Monday, December 24, 2012

Weight Loss will not fix your life

I used to believe that if the number on the scale just dropped one pound lower then I would be OK. I would no longer be haunted by the pain of my past. I would be able to handle the fact that I was stuck in a field (engineering) that I hated. I wouldn't be depressed and anxious all of the time. My insecurities would just melt away. I would be perfect; confident, people pleasing without resentment and able to give everything I had to the world without wanting/needing anything in return. I believed with every fiber of my being that if I could just make my body as small as possible, my life would be better. I would finally be happy and loved. I would be able to handle my emotions without being too sensitive and people would like me.

I refused to believe that I had a serious illness and needed help. My safety and comfort were wrapped up in numbers. I clung to calories and the scale for dear life. I couldn't bear to face the things that I was avoiding. Even after entering treatment, I swore that I could be in recovery and still manipulate my body and I tried for months.

Around this time of year, we are bombarded with a bajillion messages about the newest diet and how to go about losing weight the quickest. Everywhere you turn there is an ad about weight loss, claiming that we will be happier, healthier, get the job, promotion, girl/boy if we just shed those holiday pounds. While these messages no longer trigger me and I know that weight loss isn't in my future, I still find them very upsetting. I believe that every person has the right to do whatever they want with their body, but it pains me to see people trying to fix their lives by losing weight or feeling that they need to be smaller in order to be happy, healthy and beautiful. Our bodies aren't the problems, our cultures narrow standard of beauty are.

I have spent and continue to spend long hours in treatment to overcome my eating disorder, as well as all of the underlying pain and problems related to it. I no longer believe that losing weight is the answer. My happiness, worth, comfort, safety and security are no longer dependent on numbers. While I can't speak for everyone, losing weight didn't fix my life or bring me happiness and love, it brought me a 10 year battle with anorexia, wrapped in years of self-hatred, that almost ended my life. I try my hardest to keep from preaching and telling others how to live their lives, but feel that if my story can keep one person from hating themselves or getting caught up in the diet industry, then my struggles and pain have not been in vain. It may seem like everything would be better if you were thinner, but I promise you that your body is amazing exactly how it is and you are more than capable of handling everything that life throws your way. You will be OK, trust me.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healthy Empathy

Whenever something bad happened around me, it used to be a reason to stop eating. If a friend shared a rough day with me, I then had a rough day. If I read something painful in the news, I became overcome with sadness and owned the pain like it was my own. If a friend with an eating disorder relapsed, I then began struggling. If there was a problem in someones life, I ran to the rescue and put all of my effort and energy into helping. In every one of these scenarios I completely forgot about myself. I wasn't important, other people needed me. How could I spend the time taking care of myself when there were so many problems in the world and so many people so much worse off? How dare I be that selfish...

On Friday I shed a lot of tears for the shooting in Connecticut. Just like most other people, I was horrified by such a cruel act and felt (and continue to feel) for each innocent person whose life ended prematurely, especially the children. But I continued to eat every meal and snack. I did not need to force myself to suffer in order to grieve for this incident. No more pain was necessary. Having a good day on Friday, did not mean that I was being disrespectful to those who lost their lives.

Some days I still really suck at this. I am still learning emotional boundaries and how to separate myself from others trauma as well as how to use my empathy and compassion in a healthy way. Some days when I am struggling on my own I have to consciously force myself to remain in my own bubble, in order to adequately take care of myself. As someone who genuinely loves helping others and is a person that others feel comfortable turning to, sometimes this is really difficult. When I see suffering, it's hard to not want to take on others pain and help relieve the burden, but in reality, this isn't helpful. I am not God and I can not save/help everyone and it's prideful to believe that I can. I am slowly learning that I can support a friend, grieve a loss and still take care of myself. I don't need to go through someones exact pain in order to be able to lend an ear or a helping hand. Most importantly, if I am not healthy; mentally, physically and emotionally, then I won't be of service to anyone at all.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Words

Today I sat down with a paint brush and a blank canvas and wrote out every single negative label I have internalized throughout the years. All of the things that other people have said or called me and more importantly all of the things I have called myself. It was incredibly painful yet freeing. When I was younger I remember hearing the phrase "Sticks and stones make break my bones but words will never hurt me." While I have never been in a physical fight before (water polo doesn't count), I believe that words are a lot more powerful than physical actions. Bones heal, scars fade but we never forget the things people say to us, even more so the things that we tell ourselves. As someone who is very sensitive and internalizes things very easily, each of the words on the canvas above have a painful memory and story attached. We can't control the things that people say about us, but we can try our hardest to remember that usually what people say is a reflection of where they are at and probably doesn't have much to do with us. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, we can break the cycle of name calling in our own heads. One of the most helpful parts of my recovery has been recognizing my negative beliefs about myself and the stories behind them. Our bodies, thoughts, feelings, personalities are not the problem, but the stories that we tell ourselves about them are. You have the power to re-write your own story. It's never too late. Challenge those beliefs. Approach them with compassion. Replace them with fierce kindness. And remember, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"