Loved and Worthy of Love

an endless journey toward self-acceptance

Category: Thinking Out Loud (Page 1 of 9)

Cancer, Body Image, and Perspective

Life has handed me a few curveballs lately, and I haven’t spent much time writing at all, on my own or on my blog. The reality is that this last half of my year has left me overwhelmed with a great deal of fear, grief, and uncertainty, and writing has not been on my mind much at all. I’m beginning the new year with an intention to write, though, because I know that it feeds my soul and calms my mind. While a lot of that writing will be happening in my own journals, I anticipate that some of it will make its way to the blog.

Today, I’m putting a few things in perspective. For as long as I can remember, I have thought that my weight mattered. I have thought that I needed to diet in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss, and that getting to the gym every day was the only thing that truly mattered. I spent hours, days, and weeks restricting food, worrying about eating too much food, exercising, weighing myself, feeling guilty, and fretting over how I would lose the weight that I lived in fear of gaining. For years, these things served as the foundation of my life, the thing that was always in the back of my mind if not the front.

This week, as I grocery shopped with my mom, I was hit with the colossal weight of perspective. My mom was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer about a month and a half ago, and her diagnosis has changed the lives of every person in my family. As we grocery shopped together this week, my mom picked up a box of tea that promised benefits of weight loss. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I wish all I had to worry about was stupid weight loss.” My mom’s comment floored me, and I was struck with the brutal reality that all of the time spent worrying about weight, or about the shape of my body, was wasted time. I remembered the times that I cooked food and wouldn’t share it with anybody because I was obsessed with knowing exactly how much I had eaten. I remembered the declined invitations out to eat with my family and friends because I feared a lack of control of my food. I remembered the anxious, angry person that anorexia made me, and I remembered that person lashing out at my mom more than anybody else. I realized that my obsession with weight loss was not only a waste of time. It also created rifts in my most important relationships, and that is what I regret most. Fortunately, I know that my relationship with my mom is stronger than anorexia, and it is in an excellent place now. Yet I can’t help regretting these lost minutes, hours, and weeks which seem so trivial now.

Along with the grief of the rifts caused by my eating disorder and body image woes, I was hit with deep despair as I thought about all of the people who are lucky enough to have their health, who have not been given a prognosis of five years or one year, who don’t have to live in immediate danger of not seeing their children grow up or their grandchildren come to be. I was hit with despair as I thought about these people, who I now see as the luckiest people on Earth, not being able to see their good fortune because they are too dissatisfied with their bodies. I thought about every person who lives in a healthy body for years and is unable to see their body’s incredible abilities over its inadequacies.

Here is my wish: I wish that it would not take a cancer diagnosis for us to see how lucky we were before. I wish that each of us could see our bodies for what they are: vehicles in which to live our lives. I wish that we could look at our skin and not see its sags and stretch marks but the remarkable job that it does shielding our entire body. I wish we could see the places where fat accumulates and realize how good it is to have some fat on our bodies, how it indicates that our body is absorbing nutrients and protecting our vital organs. I wish that we could view the human body for what it is: a remarkably efficient and intelligent machine.

I have to be completely honest with you. Despite my mom’s diagnosis, I still feel insecure about my body. Trying on clothes at a department store today, I was not feeling particularly attractive, and I know that negative thoughts about myself will likely pop up at different times for the rest of my life. However, I can tell you that I am going to do my best to have a new perspective, and that I am going to try damn hard to appreciate the body that I have while I have it. If you do one thing today, I ask that you do take some steps toward realizing how amazing your are. Even if you can’t get to a place where you are head-over-heels in love with your body, just try to take a few baby steps. Make a list of everything that your body does for you every day, and consider how amazingly lucky you are. Stand in front of the mirror and pick five things that you love about yourself. Do something to give you some perspective, because we are far more capable and far more fortunate than we know.

 

Letting Real Life In

Guess what? I’m still alive! The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I have gone from writing almost every day to being completely incommunicative. My bad. Things in my world have been a bit out of control lately, and writing simply hasn’t been at the forefront of my consciousness, but I decided to check in to write about something I have realized over the last few months, because I feel that it is pretty important. Today, I’m writing about an absolute truth that has become clear to me recently: If you let your life in, it will squeeze your eating disorder out.

