Looking back: Why we need to love who we were

In starting teachers college, I’ve done some looking back on my social media and internet presence to make sure that my digital self is not doing anything that a teacher ought not to do. I’m kind of the one who’s always arguing for safety first and going home from parties early, so there wasn’t too much fear that I’d find anything I need to hide.

In the process, I started to come across photos of myself over the years. One of the things I noticed was the way I would look at some pictures and want to judge my body in them. When I started to think about it, I tried to be compassionate. That girl—whether she was big or small, smiling or pretending to smile—is part of who I am today. It is hard when I look back to not be a little upset with myself—How could I starve myself? And how could I binge and purge? And what would my life be like if I hadn’t spent so long hating and abusing my body? What would I be doing? How would my body be now? The questions could go on for days.

But I know that there’s power in acceptance. I know that I cannot go back and change things. And I also know that just as I encourage my personal training clients not to look at their “before” photos and beat themselves up or feel bad about them, the person we were years ago, 6 months ago, or at the start of our journeys is the person who made us into who we are today.

remember where you come from

Anyone who has gone through a recovery process or who has undergone some kind of transformation (from an eating disorder, around their weight, through an addiction) should give some credit to who they were in the throes of their issues. It was that person who found the strength, the motivation, and the means to start the process of becoming who we are now and who we will be in the future.

suffering start

Looking back and feeling ashamed is a disservice to who you are now. We have to be okay with where we’ve been, and I argue that we have to be proud of who we were then just as much as we ought to be proud of where we are now—on whatever journey we might be on.

love yourself as if

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Recovery: 10 Truths I Wish I’d Known

It is Wednesday, which is usually a pretty boring day. But this Wednesday happens to be smack dab in the middle of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which deserves a little recognition. In the fashion of all the “10 thing I wish someone had told me before I…” articles that float around the interwebs, here are ten truths about recovery that I wish someone had mentioned to me back in the day:

  1. You will learn more about yourself than ever before. So many people go through their lives never questioning the way they think about or talk to themselves. Recovery will force you to think about these things and will expose those not-so-self-serving beliefs that your gremlin has convinced you to think. It will also give you the opportunity to reframe them.
  2. You will get angry. I have never been so mad at myself, at the people in my life, and at society in general as when I was going through recovery. Processing that anger is part of the journey.
  3. You will get sad. It is sad to think about the time, energy, and life we lost to an eating disorder. I will never get another chance to, for instance, go to my sister’s wedding and not throw up in the bathroom. But I will get the chance to live every day of my life from here on out without hurting myself, and the sadness I feel is a sign that I recognize that I deserve—and have always deserved—more self-love.
  4. People say that it will be hard, but it will be hard. Like crying your eyes out because you don’t think you can do it hard. Like your best friend is starting a sugar detox while you are trying to normalize your eating by having a bowl of ice cream tonight hard. Like someone close to you doesn’t get why you don’t just lose weight if you hate your body but you know it’s not about the weight Like getting rid of the cute clothes that only fit when you were doing things to your body that you never want to do again hard. Like every day needing to remind yourself about the reasons that you care enough to keep trucking along hard.
  5. It gets easier. Think of something you’ve learned that was extremely difficult at the beginning when you were just learning, but got easier and easier over time and now feels like second nature. I’m thinking of driving. Just like driving, if we’re used to a disordered relationship with food and our bodies, living a life where we take care of ourselves is a brand new thing. I wanted to lose weight since I was a little girl—of course it was going to feel foreign to start to focus on wanting to love myself and take care of myself. But just like learning to drive, we can learn new habits.
  6. You’re going to make mistakes. To go back to the driving analogy, the first night I got my license I scratched another car—no lie. Did I stop driving? Nope. The same goes for your recovery process. Binge the first night you have decided to start working with a dietitian to help you? You can dust it off and start again. A “relapse” is not a reason to give up—it’s an opportunity to see what went wrong and to learn from it so that you can do better from there on out. Curiosity and the ability to forgive yourself will go a long way.
  7. You are going to inspire others. If you tell your story, you will inspire people. I know that talking about my own eating disorder was scariest at first. I also know that I’ve touched people’s lives and helped them take steps in the right direction. That is a rewarding thing.
  8. You are going to doubt yourself. You will run into someone who seems more confident than you about something: that carbs are going to kill you, that you should never eat chocolate, whatever. And you will want to believe them. But…
  9. You are going to learn to trust yourself. In our world, there are people who literally live off of convincing you to hate your body. There are entire industries that capitalize on confusing people about what to eat. We need to limit our exposure to the kinds of things that try to convince us that we are wrong or broken and to throw us off of our healthy paths, but when we are forced to encounter them, there is only one thing to do: stand strong and stand up for yourself.
  10. It will also be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. At some point, you’re going to look back and see how far you’ve come. You’re going to realize that you are a whole different person with a whole different orientation to your life.  For me, that meant the shift from wanting to survive to wanting to live. That’s a pretty big deal and something absolutely to be proud of.

