Bad news and good news

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The bad news: your life is going to be painful.
The good news: you can choose what pain to experience.

If you want to close this page, I get it. I don’t blame you. I like sprinkles and rainbows, too.

But we’ve also got to face the gosh-darn-terrible truth: life is painful.

I don’t mean just in those big ways: that there is terrible suffering and people living in hunger and poverty and atrociously unsafe conditions around the world. That people you deeply love can die.

I mean in those small, tiny, annoyingly painful ways that you—as an evolved, emotionally mature person—don’t even think you are “allowed” to consider painful.

Like that you work all day and the only break you take is for lunch.
Like you wish that people around you would appreciate you more.
Like you are exhausted and just want a break and to close out the world for three days.

You might not even explicitly experience these situations as “pain.” Most of the women I work with don’t. They think that they aren’t allowed to acknowledge that they are feeling pain unless their organs are falling out of their body.  

But you know how I know that they are feeling pain in these situations?

Because they are eating.

Because they are eating food that they don’t really want, food that doesn’t make them feel good.

Or because they are eating friggin’ delicious or even healthy food, but not even enjoying it because they are sneaking or not paying attention to it.

Because when I suggest to them that they might perhaps consider not eating food they don’t even want in those moments, they look stricken: how would I deal with that crazy-feeling if I wasn’t eating?

And that, my friends, is the point of it all: your dysfunctional eating is a bright neon arrow pointing to your pain.

If you can’t bear to not eat while you study, or while you work, or while you meet with friends, there is something painful—something that is uncomfortable or awkward or weird or painful—in that moment.

So here’s the deal, friends: you can’t avoid the pain.

Let’s face it, you’ve been trying to avoid the pain. You’ve been eating to avoid the pain. I’ve done it, too. If I eat a cookie while forcing myself to do everything on my to-do list, I won’t hate it so much.

But the problem is, in trying to avoid this life-pain, you’ve created an entirely new kind of pain: food pain.

The pain of kicking yourself for eating an entire slice of cake you didn’t even want.
The pain of your pants not fitting.
The pain of looking back on that meal out with friends and wondering what demon possessed your body.
The pain of feeling gross and full but like you’d still eat six pints of ice cream if given the chance.

It’s one pain or another.
The pain of your life, or the pain you create by covering up your life with food.

You get to choose.

Did I mention? You get to choose.


If you’re feeling brave, here’s my challenge to you: Think about the last time you were unhappy with your eating. What “pain” were you feeling or trying to avoid?

And if you’re feeling especially brave, let me know what you find in the comments.