Shannon sat down with me to share that she has never not known some type of a dysfunctional relationship with food, because at just four years old, she was put on her first diet. For Shannon the effects of this forced diet greatly impacted her and taught her at an early age that there was something wrong with her and that being overweight meant being bad. She said, “It distorted my sense of self. I would look in the mirror and I would see a fat kid and that had never happened before.” Most importantly, Shannon said that it taught her how to sneak eat. “It created a pattern that would follow me throughout my entire life of eating one way in front of people and another way when I was by myself.”
Shannon spent her childhood and teen years going from one diet to the next. She remembers starving herself, taking her mother’s laxatives and skipping dinner to try and “fix” herself.
Eventually Shannon turned to drugs to try to help her lose the weight, but nothing seemed to work, and the number on the scale continued to increase. Eventually Shannon’s weight peaked at 230 pounds due to her binge eating. Aside from three balanced meals a day, Shannon said there would be times when she would go home and eat an entire package of cookies, a dozen doughnuts, multiple bowls of cereal and whole loaves of bread. “I would eat huge amounts of food in short periods of time.”
Shannon describes her bingeing as a way for her to avoid coping with emotion. “I would feel nothing and that is what I wanted to feel.” “Nothing. I ate for oblivion.” she explains.
Whether she was happy or sad, all of her emotions got channeled into eating. “Part of my recovery has been differentiating the different feelings, identifying the different hungers and dealing with it appropriately.”
Shannon’s lowest moment came in January of 2000, when she was looking at photos of herself from the previous holiday season. “I remember opening these pictures and seeing myself at these parties and being absolutely horrified. It looked like somebody had superimposed my face on an obese person’s body and I was shocked. I had no idea I had looked like that.” Shannon felt terrified, hopeless and like there was nowhere to go. At this moment she started to look at her eating patterns from a different angle and viewed her struggle as an opportunity to learn more about herself.
Shannon began to assess what approaches worked for her and what didn’t. “I knew what did not work was going for a number on a scale,” she describes “when I saw the number the goal was over and I went back to doing what I was doing before which got me 100 pounds overweight.”
For Shannon one of the greatest lessons she learned was that there are no quick fixes and that she needed to work on the inside just as much as she needed to work on the outside. When she began her journey to lose the weight she took the emphasis away from getting down to a certain weight and put it on getting well physically, emotionally and spiritually. “To me it wasn’t about getting down to that one number,” Shannon said “it was about what can I do to not compulsively eat today? What can I do to take care of myself today?
I think that we can all learn something incredibly positive from Shannon’s journey. If you are struggling with your weight or have been yo-yo dieting, I think it is a significant lesson to remember to check in with yourself and learn what your bigger problems may be. Are you protecting yourself in some way? Are you trying to numb yourself from emotion? What’s really going on for you? Like Shannon shared:
I think it is so important to make sure it’s not about being on another diet, it’s about making a lifestyle change and better choices going forward. @KirstyTV (Click to Tweet!)
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Kirsty attacks life like it’s a chocolate cake. She is the Executive Producer and Host of KirstyTV and an international speaker, author, and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. You can also follow Kirsty on Facebook and Twitter.