Before I write another post about my Italy trip, I want to share something that happened while I was in Rome that wasn’t so spectacular. I’ve been talking a lot about the great food and sights, but when I first got to Italy, there was an incident that made me feel like the trip would be ruined.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Noah and I took a free walking tour around the city center right after I arrived and got settled.
The tour guide counted our group at the beginning to see how many we were. 11..12..13…and then pointing at me twice…14.
Me: “um, what?”
Tour Guide: “you’re pregnant?”
Me: “um, no.”
There may be people who would let something like this slide right off them, or laugh about it, or tell it as a funny story later that day. I am not one of those people. At least not right now. Maybe one day…hopefully. Because what I experienced in that moment felt truly horrible. On the outside, I was doing everything I could not to start crying right that moment. On the inside, my thoughts were something like this: you are fat. you are horrible. you are disgusting. your belly is so huge and fat that you look like you’re pregnant. everyone thinks you’re enormous. you need to lose weight. why do you eat so much? you used to be skinny, how did you let yourself go this far?
You get the idea. Needless to say, with this soundtrack running in my head I was completely miserable for the rest of tour and pretty much the rest of the entire first day.
My emotions were…
mad. Why would the guide say that? Did she have any idea what her comment had done to me?
embarrassed. How many people heard that? Did they agree?
self destructive. How could I let myself look that way? I should be ashamed to be in my own body.
For anyone who is familiar with eating disorders and treatments, you know that dialogues with ED are a helpful and powerful tool. For those who are unfamiliar, ED stands for eating disorder, and those who struggle with disordered eating learn to think of ED as a separate entity that tries to influence how they think, behave, feel, etc. Creating dialogues with ED are incredibly powerful tools because they let the individual separate themselves from their eating disorder and allow backtalking to ED. Here’s an example of how an internal dialogue might go:
ED: You are fat. You shouldn’t wear that outfit because it makes you look fat.
Me: No it doesn’t. I like this outfit and I am not fat.
ED: Yes, you are. You should lose weight and then you would look better in your clothes.
Me: My clothes look fine, and you make me unhappy. Go away ED.
In that dialogue, I won. Basically, the point is to learn to stand up for yourself and realize how destructive ED is.
And the good news is, I’ve been winning a lot lately. Pretty much all the time in fact, and I think I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have ED win. That’s why this ‘pregnancy incident’ felt so destructive. This time, the conversation went more like this:
ED: You are so fat you look pregnant.
Me: I can’t believe that happened.
ED: Remember all those times you talked back to me and said you weren’t fat? Well this proves that you were just deluding yourself and you are pregnant.
Me: Maybe she was confused? Maybe it was the way my clothes were falling at the moment?
ED: She wasn’t confused. Those clothes are on YOUR BODY. Which looks pregnant. If you weren’t fat, she wouldn’t have said that.
Me: You’re right.
ED: I can’t believe you let yourself become like this.
Me: I can’t believe I let myself become like this.
ED: You need to do something.
Me: You’re right.
At that point, I felt powerless to talk back and felt as though the entire trip would be ruined. How tragic that literally the first thing I did in Rome involved this incident?! It seemed almost laughable then that only a few hours ago I had been on the plane excited to enjoy lots of good Italian food without letting ED get in the way. haha
I made it through to that night without losing it, and then lose it I did. I felt like all the hard work I did had disappeared, and I told Noah that when the guide said that to me, it was as though something inside me felt completely destroyed.
Then, Noah said something that really resonated with me. He said, “you don’t have to let her destroy you.” What a concept?! When I was in the thick of my recovery, ‘you always have a choice’ was a little bit of a mantra for me, but in my current state of distress (and feeling a bit rusty at combating ED), I had lost sight of that. So, it was back to basics:
Once I mentally retook ownership of my fate from ED, I immediately started to feel better. I won’t lie, the comment continued to sneak into my mind over the next few days (and even now), but I have been able to combat it and remember:
Yes, I was brought down and totally caught off guard by this incident. But I’m up and moving now.
I know that ED blew this incident out of proportion, and that my body is fine. More importantly, I know that I am loved and hopeful and blessed in so many ways.
Sometimes I really believe that 100%, and sometimes I feel like I am just talking back to ED. Either way,
So, on that note, to me and anyone else struggling…