It’s Mardi Gras. Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Doughnut Day, or Fastnacht Day. I’ve written about this in years past, but there’s something disturbing to me about the excess of this day. When I was caught in the cycle of bingeing and restricting, I was often unable to have just one doughnut on Mardi Gras. Eating one doughnut, which was on my list of “forbidden foods”, triggered an avalanche of all-or-nothing thinking and self-criticism that led to overeating any and all sweets, treats, and things that I normally forbade myself to eat. Overeating then led to self-loathing and a renewed vow to restrict my calories or exercise more intensely in the days ahead.
Seems fitting, right? I mean what better way to earnestly commit oneself to the season of reflection and austerity that Christians call “Lent”? I mean, most of us have found it easier to restrict/diet or abstain from alcohol after a day or night of excess. Years after recovering from Binge-Eating Disorder, I still find myself doing that. After eating more than usual one Friday (to the point where I continued to just eat for the sake of it that evening), I vowed the next morning to “avoid sugar altogether…for a month.” That lasted six days. I felt a sense of accomplishment after those six days. But I also felt a nagging worry: “Isn’t this exactly the kind of extremism that the voice of my eating disorder (Ed) always encouraged me to engage in?” The excess of one day led to complete abstinence the next. Sounds like all-or-nothing thinking to me.
These days, whenever I recognize myself slipping back into that way of thinking, I’m able to smile. Yes, SMILE. I just calmly accept that my default way of thinking is black and white, success and failure, all or nothing. Accepting that that is how I think helps me let go and move ahead to something a little less extreme: moderation. Instead of black and white, I focus on the GRAY. Instead of seeing myself as a success or failure, I can simply BE. Instead of seeing only two choices, all or none, I can choose SOME. For those of us caught in the grip of disordered eating, there is freedom to be found in moderation.
Today, I plan to ponder the word “moderation” as I face choices related to Mardi Gras. Yes, tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. Yes, I will begin reflecting more deeply on my spiritual health. But I don’t need to go to excess (or avoidance) today in order to get something out of tomorrow.
Peace, joy, and health,