The Goodbye Cookie: A Memoir About Never Giving Up
Excerpted from the book The Goodbye Cookie by
At 5'2" and 250 pounds, I refused to sit in the house watching soaps and eating bonbons. No, I was a mover and shaker, building a business and delivering- with gusto- motivational speeches on how to set goals and achieve them.
And, indeed, I was an achiever by day and a self-destroyer by night. After my two children were born, and my parents had just died, I defaulted to my old and familiar coping mechanism- binge eating disorder. I kept thinking that bingeing and layering on more fat to my already obese body, would protect me from the intense feelings and the overwhelming nature of dealing with two babies, a budding business, and the heartbreak of my losses.
By age 50, tipping the scale at 300 pounds, I finally came to terms with my internal bankruptcy and found the healing I had sought for decades. I learned that all the food in the world couldn’t fill the holes of early losses. I discovered that whenever I restricted food- be it a strict diet or a colonic cleanse- if I didn’t fill the food hole with love and self-care- I would go right back to my old behaviors.
Little by little, I became aware of which foods were triggers for me. I needed to stay away from sugary substances that offered a quick high, then dropped me into a Sisyphis-like pit from which I summoned every ounce of willpower to push the rock back up the mountain, only to plummet right back down into self-destruction and despair.
I learned how to ask for help; that I was never meant to do this thing called "life" all by myself. In my work I portrayed a strong woman. At home, I cowered in front of the refrigerator, a slave to those tantalizing substances that held me in bondage. Instead, I adapted new behaviors: I attended support groups, picked up the pen instead of the fork, and came out of hiding in the cupboard to share my shame and bring all of me into the light of day.
There were still gaps that remained raw when I gave up food as a coping mechanism for stress. What was I to do now if I couldn’t run to familiar foods for comfort? Mom and Dad were dead, I had too many responsibilities on my plate, and my best friend, food, was no longer an option. That’s when I adopted a spiritual approach. The first words out of my mouth in the morning were no longer, "Damn. I’m still fat," but rather, "Thank you, God, for giving me life and breath." Instead of plotting clandestine junk food outings, I planned how I could be of service to people who were facing bigger demons than mine. And on those days when I was already over-giving, as high achievers are prone to do, I carved out downtime, my special gift of self-care.
This process of recovery didn’t come overnight. In a sense, I had worked toward it all my life. Every failed diet program now became a hindsight opportunity to review what I had gleaned, and how those learnings could be folded into a "new me." Every day I challenged myself to shift from default mode "I’m not enough" into the new mantra, "I am enough, I do enough, I have enough." All regrets from my past had to be absolved, as I learned to forgive and ask for forgiveness for past transgressions that sent me scurrying into refrigerators of remorse.
By the end of my memoir, these epiphanies and more, came to be. And these mini-miracles continue to pop every day of my life, as I consciously work at sustaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Wherein the past felt like drudgery to keep working on myself as I lumbered along with a 300 pound body, today I have fun; I dance, I laugh, and I don’t take myself so seriously in my 150-pound figure.
The following excerpt gives readers an idea of what it was like in those darkest days, and how every woman- regardless of her weight- can find joy and satisfaction in those aspects of her life that do work. It is my hope, that by finding even one ounce of triumph in our existing lives, we can build on that to begin loving and accepting ourselves.
Out of love and acceptance will emerge hope and a new definition of success- one that includes being gentle with ourselves as we make day-to-day choices that affirm our bodies and our health.
BINGEING ON SUCCESS
I had hoped that career success would offer immunity against bingeing, or at least occupy me so I wouldn’t have time to binge. In fact, the opposite was true; success left me starving. And grabbing food, junk food, was a big part of my fast-paced life.
In October 1987, after Jonathan was born, I left my job at NatWest Bank to become an entrepreneur and split my time between training and tots. I negotiated with NatWest to spend two days per week teaching Customer Service to the branches. The other three days, I worked out of a spare-bedroom-turned-office (much to the chagrin of my live-in nanny, Denise, who was irritated that I didn’t leave the house every morning) and began to build my management training and consulting business.