An eating disorder, like any destructive behavior, will linger for as long as it serves a purpose. It will be a part of your life for as long as its presence feels necessary. In the first two years of my recovery, I made leaps and bounds. I gave up a good deal of my disordered behaviors, I stopped weighing myself, and I fought the fear of gaining weight and let it happen. Yet I still felt lost without my eating disorder. I still felt incomplete when I wasn’t obsessing over exercise and food, and I still allowed it to control a portion of my life. I eliminated many problematic behaviors, but I clung to the ones that felt impossible to abandon. Rather than fully give up my eating disorder, I found small ways to keep it with me. I scheduled plans in a way that meant I could still feel some control over my food, and I didn’t veer from my food plans if I could help it. I prioritized exercise above most other things, and I found ways to justify that prioritization so that I didn’t have to look too closely at it. I knew that I wasn’t living the life that I wanted to live, but I didn’t know how to change. I felt like I had tried my best, and perhaps this would be as far as I would go in recovery.

And then, I fell in love, and everything changed. I found somebody who values me for exactly who I am, who would rather I spend time with him than spend time working out. I found somebody who does not shame me for my appearance or expect me to diet. To the contrary, he tells me that I’m beautiful. He saves the last bite of something especially delicious for me, and he always offers me another glass of wine. He appreciates high-quality ingredients, but he doesn’t judge me for enjoying a cheap beer or a handful of potato chips. He delights in taking me to restaurants that he loves, and he has never made me feel guilty or ashamed for eating. Knowing and loving this person has drastically changed me for the better, and it has helped me gradually push out some behaviors that I was still clinging to.

I feel fortunate to have found myself in this place, and I know that it is something that I had to wait for, in a sense. There have been other people that I have dated who I didn’t feel ready to give up my behaviors for, and that was part of why I knew they weren’t the right person for me. In fact, I can distinctly remember times when I have stubbornly chosen my eating disorder over something else, simply because that person or thing did not feel any better to me than what I knew, which was my eating disorder. When you meet the person or find the passion that outweighs your disordered habits, you will find that your eating disorder is no longer all that important, and it will gradually take up less and less space in your life.

Although this post might seem rathe optimistic, ironically, 2016 has been one of the worst years of my life. Both of my parents have been diagnosed with cancer in the last seven months, and the future feels uncertain and more than a little bit scary, but somehow I feel okay. I am living the life that I want to live, and that has given me a sense of gratitude that I never could have achieved otherwise. It has taken anorexia and recovery to heal my relationship with myself and others, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have arrived at this place. Moments of fear and tragedy can be fertile ground for relapse, and I’m happy to say that the opposite has happened with me. Rather than dive farther into disordered behaviors because of the uncertainty in my life, I have realized how meaningless it is to waste a life full of promise on the never-ending goal to reach a state of physical perfection. It wasn’t until I reached a place where I began to see that life is too short to waste it in a small space of disordered eating and exercise that I met somebody who helped pull me farther out of that dark and lonely space, and he has helped me remember how much life there is to be lived.

This is on my mind in a big way today, because I just spent a week with my significant other, who lives in another town. It was Thanksgiving weekend in the US, and I wasn’t with any immediate family, which was hard. But for the entire week, I didn’t obsess about exercise. For a whole week, I didn’t overthink how much I was eating or drinking. And, because of that, I have a wonderful week’s worth of memories with this person. If I had told him that he couldn’t come because it would interfere with my exercise routine, or hadn’t let him stay with me because I felt the need to retain control over my food choices, which I most certainly would have done in the past, I would have missed out on the opportunity to grow closer to this person and to enrich our relationship, all in the interest of maintaining my comfort. After a week working out and controlling my food, I would have felt lonely and isolated in a time of great stress, with little support around me. Perhaps I would have felt slightly more secure in my body knowing I hadn’t missed a workout, or slightly safer about the way in which I ate because my food was being controlled, but to what end? If your obsession with food and exercise keeps you from living your actual life, it is absolutely not worth it. But you won’t know it’s not worth it until you give that real life a chance, and that has to come at the right time. It has to come at a time when you feel strong enough to take some risks, courageous enough to step off of the ledge and see what happens, and supported enough to deal with the fallout. And, sometimes, it takes a wakeup call to remind you how short this life can be, and to help you realize that life and love are the only valuable pursuits.

