The walk of shame: a phrase loaded with meaning, amirite? While I’ve done my share (including one particularly memorable year on Beale Street), I’ve also come to associate the phrase with something far different. See, today, like many days, I woke up feeling…real rough. The way you feel after a bender. The way I felt many (fine, nearly all) mornings, for many years of my life.
I’ve always been one to over-indulge. I grew up in a very health-conscious family, but I also grew up with an oppositionally-defiant soul, so once I realized that some kids had SNACK CAKES in their houses like, all the time, it was over.
I’ve always eaten food like I grew up in a house with 10 brothers and sisters and we only had enough for five. I grew up hoarding and sneaking. I had Pop-Tarts and cookie butter hidden under my side of the bed well into adulthood (fine, all the way through my thirties). My sweet tooth and compulsive overeating, coupled with my athletic and health-conscious heart, has always been the finest tightrope to walk, and I walked it with no safety net, flailing and falling almost every. single.time. It feels so automatic, in fact, that I have rarely taken the time to think of my thought process, or wonder when it really started. So waking up this morning, after eating basically an entire pie at the end of a successful and healthy day yesterday, I made myself start to break down my obsession with, and overindulgence of, food. I’m doing this because I suspect there are others out there with these same post-holiday blues. Without further ado, then, here are five memorable steps that led to my lifetime of dessert debauchery.
Step One, where it began: my mom’s legendary Oreo cheesecake (mom, before you comment, this is not your fault. Love you, mean it). This heavy boy was a favorite that she made for church stuff and extended-family events. I’ve never been one for cheesecake itself – although the crust is another story – unless it’s disguised with another flavor (Cheesecake Factory, thank you for helping me through that identity crisis). I wasn’t even necessarily into plain Oreos as a package deal. But man, did I love those centers. Mom would use a butter knife to gently remove them, since she only used the cookie part for the cheesecake, then transfer each one to a tower o’ just middles. When she finished, I would then throw a demolition smackdown, which, in hindsight, was probably disgusting to watch. (You can imagine my delight, though, when Mega and Most Stuf Oreo varieties hit the market.)
Step Two: strategically staying with friends. These adventures started in fifth grade. My best friend lived right by a grocery store, and we would take our money and go buy snacks. I remember sitting right on the pavement outside the store and eating almost a whole box of Zebra Cakes for the first time – oh, man. What a dream that was for a kid who grew up in a lame house where we ate fresh foods every night at the dinner table together like a bunch of losers.
After that, I graduated to Step Three: hiding food. I remember once my Aunt Linda took me out in her sweet Ford Probe and let me get a bag of miniature Reese’s cups. I hid them in my closet – IN MY BASKETBALL SHOE – because I knew nobody would even want to look there, and I didn’t want to share with my brother and sister.
Step Four: Taking full advantage of slumber party food. I justified it because I played sports – work hard, play hard, amirite? It was nothing to destroy a pizza or a two-liter of coke or whatever was in front of me. Friends would say that they didn’t get why I wasn’t much bigger. I would laugh and smash another cupcake.
Step Five: The cycle. The first time I decided to do something about my personal roller coaster, I was a junior in high school. My dad and I embarked on the Cybergenics program together (anyone remember that?!). I don’t really remember the supplement part aside from drops under the tongue right before our 5:30 am workouts. But it involved 2-3 hour workouts, six days a week, no eating after 6 p.m., no foods with flour, and a whole, whole lot of tuna and egg whites. I felt great. My tennis game got stronger. My mood was a lot better. It was a fantastic two months. And then, I ate some Wild Berry Skittles in my car one night and it started all over again.
Step Five has repeated basically ever since. Cycles of binge-eating cake, cookies, pie, and candy, mixed with cycles of too much restriction. It wasn’t until this year that I worked through the psychology of obsession with Noom, then found the most helpful group of people with Beachbody. Having the accountability, and encouragement, and support, of others who are going through the struggles of a lifetime of unhealthy thinking has been incredible.
So while I woke up today with a food hangover and those old walk of shame feelings, the difference now is that I know it was one day. I know that it was perfectly normal. And I know it doesn’t mean I have to have another unhealthy day. And if you’re reading this, and feeling that awful, unsettled feeling of wanting to make a change but not knowing where to start – I’m here. Let’s do this together.
Because all of our walks deserve to be shame-free.