There was a time in my life when my being revolved solely around my appearance and weight. Almost every minute of every day I was consumed:
"How many calories am I eating?"
"What foods can I eliminate?"
"How many minutes of cardio can cancel out the binge I just had?"
"Ugh these pants feel tight...I need to go run"
"Or maybe I should just throw up..."
"Do diet pills really work? Maybe they'll work for me."
"I'm hungry but I'm so fat today..." *insert coffee here*
"Do I really need to eat right now?"
"Ugh I hate myself...'" *insert more cardio here*
"People say to eliminate carbs...lets do that"
"Seriously what is wrong with me"
"I've heard positive things about Weight Watchers...should I do that? "What about Atkins?"
"Food is both driving me nuts and making me sad."
"Maybe I should do P90X...or Kayla Itsines...or Insanity...or a combination of all 3?"
"I just want to be happy again...I'll be happy when I'm thin..."
"I just want to be thin"
Thin. Thin. THIN
Being thin was all I cared about for like 4 years. Then the light bulb went off and I realized how much more there is to life than a dress size. I re-thought my life, adopted some new habits, kicked some old toxic ones, and through trial and error, began to come to love myself, my body, and it's fluctuations.
There's a reason one of my continual hashtags is #keeprecovering. I believe recovery is a journey and a process. I believe that if you're doing it right, you'll continue to recover and heal for months, years, and perhaps the rest of your life. I see recovery as synonymous with growth. As long as you continue to learn and evolve, you'll continue to recover. By saying I am recovered, I would assume that hurt part of my life is completely scarred over. But for my brain at least, that's not the case at all. The old thoughts still exist and they still tempt me. It would feel disingenuine to say I'm recovered. Yes, I haven't made myself throw up, use an excessive amount of laxatives, or starve myself in years, but that doesn't mean I don't think about it, or come close to taking those desperate measures again. That's why I will continue to say I'm still recovering: it just makes the most sense that way in my brain.
On that note, I'm starting to struggle again. This summer has been one for the books. Friends got engaged and married. I went on a few amazing trips. Greg and I moved into a town home together. I've had so much fun this summer and learned so many things about myself. It's been wonderful - but it hasn't come without a price. Engagements and weddings are full of alcohol and sugary desserts. Vacations are an excuse to eat abundantly in a new place and simultaneously "treat yo self." Moving in with a significant other has given me many excuses to Netflix binge and snack on too many (like 500 too many) kettle chips...
Being body positive is hard. At least it's really hard for me. I feel like such a hypocrite, or more like I'm doing a million mental suicide drills - thinking one way, then immediately feeling another. Going on Instagram and getting inspired by Ashely Graham, then looking at my own body in the mirror and ripping it to shreds. As you can imagine it's rather mentally exhausting. I applaud the men and women on social media fighting for body and social acceptance. I'm in awe of those who post barely clothed photos of themselves with captions full of self love and body love promotion. The movement is beautiful and so needed in today's world...but I just can't let myself be fully involved with it.
Right now I'm at war with my body. I do love it. I'm so proud of the athletic feats it's able to do and the small strides I'm making. I'm weirdly proud of myself for giving myself slack - for eating bread again, too many kettle chips, and other processed foods. I'm happy calories don't really mean anything to me anymore. I'm happy to be eating the way I want to and I'm even more happy I don't give a sh*t about how others think I should be eating. You do you. But right now, I'm not happy with my actual body. I look in the mirror and see chubbier cheeks than I'm used to. I see a less defined collarbone. I see a pooch starting to form again. I see thighs that I wish would stop growing.
The stupid and most mind-boggling aspect of this is that I know I am not fat. And yes we can get into the argument that no one is fat, we have fat, fat is relative, blah blah blah. But I currently have more fat on me than I did at the beginning of the summer. And it's really starting to bother me. Like really bother me. I've been staring a little too long in the mirror. I change my outfit 3 times before I go anywhere social. I've been asking Greg a lot lately if something makes me look bigger or not. I know it's infuriating to him. He sees me as small and thin. He gets upset when I get down about myself and the fat I "think I see." He'll try to grab at my "fat" and say "Babe, lit-tra-lly (Chris Traeger from Parks and Rec voice), this is just skin." And I try to laugh and smile and pretend to agree. But inside I'm screaming "NO ITS NOT IT NEEDS TO GO AWAY."
There is a reason I'm gaining a bit of weight. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses for myself. I haven't been eating the cleanest or training the hardest, but I have been relaxing and focusing on my mental health and having a bit more fun. It's like a weird price to pay. And I know there's a way to even the score. They say the key to life is balance and moderation. I know this new life transition (aka living with a boy) is going to come with a new system of checks and balances. I've read countless pop culture articles on the phenomenon of gaining weight in a solid relationship. I know this is a thing. I also know I'll figure it out again. I'll choose grapes over late night tater tots. I'll choose 1 glass of wine over 3. I'll choose to use this frustration in a positive way, rather than let it consume me from the inside out like it did years ago. In my mind, this should be a simple fix. Choose this, not that. Take rest days when you need them, smash it out in the gym when you're inspired. For every flaw you want to fix, find something you're incredibly grateful for. Always to remember to be mindful.
But life isn't simple. It is complicated and flawed. Journeys have unexpected detours and stops. The road isn't always straight or fluid. Sometimes we get lost, not once, but a thousand times along the way. If I'm completely honest, I know there will be times I will choose both the tater tots and wine - maybe even on the same night. I'm going to get lost over my body for the foreseeable future. I'm sure of it. And I think that's okay. I don't think it makes me weak to want to feel as good on the outside as I do inside. I think it's fine to love fashion and and follow makeup trends. I don't think it makes me superficial or mentally weak to want to be in good shape - not only for looks but to prolong and live the best life I can (but I also don't think it's a crime to want visible abs). I think it's wonderful to continue to want to be better - whatever aspect of your life you want to improve. But at the same time I know you can't keep chasing "better" forever. Perfection doesn't exist. There has to be a point of contentment. There needs to be a day where I say enough is enough. There needs to be a time where I look in the mirror, and no matter what I see, say "I am pretty damn amazing". This is the balance I need to find. (See, aren't these mental suicide drills just so much fun?)
So I'll leave with this. ED's are stupid and I hate what that experience did to me and the way I still continue to see myself. I hate that there are times I still have a mental breakdown over gaining 5 pounds. I hate that I think about diets, training, pills, and procedures as much as I do. I hate that I'm not one of those people who can be so free and body confident and full of self love. I hate that I'm a hypocrite and am full of self love on some days. I hate how aware I am of this whole thing - because most days I find myself feeling guilt because I know my "case" is so minor compared to others. Yet, on the other end of the suicide sprint court, there are a lot of things to be proud and happy about. I'm proud to know how far I've come since my last battle with these thoughts. I'm proud I'm learning to relax and enjoy life. I'm happy I still want to grow and better myself. I'm excited about the goals I have.
Bodies are silly. They fluctuate. They're so different from one person to the next. It's kind of unfair if you think about it. I completely understand the feeling of being stuck in your skin. I understand not liking what you see in the mirror. I completely get wanting to change. I want to validate that feeling and openly say it's absolutely fine to want to lose weight (or gain weight!) or lean out or tone or bulk or whatever and feel better about yourself. I just pray you don't get as lost as I once did. At the end of the day, we only get this one body. I think life needs to be about what you do with that body and the positive impact you make on the world and in the "worlds" of those you care about.
Recovery is hard, but remember, I'm right here with you.