I was reading through tweets yesterday and came across a few of the dietitians retweeting lessons they learned from E. Tribole, the author of Intuitive Eating. I can’t recall the exact quote, but the main idea was that you may not always LOVE your body, but you need to respect it.
I personally need to repeat this mantra several times of day because with the way I am feeling lately; physical respect is not high on my list of priorities.
Remember how I told you looking back at my journals can sometimes help show me the progress I’ve made in recovery. Well it can also serve as a reminder of the cyclical nature this journey tends to have.
Getting healthy is not a linear process. It has peaks, valleys, highs, lows, and tends to get worse before it gets better.
Let me explain. When I first made the decision to change my life of disordered eating and move toward one of actual wellness, I rode high on the wave of ambition and motivation. This lasted approximately a month….until my body began changing, emotions were running wild and the comments started coming.
Comments?! YES. Comments.
One of the things that I find seriously discouraging is when people remark on my appearance. This probably sounds ridiculous to any “normal” person but honestly, when someone comes up to me and says, “Oh you are looking so HEALTHY.” Or “You are looking so much better!” my mind decides to translate this as, “CJ you are gaining so much weight, you are getting fat, stop following your meal plan and ramp up the exercise immediately.”
Yup, as silly as that may sound, that is what those statements, and anything along those lines, mean to me.
Typically I don’t like to throw out numbers because it can be triggering to others, but I am especially sensitive to these statements right now because I have gained enough weight that it is noticeable, to not only me but those around me. My clothing is tighter, my bones are no longer pertruding from my chest, and my arms aren’t sticks but instead have little lumps where my biceps used to be.
Some of these things are good….like the fact that I am gaining muscle is definitely awesome and making me feel strong both mentally and physically, BUT, as I see my clavicle disappear, and my abdomen looking a bit pregnant, I just want to hide and avoid these comments that confirm my biggest fears…fat, rejected, unacceptable, disgusting.
These negative things override any pride I had about getting more fitness abilities, filling my body with whole foods, making strides in therapy, or rekindling relationships I once cherished.
These horrific feelings can take it all away, and in the past have caused me to relapse almost instantaneously. The peanut butter and banana sandwich lunch would be changed into a salad, my reasonably paced walk would be turned into a sprint, and all the trust I gained from my family would immediately be gone because I proved once again that I couldn’t follow through on my plans to become a whole person.
But, because I had my old journals, and read a few entries that demonstrated my past habits of falling off the wagon when these kind of statements were made to, or about me, I attempted to find a new pattern to follow.
“Ryan, how have I changed?”
“CJ I am not entertaining this question, you know no answer will be the right one.”
But in all honestly, I needed a reality check that my body didn’t magically double over night, because as irrational as this sounds, that’s how I felt the entire day, especially after I heard how “healthy” I looked.
When I explained this he was more willing to participate in the conversation and was actually quite helpful.
He told me that it wasn’t as much a physical change in any specific body part, but more my presence, face and demeanor has altered significantly.
I walk differently, smile with my eyes rather than the fake curve of my lips. My neck is no longer simply holding a round object but more engaged in my expression, and the pink of me cheeks is not just from make-up but from actual skin color.
Before, he told me I looked gaunt and lifeless, like a person who simply went through the motions on a day-to-day basis without much passion or exuberance, and now I have a sparkle, not always but more often than I had in the last few years.
My clothing was no longer all black and baggy, v-necks and color were more prevalent. I am again wearing my favorite glitter head bands, and finally seemed interested in topics other than running and food.
I was happy to hear all of things of course, but I was definitely a bit skeptical. There was no way this was IT. My body had to change somewhat because numerically I know the scale is up more than a pound of two.
He looked back at me hesitantly and continued that if I HAD to know the biggest place he sees a change, it was in my sternum, just as I suspected. But unlike my earlier reaction I wasn’t AS devastated.
I would be lying if I told you I was completely ok after hearing this, because gaining weight and physically changing, is not necessarily something I am absolutely excited about. I get way too caught up in the numbers and artificial aspects of recovery sometimes and forget that, like my post said earlier in the week, this process is about gaining way more than weight.
I am gaining a self, a person, a glow that I have been missing for years and maybe people noticing that isn’t such a bad thing.
Not many are drawn to someone who looks sick, tired and run-down, but maybe someone will want to be around a girl with crazy finger-nail polish and be-dazzled headbands? Or a girl who is smiling brightly, and saying hello with confidence. I certainly hope so.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation, I would encourage you to at least TRY to reframe the thoughts that arise, or the perceptions you get, when someone says something to you that might trigger a destructive mind-set.
I have never been one to take compliments well; for example if someone liked my shirt, my brain would automatically resort to “well my shirt yesterday must have been ugly then…” but that’s not true, and I need to remind myself of this continually.
I may not love what I see in the mirror, which causes paranoia when anyone makes statements about my appearance, but I need to remember that for once, I am trying to respect my body.
Love can come later, but it will never be there without proper care. Letting the comments of others influence my path to respect and do the healthy thing for me, is only preventing me from loving myself even further.
So although I still absolutely detest these statements, I am going to repeat the idea that I need to respect my physical-self, to eventually love my whole person.
Do you agree with Evelyn Tribole?
How do you respect your body?