Nobody can tell you when your eating disorder will feel like it no longer serves you. And, as much as I would love to promise that it will happen in a timely and calculated way, that simply isn’t true. There are things that you can do to help that time come, though, and I wholeheartedly believe that they help. You can surround yourself with support, and with people who you genuinely love and enjoy. You can try to keep a distance from those who are food and exercise obsessed, so that you can focus your attention elsewhere. You can research things that interest you, go to events that sound fun, and make an effort to meet new people. It may take a while, but with some hard work and a lot of faith, you will reach a point where your real life is millions of times more important than your eating disorder. There may be moments when it still feels important, but you will find that they are fewer and farther between. I don’t believe that it is every too late, and I don’t believe that it is possible to have too many second chances. If you are willing to work for it and wait for it, it can happen, and it is the most liberating feeling in the world when it does.

As always, thanks to Amanda for the opportunity to link up today. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the last month of the year, full of light and love.

Your Body, Forever

Good morning! I haven’t written in quite a while, as I’ve had a lot going on in my life. The response to the Here Be Monsters podcast that came out last week has been phenomenal, and thank you to all of you have listened and offered words of thanks and encouragement! It has meant so much to have such positive feedback. It’s hard to put yourself out there on such a public platform, but the support that I have received has been incredible and I’m so fortunate to be able to put my story out there.

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Today, I’m linking up with Amanda to say something that might be a tad alarming: your body does not stay the same forever. Allow me to repeat: your body does not stay the same forever. No matter how hard you try, how many burpees you do, how many miles you run, whether or not you have children, your body does not stay the same forever. I’m currently recovering from surgery that I had on Monday, and I can feel that my body has changed just since having that surgery. As silly as it sounds, I kind of feel like a new person and, in some ways, I am. My surgery was minor, only the removal of an ovarian cyst that appeared as though it could cause complications, yet it has changed my body. Pain that I have had in my hips for years has diminished significantly, and I have an overall sense that my body works better without that cyst.

Although I feel different, I still have the same body now that I had before my surgery, just as I have the same body that I had when I weighed 80 pounds more or 60 pounds less. Our bodies are meant to change, which is part of what makes them incredible. Our bodies change throughout our lives to accommodate changes in environment, to reflect our emotional and physical health, and to prepare us for each life stage that we encounter. They are incredible things, and we dwell far too much on keeping them the same to appreciate how miraculous it is that they can change.

I’m grateful that my body changed when I went through puberty because that’s what bodies are supposed to do. I’m grateful that my body refused to allow me to lose all of its fat when I descended into anorexia, as I know that fat protected my organs when I was at my sickest. I’m grateful that my body has changed over the last couple of years that I have had this cyst, because it let me know that something worth looking into was going on. Our bodies are meant to change, but they are always ours. How phenomenal is it that this body has changed so much, yet still carries reminders of things that happened twenty years ago? I have scars from falling off of my bike when I was learning to ride it and birthmarks that have been with me for a quarter of a century.

Our bodies tell the stories of our lives, and that is phenomenal. So, how about we stop trying to force them to do what we want them to do and start letting them tell us what they need. How about we let them change in the ways that they are meant to change and appreciate how accommodating they are of us? Our bodies are ours, forever, and they are miraculous.

Thinking Out Loud 9/1/16: Feeling Thankful

Good morning! How are you on this fabulous day in September? I’m feeling great today, because I just slept for over ten hours. I can’t remember the last time that happened, but I decided to sleep without an alarm clock and that’s where I ended up! Nothing feels better than a solid night of rest, am I right?

This morning, I’m linking up with Amanda to share some of the things that I’m feeling thankful for right now. There has been a lot going on in my life, and I felt the need to pause for a moment to recognize how grateful I feel.

 

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This awesome new snack container that I bought at Grocery Outlet (the best store ever). It’s so much better than using a plastic bag because your food doesn’t get crushed and it’s endlessly reusable!

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The opportunity to see Malala speak this week. She came to Portland, and it was a privilege to be able to go. What a courageous, impassioned person! She lives with an attitude of humility and activism that is astounding.

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A beautiful rainbow after the first rainy day in a while. I was feeling a little blah about the rain coming back, but seeing this was a reminder that rain is a beautiful part of our climate.

