This topic has been heavy on my heart and mind for a long while.
Recently, within in the past couple of months, I’ve been seriously working on letting go of the eating disorder/exercise addiction that still seems to haunt me. I had an eating disorder, more specifically, anorexia nervosa, in high school. Ever since then, I’ve struggled with thoughts on food and exercise. There have been ups and downs, highs and lows, along the way, but I’ve never followed through on healing my mind.
I am not underweight or at a physical medical risk, so it may not be obvious that I deal with disordered thoughts/behaviors regarding food and exercise. But I do. I can’t look at a meal and not see the grams of macronutrients or calories. I think about food often, and if I let myself, I will feel guilt after eating a little more than I intended or eating ice cream and a cookie after a full meal. I am a body.
I love to move my body and exercise, but sometimes I fear what will happen if I don’t exercise x amount of times each week. I fear that if I take a break from structured exercise, I will like not exercising and never want to do it again. I know these thoughts are irrational and I know that my body needs a break to rest and recover, but sometimes the urgency to get that workout in wins over. I am a body.
Sometimes, I will look at myself in the mirror and scrutinize myself. I will prod at the lack of chiseled abdominal muscle. But, I work so hard. I workout regularly. I eat well. Why doesn’t it show?, I think to myself. Then my brain jumps to what more can I do to see my abs. I will start tracking my macros again. I will strength train 3-4x a week and do interval training 2x. Oh, and I will do yoga 1-2x, for my mental health. All the while, knowing deep down that these habits make me more stressed, tired, unhappy and reserved. I am a body.
No. I am not just a body. I am much, much more than flesh, muscle, fat, fluid, and bone. I have more to offer than just my physical form. I have values and character that reflect so much more, so why do I hold tight to my physical identity and not tend to acknowledge my inner self? That answer to that question I am still figuring out. Though, I know a lot of it has to do with holding onto my physical identity and not changing my habits or thoughts about food and exercise.
Until now. I’ve decided that the only way to embrace who I really am and not just exist as a body in my mind, is to act in the way that I want to be. I’ve stopped tracking food. I am working on eating intuitively, really listening to what my body wants and needs, regardless of the nutritional content and what workout I did that day. I am spending more time on things that bring me joy and give me purpose. I am having meaningful connections with people. I am reading more. I am comparing less. I am thinking a lot more, but not about food or exercise. I am thinking about what I really want out of life. What do I want to do, where I want to go, how I feel, how others feel. I am sitting in the icky moments when negative thoughts creep in about food and exercise. I am letting them creep in, recognizing them, and letting them pass. I hope that with more time and less acknowledgment/fixation, these thoughts will become less and less. I am working with a therapist and writing, both of which are helping a lot.
Rewiring my brain after 8 years feels tedious and impossible sometimes, but I know it is worth it. I want to live a life that reflects my values, passions, and beliefs. The only way to get to where I want to be is to work for it. I didn’t develop an eating disorder over night and I sure has hell won’t be able to recover in one day either. I am proud of where I am at now, even thought it isn’t exactly where I want to be. I have grown through this experience and it has influenced me to want to help others with similar struggles.
I am a body, yes. But, I am also a compassionate and vibrant woman, daughter, girlfriend, and friend.
An aside: I was hesitant to post about this because I don’t know who will read it. It’s tough being a fitness professional and trying to live up to society’s standards. I am sure many people think I have all of my shit together. I don’t. There’s also a stigma associated with people who have disordered eating/exercise patterns. I don’t want to be worried about or judged. I just want to be seen as a human being who struggles sometimes, but is working on bettering myself. I hope opening up about my struggles will aid my recovery. I no longer want to hide this part of myself, but instead, I want to embrace it and allow myself to grow into the woman I know that has been stuffed inside for far too long.