In late 2010, at a difficult point in recovery from an eating disorder, I had a reoccurring thought: “When I lose the extra weight and reach ‘x’ pounds, I will give myself permission to go out and live.” In 2003 I began struggling with anorexia nervosa, and after years of suffering decided earlier in 2010 that I wanted to be free of my disease. At that time I started focusing more on writing a book to share my experiences, stopped biking and walking everywhere, left the gym where I was working as a personal trainer, and ended my own intense workouts with another trainer. I began to eat when I was hungry, and I allowed myself to eat the foods I craved. I reached a honeymoon phase of recovery where I felt I reached my “perfect” weight.
As I started gaining beyond my “perfect” weight, those close to me continued believing that because I weighed more, I was happy. But I was not happy! First, I still carried food phobias. Though I recognized hunger signals, and I knew what foods were best for my body, I preferred to eat the same “safe” foods out of habit because I was afraid of being judged by those around me who it seemed felt I was incapable of change without spiraling back into a full blown eating disorder. Second, I skimped on exercise, unable to find an activity that did not trigger anxiety, come off as cultish, or promote ultra thinness/strength. I was afraid to go out and eat due to reoccurring digestion problems, and only felt comfortable when I could be alone. Also, a guy who I had liked made me doubt and feel bad about myself. Finally, I began menstruating for the first time in late spring 2010, and as time progressed, my periods became painful. Regardless of what I weighed, I felt “heavy,” ashamed, and confused about the meaning of “healthy.”
Fast forward to today. The good news is, I have found new forms of exercise that allow me to celebrate my body. Working with a licensed massage therapist has helped me understand my body and feel more comfortable trusting myself, especially when it comes to exploring new foods and methods of food preparation. Furthermore, I regularly spend time educating myself about the menstrual cycle and other health topics I am interested in. I continue to care quite a bit about what I put in my mouth, but not obsessively.
Now, am I “happy” with what I weigh? No. Am I in a desperate rush to lose weight? No. Instead, I am learning not to let weight get in my way! I am not going to wait until I think I look “good enough” to go out and live. The more I engage in activities that make me feel good—walking in nature, creative writing, enjoying a good meal with friends and family, playing with animals, dancing, self-massage, teaching, etc.—the more I realize life is about so much more than weight and image. Actually, it’s about all that we hide underneath those things.
Originally written for Making Strides Towards Healthy Lives. I signed and donated books for the event held at Virginia Tech April 27, 2013. I also signed and donated books for a walk to raise awareness about eating disorders held in Washington, DC April 7, 2013.