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My mom bought me this badass chair when she was visiting here, and it is a godsend. Although it’s getting less warm these days, I’ve been enjoying reclining in the back yard while I can!

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I have experienced phenomenal support over the past few weeks, and I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for that. I found out recently that I need to have surgery soon, and it’s not something I’m looking forward to. Fortunately, my friends and coworkers here, along with my family back home, have been so supportive. I’m still not looking forward to surgery, but having such incredible people around me makes it much more tolerable.

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I moved to Portland a year ago this week, and I am endlessly grateful for all that has happened since. I have met amazing people, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone countless times, and truly formed a life here. I feel gratitude for every person who has helped make this first year here such a phenomenal one!

That is in no way an exhaustive list of the things for which I feel thankful, but it’s a start. We have so little control over the things that happen in our lives, but we can always control our attitudes. I get frustrated and complain plenty, but sometimes it’s nice to think of all there is to feel grateful for.

How Thin Privilege is Killing Us

Good morning! It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’m feeling rather impassioned about something today. I recently listened to a fantastic episode of This American Life that gave me a great deal to think about, and I’m linking up with Amanda to share some of my thoughts today.

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If you have ever lost weight, you have probably experienced the increase in attention, positive feedback, and general approval that accompanies it. If you have lost a significant amount of weight, this is even more likely to be the case. When my body changed from being classified as obese to being borderline underweight, and eventually clinically underweight, I received positive attention everywhere I went. Classmates said things like, “You look so much better!” People I hardly knew commented that I was a shadow of my former self. Long-lost connections on Facebook reached out to me to let me know how impressed they were with my transformation. And do you know what? It felt fan-fucking-tastic to get that kind of attention. I had always been the invisible fat girl, and now I was being seen.

There was one small problem with my situation, however, and that problem was that I was entirely miserable. I thought of food every second of every day. I was irritable and lashed out at anybody who disturbed my workout routine. I was emotionally unavailable to my loved ones. On my college graduation day, I remember nothing more than I remember how anxious I was about which restaurant we were going to eat lunch at, and how guilty I felt after eating “too much” fruit salad at dinner. I wanted so badly to be happy in the way that I had promised I would be once I lost weight, so I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that thinness is its own reward. And it breaks my heart to say this, but to some extent that’s true.

Being thin guarantees some degree of approval. Being thin makes it easier to squeeze into cars, to fly without dirty looks from other passengers, and to grocery shop without feeling judged. Being thin leads to assumptions of good health, of strong will, and of self-discipline. Being thin lets you grab a donut at a meeting without receiving looks of disapproval from coworkers. Being thin makes it easier to shop without trying things on, and to go into a store knowing that the clothing there will fit you. Being thin makes it okay to joke about how much you eat without being judged. It makes it possible to go on a date without wondering whether your weight is an issue with your potential suitor.When you are thin, people love to point it out to you, as if they don’t want you to forget that you have earned their approval by diminishing your size. There are a million perks to being thin in our society, and that is a shameful tragedy.

It is so disheartening to think that we as a society would rather see thin, unhappy and unhealthy people than larger, happier people. It is tragic that we equate thinness with beauty to the extent that, in some ways, it does feel worth  it to live a life of misery in the interest of thinness. The reality of thin privilege is what sets people on diets in the first place, and it is what keeps them coming back. In my own experience, the acceptance I felt as a thin person is what has made recovery feel so challenging. Choosing a full life, where our bodies function as they should rather than being under constant stress, often means giving up the image of thinness to which we have grown accustomed, and that is fucking hard.

The point of this post is not to draw attention to how wonderful it is to be thin. The point of this post is to make us all aware of how desperately we as a society need to shift our thinking. It is not okay that young women are starving themselves and being complimented for doing so. It is not okay that people are choosing to take risky weight-loss medications in order to maintain weight loss because they are petrified of regaining weight. It is not okay that shows like The Biggest Loser, where contestants are placed on starvation diets and forced to exercise to the point of exhaustion every day, are still seen by some as creators of successful individuals. It is not okay that thin is seen as the best thing that you can be in our society. And, as long as that is the case, we will continue to see people dying of eating disorders. We will continue to see people settling for life in a prison of dieting because they are aware that giving it up means giving up their privilege. Thin privilege is killing us, and it is time for us to wake up.

