A quick warning – this article discusses suicidal ideation and disordered eating. Please use care before reading.
I own approximately 70 pairs of high heels, this after culling circa 50 pairs only a few months ago. Some are super-duper high, some are more casual and others are truly only meant for the stage.
Why So Many Heels?
Perhaps you might think it’s because I only stand at 5’1 (if I really stand up straight).
Maybe you think it’s because they make me feel sexy and powerful.
Or maybe, I simply just have a good ol’ fashioned addiction to killer heels.
Well guess what – it’s for all these reasons.
But there is another reason I don’t often speak about. To explain, I need to dive into a previous version of myself: a version that was ashamed, lonely and to be honest, didn’t feel like there was much to live for.
This story takes place when, if you found the lowest scum of the earth, I was living about a hundred feet below that. I simply could not feel any worse about myself.
After years of ping ponging between anorexia and orthorexia, I found myself in the deep bowels of a binge eating disorder.
Binge eating, to be clear, is not simply ‘overindulging’ in an extra slice of cake. It’s a classified diagnosable disorder which has several characteristics including losing control over what you put in your mouth, eating past the feeling of discomfort and feeling immense amounts of self-disgust and shame.
If you’ve ever seen the episode of Sex in the City where Miranda eats out of the garbage can, yes that was me.
“Your good friend Miranda has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You will probably need this information when you check me into the Betty Crocker Clinic”
— Season 4 Episode 4: “What’s Sex Got to Do with It?”
Why did I have this disorder? Oh you want to go there, eh? Several reasons, including compensating for the fact I couldn’t make someone love me, years of using food to control uncomfortable emotions and self-imposed impossible to meet standards.
I truly believe there were physiological factors at play as well. For several years now, whenever I have an overwhelming urge to eat sweets, I always said “it’s not me, it’s my bacteria”. Low and behold, research is now pointing this way – including a recent study in mice which showed that depletion of gut macrobiota resulted in a shift from homeostatic eating (eating for energy requirements) to hedonistic feed (eating for ‘pleasure’) which is reversed through re-establishment of gut bacteria through a fecal matter transplant (1). Crazy isn’t it?
Let’s Go Shopping
On this particular day, I had had enough. The effects on my body were one thing (which I still pay for today), but it was the constant battle in my brain that was driving me truly crazy.
So I made myself a deal: whatever money I was planning on spending on a binge, I would spend instead on a shopping ‘spree’ of sorts.
And so it began.
I took myself to one of Toronto’s huge shopping malls “Yorkdale” and started what would eventually be a $2000 onslaught on my bank card. It’s a LOT of money even now, but as a student, well, you can imagine.
So just like I couldn’t stop the siren call of sugar, nor could I stop the addictive high and allure of those shiny and new things that stared at me through the glitzy window shops.
I dragged my loot back to my car and headed home only to end up… yep, bingeing.
The Weight of Guilt & Shame
Now, you might (logically) think I was excited to parade myself around town in all my glory, but the truth is this: the guilt hit me like a crushing tsunami… except for… the shoes.
And I know why.
Shoes always fit.
Think about it – you could feel so bloated you’d think you’d swallowed a basketball, yet you can still slip those little suckers on.
Hence why, despite feeling constantly burdened by the weight of guilt and shame from my disorder, my life, my everything, my feet always felt lit up by the oh-so beautiful shoes.
Now, you might be thinking – wasn’t it just the social and cultural aspects of shoes? The implicit ties to economic and cultural power that artificially inflated my ego?
And yes, there is some sexy biomechanics involved, including that shoes change the curvature of the lumber spine and thus promote an ‘s’ shape that has evolutionary links to mating appeal (2).
Sure – but that’s not the point (at least for this soap box banter).
Figure 1 from Why Women Wear High Heels: Evolution, Lumbar Curvature, and Attractiveness (reference 2).
Get Rid of the Guilt
Have you ever heard of a shopping hangover?
Even if you haven’t heard of it – you’ve experienced it.
You walk into a store – the tunes are blaring, they’ve just shined up the skinny mirrors and there is no downlighting in site.
You feel fabulous – and know it’s the start to something special.
You see ‘the one’ – that piece of paradise that is calling your name – whatever your drug of choice is: a bag, a bustier or a bad-ass head-to-toe suit that you’ll rock in your next meeting.
Then reality hits – the price tag.
But you know that voice is about to enter the room.
“You deserve it”
“You work SO hard”
And that’s where the blackout starts – oh you know what I’m talking about. You enter the dark vortex where time stops – from the moment of picking up that piece of wonder and walking over to the cash register. It’s that period of time that you’ll later look back on and say “what the hell was I thinking”.
Well, you weren’t thinking.
More accurately, your brain was very literally doused in an avalanche of dopamine starting from a little spot in the brain called the VTA (ventral tegmental area), flooding any form of rational thinking.
If you’re thinking this sounds similar to forms of addiction, including drugs, alcohol, porn, etc… you are correct.
The addictive pathway is one that I know well – there is a voice (I call it ‘the urge voice’) that tricks you into action, and then is nowhere to be found when the post-action guilt sets in.
Making matters worse – the cycle is built for you to repeat the behaviour, over and over, and each time, your brain is wired to default to that behaviour. It’s like a negative spiral with a hook on each rotation.
A few years ago, I actually taught a course on how to end binge eating which used the same techniques in addiction treatment.
But one of the caveats I always told my students is this: chances are, you won’t ‘quit’ overnight, so the most important step to focus on is getting rid of that guilt.
The main problem of guilt “I did something bad” is that it is a stone’s throw away from shame “I am bad”.
Life is Too Short to Short-Change Yourself
So yes, you spent too much.
And yes, you’ll be eating crackers for the next year.
But do you think guilt is going to make that any better?
No, it will not.
Nor will it allow you to rock whatever fabulousness you bought in the first place – creating a deeper hole from which you will watch your life pass you by.
And yes, that’s dark.
But that’s the point.
Speaking of which, what do you see in the following image?
A black dot, right?
But what about all the other white area? Did you notice that?
No, because you were so focused on the black dot (guilt) that you didn’t see the beautiful light.
We only have a limited number of breaths on this earth. I spent a lot of time regretting the past, and feeling immense amounts of shame and guilt. I wasted time being hypnotised by a black dot.
You will do stupid things.
You will screw up.
And yes, you will experience things that crush your soul and bring you down to your knees.
But just because you make mistakes doesn’t mean you are a mistake.
Buy the shoes;
Wear the shoes;
And remember that the light you see… is you.
Love and Louboutins,
Dr Katherine xoxo
P.S. Want to inspire and empower the women on your team – or – the girls at your school during their lunch break? Contact me to book in an hour of power that includes a 30 minute talk, 15 minutes of interactive learning and a 15 minute Q&A.
1. Ousey J, Boktor JC, Mazmanian SK. Gut microbiota suppress feeding induced by palatable foods. Curr Biol. 2023 Jan 9;33(1):147-157.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.10.066. Epub 2022 Nov 29. PMID: 36450285; PMCID: PMC9839363.
2. Lewis DMG, Russell EM, Al-Shawaf L, Ta V, Senveli Z, Ickes W, Buss DM. Why Women Wear High Heels: Evolution, Lumbar Curvature, and Attractiveness. Front Psychol. 2017 Nov 13;8:1875. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01875. PMID: 29180972; PMCID: PMC5693914.