If you missed My Food and Body Story: Part 1 & Part 2 you’ll want to go check them out HERE and HERE before reading below. For those who’ve kept up with my story, I know I left off in a dark place. Sorry for the suspense and once again thanks for reaching out via comments, emails, texts, social media, etc. I think you will all give a big sigh of relief upon reading Part 3. I know I did upon living it.
When we left off in Part 2, I was trapped in the restrict/binge cycle. My mind, body and spirit were broken.
Eventually, the pain proved too much for my attempts at independent recovery. I was left with only two choices: either I would lose my pride and get professional help, or I would lose myself (if I hadn’t lost her already) attempting to achieve “perfection.” So, in one of the most humbling experiences of my life, I hired a holistic health coach – one with her own history of destructive eating behaviors and her own amazing story of recovery too. Jamie was a godsend. And I am continually grateful for that still, small voice within that led me straight to her (and the VERY DEEP voice of my husband who gently pushed me forward). Over the course of several months, we worked through the thoughts and circumstances that took me down the diet/binge road. We discussed the “whys” of body-hate and compulsive eating along with the “hows” of moving beyond them. I learned that there was more to my eating and exercise behaviors than the size of my pants or the calories in a peanut butter cup. So, through tons of personal exploration, mindset transformation, self-compassion and deeply moving challenges, my coach encouraged me to accept my body and love my life again. She taught me to pursue my passions and be confident in my truths no matter how “outside of the box” they were. During our time together I rediscovered the freedom that comes from being authentically and unapologetically me. It was from that place that I also found relief from food fears and body hate.
In addition to working with my amazing coach, I became committed to researching the biology and psychology of human eating behaviors. As a lover of science and all-things-medical, I enjoyed reading medical journals and university studies for facts on dieting, starvation, metabolism, stress, weight and the mind-body connection. Through learning about the human body, I once again fell in love with my own. I realized that her apparent failings were actually loving attempts to keep me alive. Binges were not rebellious acts – they were heroic ones. My body was starving for the nutrients I was limiting (like carbs and fat) while my mind was planning the next “famine.” She fought to save me, consuming massive amounts of food in order to store the vitamins and minerals that would later be depleted via my intended restriction. She reacted lovingly by discontinuing my ability to procreate when she knew I couldn’t possibly provide for a baby the balanced nutrition I wasn’t providing for myself. She blared bright neon signs of “something’s wrong here” in the only way she knew how – digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, hypothalamic amenorrhea (missing periods) and desperate sprints to the refrigerator. I abused her, overworked her, starved her and stuffed her – but she kept on functioning for my benefit. This revelation was my “Aha!” moment. It completely turned my disordered behaviors around. Once I realized that my body was my ally, not my enemy, and that she was determined to keep me alive by protecting me from malnutrition and starvation – I began to look at her differently. For the first time in a long time, I respected my body. I listened to her. I honored her.
I LOVED HER.
My food choices became, simply that – choices. I made eating decisions intuitively based on cravings, preferences and what felt right in the moment. No longer influenced by meal plans or diet books, I was back to consulting the expert – ME. I learned the language of my body all over again – and I began to trust what she was saying. I stopped weighing myself, counting calories and fat grams, measuring body parts, or portioning snacks and meals. I also stopped attempting to manipulate my appearance through exercise. Rather than working out in order to change my body, I chose to engage in movements that nurtured her. Often this meant taking walks outside, sometimes it meant running intervals, swinging kettlebells or – RESTING. I began to check in with my intuition and did what felt presently inspiring. No plans, programs, or wagons to fall off of! And guess what – I didn’t end up diving face first into a bottomless box of Double Stuff Oreos or lounging for days with glazed eyes watching One Tree Hill reruns – as I had feared I might. These new choices didn’t ruin me – they freed me.
Now, I move, eat, rest and play when and how I want to and I do it in a vessel that I adore, imperfections and all. *For those of you who are wondering if my body changed once I stopped trying to force it into submission – the answer is yes. In fact, it continues to change like all bodies do. My clothes fit more comfortably (though I don’t weigh myself and can’t provide any numbers), my health has improved, my hormones are balanced (I may or may not have cried tears of joy when my periods returned), GI issues are gone, inflammation disappeared, my sleep is sound and all the while my stress is (usually) minimal and my mind, clear. The process was slow and peaceful, as most good transitions are. And although I hesitated to mention physical changes at all – convinced that the internal transformation is what matters most – I figured you might be curious. Plus, I’m thrilled to have improved my health through relaxing around food and loving this body of mine. “Letting myself go” never felt so good.
|(This is a photo from two days ago when I started writing my story.
Not planned, not filtered and certainly not perfect.
Just me: happy, healthy and comfortable in my own skin again.)
I’m not sure why we sometimes need to relearn things we once knew – but, I’m thankful for second (and third and fourth) chances. In college, I often spoke the phrase “Think of all the women on the Titanic who passed up the dessert tray.” It inspired me to follow my gut and make pleasurable choices. Ironically, it speaks of restricting food, but the expression means something more – it means taking chances, pursuing dreams and living a story without regret. I forgot about the Titanic for a few years. But, today I remember.
Dieting, over-exercising and self-loathe created one of the most tumultuous chapters in my life story, yet one I’m happy to have experienced. It challenged me, it changed me and it motivated me to stop wasting time fitting molds and chasing “perfect.”
I’ll continue to write this story of mine for as long as I have the gift of breath in my lungs, never erasing a sentence behind or abridging the ones ahead. Though much remains a mystery, I have a few ideas about where it’s leading – continued self-love, spending time with my people – my family and friends, finding splendor in ordinary moments, shamelessly pursuing joy, walking through open doors, and obtaining my education in eating psychology. Soon, with the wisdom of my personal experience and professional certification, I will coach others through the dark days of their own diet obsession and body hate seasons. I will listen, love and gently encourage them to write a new chapter just as I continue to write my own. Though there will likely be, between the breathtaking and beautiful moments, some surprising twists and turns – I plan to remain fully invested in the plot of this one precious story. I am, after all, the heroine. I know that when the inevitably dark moments pass there will once again be kisses and dancing and castles and feasts. Lots and lots of feasts. So, I’ll show up, take my seat at the head of the table and indulge. I’ll focus on my company, on the beauty of creation represented in the people and plates before me. I will admire the music and the art and the sunset horizon.
And I will eat.
In case you missed it:
This post represents the “happily ever after” of My Food and Body Story – but I know that for many of you reading – you’ve yet to discover your own fairytale ending. Please, know that there is HOPE. Unhealthy, unloving thoughts and behaviors around food and body can be overcome. Please reach out if you have questions, comments or want to work together. You can do so by commenting below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.