Smaller Does Not Equal Happier: Moving from Recovery to Discovery

Good morning, fabulous people! How are you all doing today? My day off of work is off to a nice, lazy start but I have quite a few things to get done by the time my weekend’s over. Before I start checking things off of my to-do list, however, I’m linking up with Amanda to do a little reflection on some lessons I have learned over the past few months of recovery.

Kaila Prins, one of my favorite bloggers and voices of sanity in the health community, often talks about the transition from eating disorder recovery to self-discovery. Recovery can feel a bit two-dimensional, if you ask me. The focus of recovery tends to be on the physical body, the restoration of weight, and a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Kaila calls on those pursuing recovery to continue to push past this stage, into one of true discovery. For a long time, I didn’t really know what she meant by this. Recently, I believe that I have begun to understand some of where she is coming from, and it as aligned with my realization that being a smaller size does not equate being a happier person.

Although my life has blossomed in beautiful ways over the last few months, I have also been struggling. I have gained weight, which continues to spark fear in me. I have flirted with the worlds of dieting, calorie counting, and exercise obsession. I have struggled to accept my body’s changes, to buy new clothes that are not only a size small, and to come to terms with the fact that, despite all of this, I am happier.

I spent a fair amount of time recovering my body while clinging to the dream of never outgrowing a size four. I spent months trying to find a way to recover mentally, heal my body, and stay as small as physically possible. What I am now realizing is that, although I may have been recovering to some extent during that time, I was not allowing myself to discover my true potential. Saying that sounds canned and a tad cheesy, but I mean it wholeheartedly. I was still living within the confines of just enough rules to avoid weight gain, and I can see now that I was clinging very strongly to the possibility that thinness would eventually bring me happiness.

Now, I am discovering who it is that I want to be. I am discovering which forms of exercise I actually enjoy, because exercise is no longer off limits for me entirely, nor is it something that needs to feel like a punishment. I am discovering the world of group bicycle rides, which are ridiculously fun when you’re not preoccupied with the number of calories you’re burning or how you look on your bike. I am discovering which foods I like, which beers taste good to me, and what I like to do on my days off. I’m discovering the world of dating, the challenges and joys of living with other people, and the role that church plays in my life. I’m discovering how to have fulfilling relationships with others, how to give myself a break from exercise without feeling guilt, and how to manage employees in a bakery. This time of discovery is so fulfilling and so rewarding that I cannot truthfully say that I would trade it for a smaller body. Perhaps my body will settle at a smaller size than it is now, but I doubt it, and entering a period of discovery means realizing that I am completely okay with that.

In all honesty, it’s hard to not feel as though this time of my life is one of failure. When I have been fed the message that I need to lose weight constantly over the past decade, how could I not feel that way? What I’m finding, though, is that I do not feel as if I have failed. When I dig deep and think about how whole I feel now compared to the way that I felt at my smallest size, I feel immensely successful. I have looked at a life of dieting, looked at a life of smallness, and realized that it is not for me. And if I can do that, I firmly believe that absolutely anybody can do it as well. If you need support, encouragement, or just somebody to rant to for a little bit, please feel free to reach out. I have lived in the hollow depths of anorexia and in the misplaced shame of obesity, and I am here to listen and offer whatever I can.

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Thinking Out Loud 6/2/16: Choosing How You Spend Your Life

Good evening! Man, I’m not doing the greatest job of linking up in a timely manner lately. I don’t have much of an excuse, except that I don’t really like to write a post until I feel like I have something worth saying. I hate when writing something feels forced, and sometimes that results in me missing the boat on linkup days and times! If I give it some thought, I can usually come up with something to write eventually, however, and that is what happened today. So, better late than never, I’m linking up with Amanda to share a little bit of what has been on my mind.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which we choose to live our lives. As I get older and time seems to pass me by at an alarmingly fast rate, I have become acutely aware of how useless it is to postpone living the lives we want in the interest of waiting until we feel we have everything in place to do so. Can I let you in on a secret? If that is how we are choosing to live, we will never be in a place where we feel prepared to accomplish our goals and live the way that we want to live. We will continue to postpone living the life that we want, we will continue to feel out of control of that which does not make us happy, and we will continue to watch life pass us by.