happppppy

Wherever you are on the beautiful journey that is recovery, I hope you stop and give yourself some credit. Looking back like I had the opportunity to do in writing this is such a good way to reaffirm what we are doing. If you are struggling, and not sure where to start, I encourage you to keep educating yourself–read a book, but also to reach out–to a dietitian, to a friend, to a therapist, to a counsellor, to a loved one, to a doctor. You are not alone, and you are worth recovery! 

resiliency, hormones, and trusting the process

The 24th day of Molly’s love your body challenge calls us to appreciate and celebrate the resilience of our bodies–something I talked about a few days ago. I talked about how my body has bounced back from all the crazy things I’ve done to it and how amazing it is that our bodies fix themselves even if we wrong them.

One of the ways I’m most in awe of my amazing body is in terms of the way it’s come to a happy hormone place for the first time in years. WARNING: I’m going to talk about girly things here.

I got my period when I was 11 years old. At the time, I was excited–I always liked passing milestones earlier than my older sister had, and I’d beat her on this one (if this isn’t testament to my competitive nature, I don’t know what is). I had regular periods for the next 5 or so years and never gave my hormones much thought.

When I started to get into the world of dieting and exercising more, I started to have some hormonal issues: migraines, some facial hair I wasn’t too excited about, and missing periods. At the time, the migraines and the hair were obviously reasons for concern, but I sort of celebrated not having a period. I was irregular enough that I brought things up with my doctor. Usually, I ended up taking a pregnancy test–when I graduated high school, I’d KISSED two boys and maybe held the hand of three, so this was always funny to me–but eventually I started to see specialists. By the time I’d graduated from high school (and put on some weight after hitting a low point in my eating disorder story and starting to work with a dietitian and a psychologist), I was still having odd periods. I’d tried the pill, something that lots of doctors will recommend, but my migraines were worse whenever I gave it a shot.

Somewhere along the line, I realized what not having my period meant. Even as I dabbled more in disordered eating and lost a lot of weight in university, I wanted my period back. I didn’t want to take a birth control pill anyways. I thought of it as a band-aid and I knew that if I took it, it would be too easy to ignore the fact that I literally wasn’t doing the right things for my body to function the way it was supposed to. I knew that not having a regular cycle meant my hormones were out of whack, which scared me mostly because I knew what that meant for my bones: namely, I wasn’t doing all the bone building I was supposed to during the years of my youth. I wasn’t really thinking about babies, but I knew that long term I didn’t want to be struggling with fertility issues. I’d had warnings from people around me and I read about the female athlete triad all over–both of my own volition and in my sports nutrition textbooks, for instance. This fact sheet does a pretty good job of summarizing things, in my opinion. Given a bone scan that scared the crap out me, my admittedly messed up eating, and my missing periods, I knew that this was describing me. Giving a name to what was going on made it seem more pressing and made recovery all the more important, in my mind.

What I really struggled with was the weighting (I meant to spell it that way) game. I was told that part of my recovery would be getting to a happy weight where my body would function properly again. I was also told that once I got to a healthy weight, it might take time for my body to start to produce hormones again. I was concerned that I would go heavier than I needed to while I was waiting, wrongly thinking that I hadn’t gained “enough” weight.

What happened for me, and I hope that if you’re struggling with this now, was being patient and trusting that my body would weigh what it needed to to sort itself out. What I found was that at a certain point, it didn’t matter too much whether I upped my exercise or tried to “eat healthier” or whatever–my body was pretty comfy at a specific number. Then, that number changed. And then it stabilized again. And after about a year of being at that weight, I started to get my period. Like clockwork. It was a miracle. I think I might be the only girl who would text her mother and friends in excitement over that time of the month rolling around. It’s been about a year of this steady stuff and it feels so good to know that my body’s doing what it needs to do. I’ve fluctuated within 5lbs all this year and I think that being consistent with making sure that I eat enough–of food in general but also of fat and carbs and protein so that I have the energy, the raw materials, etc. to make hormones–has been part of this stability.

If you ARE struggling with missing your periods, my advice to you is to be patient with your body and to keep in mind that not having your period means something is up: maybe you’re not eating enough, maybe you’re exercising too much, maybe you’re not eating consistently enough (i.e. restricting all week and bingeing on the weekend–your weight stays steady, but you’re still not nourished in this case), maybe something else is up. Call on professionals to help you–doctors, dietitians, and naturopaths were on my side in the process. Most importantly, take it seriously. Your body is trying to tell you something!

trust the process

Have you struggled with your hormones? What helped you get back on track?