Though I lost an occasional prospect who was shocked that the person behind the buoyant telephone voice wasn’t exactly buoyant, people who knew my capabilities hired me in spite of my weight, and I grew a vibrant and burgeoning business. I always put 150% into my training programs and made sure never to disappoint a client who took a chance on me. I worked much harder than most of my peers because I felt that as an obese woman, I had more to prove.
After Jonathan’s birth, I lost about twenty pounds of baby weight and hovered around the 250 mark. I knew that obese women often came across slovenly and unkempt and I was determined to break the stereotype. I spent much of my profits on clothes, sporting only designer suits. I bought my accessories from MCM, a Madison Avenue boutique whose handbags were imprinted with the same initials as mine. I had my hair colored and cut at the best salons, and was meticulous about manicures.
Every new client and new program generated a great deal of anxiety: Will I dazzle them? Will I be brilliant enough, aka, will I be so brilliant that they won’t notice how fat I am? The biggest worry of all consumed me for weeks: What will I wear? Often the day before a speech—despite a closet full of expensive suits—I would rush into my favorite plus-size shop, and buy yet another new outfit determined that this one would camouflage my real size.
My typical workday started with two hours of primping to craft a confident, well-heeled (albeit corpulent) woman. By 7:30, I entered my corporate training room and began to move furniture. Despite my size, I bounced around the classroom to keep the sessions lively, and I needed clear passage through the aisles. Then I pulled up the Saran Wrap from the continental breakfast tray, sampled the muffins, and rearranged the rest to eliminate empty spaces. The morning was spent educating and enlivening my audience with the objective that the more entertained an audience is, the less they will focus on my fat. There is a reason for the stereotype "the jolly fat person."
I usually made it through the group lunch without eating excessively but the mid-afternoon break was a killer, especially when chocolate chip cookies were served. While my audience could only smell the freshly baked buttery-chocolaty aromas wafting from the back of the room, I had the privilege of both sight and smell which drove me mad as I was able to focus on little else. My mouth watered as I recalled the nightly ritual at Willard Straight Hall at Cornell, when fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies were released and all the students crawled out of the woodwork to stand on line.
At the end of class, clients would come by to de-brief the workshop and share superlative feedback they received from participants. They’d usually suggest I take home the leftover cookies for my children, which I did, knowing full well that my kids would never lay eyes on them. Yet, each time, I prayed that the excellent feedback and validation I received from the evaluations would be enough to sustain me; I wouldn‘t need added comfort. Yet, each time, I needed more. After consuming the cookies in the car, I’d continue the odyssey at Carvel and Vinny’s Pizza, and arrive home in time for dinner with my husband. Steve would share news of his day, and I’d regale him with my stories, careful to omit mention of the binge.
At eight, I put the kids to bed, read them Good Night Moon (multiple times), listened as they recited their evening Shema, then headed up to watch TV. Around ten, I planted a seed in my head that perhaps the front door was unlocked and I better double-check. I stole downstairs and landed at the fridge, spoon in hand. With everyone asleep in the house, I dipped into the Edy's frozen yogurt, and relished the best eating of the day—what one of my diet programs dubbed, "This one’s for me."
Excerpted from the book The Goodbye Cookie: A Memoir About Never Giving Up by
As a professional trainer, public speaker, author, and transformational coach, Marcia is President of MCM Consultants, a woman-owned business founded in 1987. She has worked with a myriad of Fortune 500 companies as well as women leaders in their communities and in their homes. Author of the inspiring memoir, The Goodbye Cookie; A Memoir About Never Giving Up, and motivational speaker-for-hire, Marcia can address professional and personal issues as varied as: how to give and receive feedback, letting go and moving on, the art of getting what you want, from despair to repair, peeling away the layers of emotional eating, and more.
Marcia Meislin holds a B.S. from Cornell University, M.Ed. from Cambridge College, Licensed Mental Health Counselor from N.Y. State, Professional Certified Coach from the International Coach Federation, and Certified Therapist from the Gestalt Center of Long Island. Above all, Marcia is "positively relentless," motivational (she lost 150 pounds and has kept it off), charismatic, and fun! You can reach Marcia Meislin through her website at marciameislin.com.