Sometimes, the ability to delay life changes is ripped out from under us. When I descended into disordered eating, I was forced to look at my life under a microscope in a way that I had consciously and unconsciously avoided for years. I was at a place of such misery that I had no choice but to crawl out. Sometimes, however, we need to make the choice to live our lives differently all on our own, without the propellant of concerned friends or family members.

This blog post came to mind when I realized that I spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritated about things that are or are not happening in my life. As I became aware of myself doing this, I realized that I’m the only one who can make any positive change, and that there is no sense in delaying those changes until a later date. And perhaps, I thought, breaking down the pieces of my life that are not making me happy would help. So, today, I made a list of all of the things that I love about my life, as well as a list of all of the things that I would like to work on.

I Love…

  • My roommates and living situation
  • The freedom I feel around alcohol and foods that used to scare me
  • My ability to lead a seemingly normal life
  • My relationships with family and friends
  • My work schedule, and my ability to balance my need for sleep
  • The time that I spend volunteering and the people with whom I volunteer

I Would Like to Change…

  • The amount of time that I dedicate to myself and personal growth (i.e. journaling, reading, restorative yoga)
  • The amount of time and energy that I spend worrying about my body, exercise, weight, and food
  • Challenges juggling everything at work without burning out
  • Spontaneity, and my ability to get out of my comfort zone

Looking at these lists, there is so much good going on in my life. It’s no wonder that I feel like my move to Oregon has been for the best. My life has expanded in wonderful ways since moving. However, I can also see that there are things that I want to work on. I wish that I dedicated more time to my personal growth and mental health. I wish that I actively worked to diminish food and exercise woes. I wish that I felt more confident handling challenges that come up at work. And I wish that I didn’t feel the need to stick to my routine as much as I do. When I look at these things at face value, they don’t feel quite so insurmountable. I can imagine ways that I can make the changes that I want to make, and that gives me some hope. Breaking these different parts of my life down a little bit, the idea of tackling them feels much more manageable.

It can be easy to look at our lives and think only about what is going wrong, or to feel as though there is no hope for changing that which we don’t find fulfilling. Throughout my entire life, I have known people who express constant exhaustion and frustration with the amount of stress in their lives, the ways in which they feel inadequate, and the lack of control they feel they have over their situation. While it is true that not everything is in our control, we are far more capable of determining our fate than we may realize. Taking the time to unweave some of the different components of my life helped me to see that I am the one in charge of making the changes that I want to make, and that I am capable of designing the life that I desire for myself. If your’e feeling stagnant, depressed, or anxious about not living the life that you want to be living, I encourage you to try something similar. It may help weed through the things that are not serving you, and feel gratitude for the things that are.

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Thinking Out Loud 5/19/16: How Will I Know When I’m “Recovered”?

Good morning, fine people of the World Wide Web! I hope that your Thursday is off to a fantastic start. Today, I’m taking the day to do whatever the hell I want to and get a good bit of rest before tomorrow back into my work week tomorrow. So far, my plans include coffee, an appointment with my counselor, meeting with my book club, and some errands around town. Before I get into any of that, though, I’m linking up with Amanda to write a little about when we reach the stage of “recovered” when healing from an eating disorder.

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When I began recovery, I didn’t believe I would ever be recovered. Truthfully, I could not imagine a world where I was not terrified of calories and food. I felt incredibly helpless and I had little to know belief in myself. My wonderful, patient therapist walked alongside me as I gradually took steps toward recovery and began to see that maybe, just maybe, recovery was possible. At that point, however, I think that I believed that it would be obvious to me when I had reached my recovered state. I don’t think that I expected any kind of ceremony, but I thought that I would just know when I was in that place.

What I have discovered through the past several years of recovery is that “recovered” is different for everybody, and it is not necessarily a concrete mark in time. I have realized that a state of full recovery does not need to mean loving every single thing about your body every single day. It does not need to mean never thinking about food or exercise. Recovery, to me, means being able to live the life that I want to live without being overtaken by thoughts of food, exercise, and perfectionism. It means being able to put those things aside in the interest of pursuing my goals, spending time with other people, and truly living. This definition of “recovered” is vague, and that is entirely intentional. I now know that recovered is not measured by body weight, by hormone levels, or by the return of a menstrual cycle. Those are steps toward a recovered state, sure, but being truly recovered is so much more than that.

