It has been a really long time since I have posted. A lot has happened since then. And I need to say this up front: If anyone who has an ED is reading this, there is triggering language in this post.
If anyone has been following this blog for any amount of time, you may have noticed that the title has changed. And the sub-title. And the content of this post as opposed to the ones that came before it. There are several reasons for that. Let me share them with you by telling you my story.
This blog started as a way for me to highlight my weight-loss journey. I’ve always been self-conscious about my weight. It started in elementary school. I’ve always been a little heavier than my peers, and it doesn’t help that I am short; that weight gets distributed differently when you are short. I had several girls that I looked up to when I was in school, mostly the cheerleaders. I wanted to be skinny and athletic and have it all together like them! One girl in particular I idolized. She was tall, had the most amazing personality in the world, had the best hair, and was the fastest and smartest. I wanted to have what she had! She loved sports and was really good at them. She was a cheerleader and a basketball player. This is not to say that I wasn’t athletic. I loved participating in sports. I played tee ball when I was little and softball when I got a little bit older. I loved riding my bike. And I loved playing basketball. But I always felt slow and incompetent next to girls like her. It didn’t help that some of them were very judgmental toward me. I think now it would be called bullying, but I didn’t recognize it as such then. I was too busy idolizing them.
During my seventh grade year the basketball team would practice during our gym class. I wasn’t on the team so we were given a different task. The jr./high school had an obstacle course that wound its way completely around the campus, and we were charged with running this obstacle course every day. There were only a few of us that actually did it every day. I was one of them. Before long I could tell I was getting stronger.
One day we were not told to do the obstacle course for some reason. We were allowed to run drills with the team. We were doing a running drill, running the length of the court, when I noticed that I was running ahead of everyone. I didn’t know what to do! No one could know that I was running ahead of them! That would bring attention to me, and perhaps more judgment and ridicule! I purposely slowed down so that I would not be at the front of the pack. The fact that I felt the need to do that still haunts me to this day. I had conditioned myself to think that my place was at the back of the pack, no matter what my ability actually was.
Fast forward to high school. I had moved to a place that was worlds apart from where I grew up. The group of girls who had the body and the friends and the personality was much bigger, and the pressure to be like them was bigger too. I developed an eating disorder the summer before my senior year, losing 50 pounds in a month. I remember when we went back to school in the fall and everyone telling me how good I looked. I started dating a guy who was super hot and on the football team. I learned that when you are skinny, doors open for you. I never made it to the in crowd – I couldn’t really relate to them on any other level, but other things were happening.
The ED has been with me my entire life, and I feel like most of my attempts at dieting have been to try to either control the ED or get skinnier. My brain has always said that the doors will not open for me when I am not skinny. Now that I am older I don’t forget about the chubby me that played softball and basketball and enjoyed moving around, but I have developed a belief that since I am fat I can’t accomplish the things that the younger me did.
When I started this blog I believe that I was on Weight Watchers. I started the program in an attempt to curb the ED that had been plaguing me, as well as lose weight. I figured if I was counting points I would better be able to control what I was consuming and I wouldn’t go on a binge. The opposite happened, though. I would count the points and feel really good about my progress for a few weeks or a month, but then I would feel deprived and go on a huge binge that lasted for weeks, and then feel worthless and like a total failure. This cycle would go on over and over again, and each time I went through the cycle I vowed that I would do better, that I would have better self-control, and I would finally work my way to being the skinny person that I knew was inside me. Each time I failed.
In 2011 I discovered the Paleo Diet and fell in love. It was simple and easy – no counting points, no restrictions other than I couldn’t eat any grains, sugar, or dairy. Of course, I’m over-simplifying it for the purposes of this post, but I really fell in love. Most of the posts on this blog are Paleo related. Most of the hits I’ve gotten on this blog have been Paleo related. The first six months I was on the plan I lost 50 lbs without even really trying. I was simply focused on what I was eating. For five years, I stuck to my own very strict version of the program. And while I was on the program my ED seemed to disappear. Meats and vegetables do not cause as much bloat as grains, and the bloated feeling has always been a trigger for me. But in the five years that I did the program, a new ED seemed to appear. I became more and more restrictive with the program, cutting out anything that did not help me maintain the new “healthy” feeling that I had. I developed an irritable bowel and constantly seemed to have digestion issues, as well as energy issues. I was constantly pushing for a way of eating that helped me maintain the massive energy boost I had at the beginning of my Paleo journey, as well as the wonderful sleep that I had. Toward the end of the journey that was all I was doing was trying to get back into that feeling that seemed to become elusive. Not only that, but in those five years I had gained back every pound of the 50 I had lost, plus some. No amount of tweaking would get any of the weight off. And I was constantly tweaking.
And then, in 2016, I crashed. It was a hard crash, and it began with an experiment. I was really starting to worry that I had developed orthorexia through my restrictive habits, and began slowly introducing foods that were off plan in an attempt to see how I would react to them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Around that same time, a huge load of stress entered my life and I began eating anything indiscriminately. Enter the ED that I grew up in, and I was in a heck of a mess. I tried in vain to get back on the Paleo wagon to curb the ED, but the plan was so restrictive and my stress level was so high that I couldn’t climb back on. I tried for several months. I went to see a counselor, but stopped going when he said that the once a week schedule that we’d had was going to have to change to every two weeks. I tried other things, such as vegetarian/vegan, in hopes that I could calm the ED, but the cycle of self-control/crashing and the continued emergence of the ED through the crashes made it impossible to feel good about anything that I tried. I even tried Weight Watchers again. It simply made the cycle worse.
Then, a friend of mine blogged about her ED journey. Her story touched me because it was similar to mine. She spoke of the Body Positive Movement and how it has helped her to see herself as more than a body, as a person. She talked about how she has a better acceptance of who she is right now instead of trying to change herself to fit the mold society has created. The post and subsequent conversations with her have led me on my own journey to self-acceptance. Granted, she only posted her story a week ago, but my mindset has changed so much in a week. I feel like a new way of looking at life has opened up to me, and I don’t have to be ashamed of my body or my journey.
One thing that I thought about the Body Positive Movement before I started this journey is that the people that are part of the movement don’t care about their health; they just want to justify being fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women and men are tired of trying to fit the societal mold of what a healthy person should look like – thin, six-pack abs, long blonde hair, white, etc. Men’s advertising is just as bad as women’s. They are doing what they can to gain fitness through exercise that excites them, and are doing what they can to promote acceptance of all of the other body types that are out there besides the ones promoted through the advertising industry. They recognize that the diet industry is failing everyone through their promotion of these “ideal” body types, and want everyone to know that all body types are to be celebrated. Just this recognition has lifted so much stress off of me, especially the stress of trying to conform to the expectation to be thin. It has led me to believe that there are better avenues to health than the cycle that I have been on for years. It is time for me to break that cycle and be proud of who I am and what I can accomplish. While I am still struggling and will continue to struggle for some time, I am reaching for resources that I didn’t know existed that are helping me feel better about me and are helping me realize that I don’t have to be ashamed of who I am or what I look like. It is that shame that led to the ED, and it is the building up of confidence through these resources that will help me move beyond the ED and into a better, healthier frame of mind.