepted myself. It was a wake-up call for me. I realized that I had never completely given up on food as a source of comfort and nurturing. I had slipped back into the "change your shape, change your life" way of thinking. My head was filled with bad-body thoughts. Everything that went wrong was because I was too fat. I realized that the compulsive eating was my way of coping with the changes in my life. There was just too much change too quickly.

I have since learned that it is perfectly normal to revert to old behavior patterns in times of stress and upheaval. It still came as a shock to me when I started to eat uncontrollably again. There was a sense of disbelief. How could this be happening to me? It happened, and it has been a very humbling experience.

The good news is that I have started to put food back in its proper place. I still have a fear of gaining weight, but I am working on this issue. It is going to take some time before I can honestly say that I accept myself the way look now, but each day I get a little stronger and believe in myself a little more. It's all about taking one step at a time and moving forward slowly. Sometimes I stumble, but that's okay, because I can get my balance back and take another tiny step forward.

A special thank you to all those people who submitted their stories to the web site. You have helped me to take those first steps.

– Moira

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