Along your own journey toward “recovered,” there will be times that you feel extremely discouraged. There will be times when you doubt that recovery is possible for you. When that happens to me, I remember how far I have come. Our lives change so gradually, and it can be easy to forget how much progress we have made. When I moved to Oregon, I ate virtually the same thing every single day for dinner. Now, I rarely rely on “safe” meals. I was scared of drinking beer when I moved, and now it is something that I enjoy from time to time without thinking much about it at all. In short, I have made a ton of progress without even realizing it.

I think that I will know that I am “recovered” when so many of these little things have fallen into place that I can’t keep track of them. I may always struggle with body image, but that does not mean that I can’t reach a place of “recovered” I will know that I am recovered when I can live the life that I want to live, despite body image woes and anxieties. I will know that I am recovered when I do not let fears surrounding food and my body dictate how I live my day-to-day life. Gradually, I know that I am making progress toward my own version of a state of full recovery. If you’re feeling discouraged in your process, I encourage you to think about what full recovery looks like for you, and to think about how much closer you are to that place than you were when you began. Even if full recovery feels miles away, give yourself credit for doing things like reading blogs that encourage recovery, facing small challenges every day, and continuing to fight for the life that you deserve. You can and will get to your own, beautiful version of “recovered.”

News Flash: You Probably Need to Eat More

Good morning! How is your Thursday going so far? Mine started off rather stressfully, as I was stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half on my way to a doctor’s appointment, but it’s much better now. While I sat in traffic, gritting my teeth and resenting every single person on the road, I had plenty of time to think about what I would write for today’s Thinking Out Loud post. When I thought about what I might want to tell the readers of my blog today, the answer was simple: you are probably not eating enough.

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Now, allow me to explain where I’m coming from before you say, “But I eat 2,000 calories per day!” or, “But I gain weight if I eat any more!” or, “But I eat more than all of my friends!” While those things may feel as though they are all true, I am willing to bet that a lot of components of our disordered relationships with food would disappear if we simply opened our minds up to the idea of eating more.

Our bodies are incredibly smart. They know how much food they need, and they know how to maintain a healthy weight without our attempts at control. Think about the time in our history before we knew about counting calories, tracking macronutrients, or diet fads. Was everybody’s body wildly out of control? Absolutely not, because our bodies inherently know far more about how they operate than we have at any point in history. It is only because women have been led to believe that they must repress our body’s needs that we do so, and that is how we end up in a place where we are remarkably out of touch with our bodies, yet unable to trust that they know better than we do. As a result, we have suppressed metabolisms and bodies in states of panic.

Women in our society are expected to be hungry. We are conditioned to believe that a constant state of hunger is not only normal, but desirable. We are supposed to keep our bodies starving in order to keep our weight down, yet we are never supposed to act as ravenous as we truly are. I dare you to flip through the pages of a “health” magazine directed at women. What do you notice? I’m guessing there are at least several tips to stay fuller longer and stave off cravings, suggestions for how to eat less overall without being miserable. Do you know what actually staves off cravings and keeps you fuller longer? Eating enough food. And it is outrageous that we have reached a place where that no longer feels like common sense.

If an adequate meal feels like “too much” to you, I encourage you to dive into the reasons that might be the case. Is your body truly telling you that it does not want that much food, or are you concerned about what your date will think if you eat an entire burger? Was that quarter cup of yogurt satisfying to your body, or were you erring on the side of caution out of fear of overeating? These are hard questions to ask, and harder questions to answer, because we have programmed ourselves to believe one of the biggest lies out there, that less is more when it comes to food. I’m fortunate enough to meet with a dietitian who helps me remember what enough food actually looks like, and I encourage you to seek out the same type of support if it would be helpful.

Today, I’m calling for a reality check. I’m calling for women to acknowledge that we, too, need food. I want us to be able to see that four Wheat Thins is not a serving, that light cheese shouldn’t exist, and that food is merely the means in which our body gets its energy. This week, I’m challenging myself to truly, honestly listen to my body because, as women, we have things to get done. We have impressions to make on this world, and there is no reason that we should be too fucking hungry to do so.

 

Thinking Out Loud 5/5/16: A Day in the Life and Abolishing Shoulds

Good morning, and happy Cinco de Mayo! I feel like I should probably be making Mexican food for dinner tonight, but instead I’m going to make Senegalese food for my housemates. Maybe I’ll serve it with a side of tacos. Anywho, today I’m linking up with Amanda for some Thinking Out Loud.

I’ve realized that I talk a great deal about how busy I am, but I rarely talk about what I’m actually doing. The other day, I decided to document my day in pictures to give a clear picture of what my day-to-day life consists of. As I documented my daily activities, I realized how loud thoughts of what I should and should not do can be. I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with not letting the shoulds get me down, so I’ve decided to incorporate some thoughts on abolishing shoulds and living the life we want to live.

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On Monday, I got to sleep in because I was closing at work. I woke up to the sun streaming into my window, which is the very best sight to wake up to. I slept in later than I had planned on sleeping, and I was bombarded with the first round of shoulds. I should have woken up earlierI should have had a productive morning. To counteract the shoulds, I reminded myself that I must have needed the sleep if I was able to sleep for so long.

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After I was up and around, I made myself a big cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal to get my day started on the right foot. After I had finished my breakfast, I loaded up my bike bag and hopped on my bike to ride to work. I often face a lot of shoulds when I’m biking to work. I should bike fasterI should make this a better workout. However, I enjoy taking my time riding to work. It provides some space for me to mentally prepare for my day, and I truly enjoy being able to leisurely pedal instead of pushing myself to get there as fast as possible.

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When I got to work, one of my coworkers had a late birthday gift for me: cat earrings! Needless to say, I was delighted.

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The rest of my day consisted of a whole lot of coffee making, a little snacking on various baked goods, and a good bit of baking off rounds of bacon.

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Mid-morning, a neighbor of ours dropped off some gorgeous roses from his garden, which I happily put on display.

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I was starting to get hungry for lunch in the early afternoon, but I was working by myself and taking a break was nearly impossible. It’s in these situations that I’m most tempted by the shoulds of my eating disorder. I should skip lunch. I should just distract myself. The only solution I’ve found to overriding this should is to call into mind that skipping meals is always a disordered choice, and the only thing I should do when I am hungry is eat. Unfortunately, my lunch was moderately unpleasant because it consisted of a very soggy sandwich. A soggy sandwich is better than no sandwich, though!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent boxing up beautiful macarons, restocking miniature cupcakes, and getting everything set up for a solid close at work.IMG_0350 IMG_0354

When I was finally able to leave, I hopped back on my bike and rode to the grocery store. We have some sangria fruit in our refrigerator, and I felt like it needed to be rejuvenated with the addition of more wine. I bought a couple of bottles, shoved them in my bike bag, and rode home looking absolutely ridiculous.

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When I got home, I had planned on making something “safe” for dinner. Probably some vegetables, cooked with a little chicken. My healthy self knew that I should make something more substantial, but when I end up rushing into dinner I often choose whatever feels safest. Luckily, I arrived home to a gigantic pizza ordered by one of my housemates. In that moment, I knew that the only should I should listen to was the one that said that I should accept the offer of pizza.

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My roommate had a friend visiting from out of town, so all of us hung around talking, drinking sangria, and talking about the tragedy of Donald Trump being  a presidential candidate. I shared part of a beer and a few bites of ice cream with a friend who was over, even though my disorder was telling me that I should avoid dessert and the extra calories of alcohol.

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After everybody had headed off to bed, I went to my room to do some reading. After reading for a while, I ate a little bedtime snack before turning out my light for the night.

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Shoulds are one of the hardest things to overcome in recovery, and in life. In reality, the only thing that we should do is live the life that we want to live. We should be able to have sangria and beer without guilt. We should be able to ride a bike, walk, or run at whatever pace feels comfortable to us. We should be able to enjoy an evening with friends, accepting offers of pizza and feeling loved rather than anxious. These are the shoulds that each of us deserve, and they are the ones that will get us to a place of happiness. When I look back on this day in my life, it feels good. It feels much fuller, more vibrant, and worthwhile than my days of exercising in isolation. In a lot of ways, it feels the way that a life should feel, and I’m grateful for every positive change that has happened over my last two and a half years in recovery.

 

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