There was a stage where disordered eating was limited to the blogging world; well in my land at least. Somehow in the interim – of concentrating on getting myself on track – I’ve emerged to a topsy turvy state of circumstances. And I don’t like it. To be precise..I despise it. I didn’t think there could be much more of a heart breaking sensation than observing a blogger swallowed in the tide of an ED. Obviously I had no idea what it is like to “see” it from a mind that’s been there; persons that you are fairly well acquainted with displaying and interacting in a way that reveals..ohhh..5 million behaviors that’s headed straight for disaster, if not there yet. I want to scream..and cry: Don’t do this! Please, don’t go that way!! .
With a blogger on another end of the world, there’s still this grey gap of “ignorance is bliss” that I hold onto – because we don’t see everything and we haven’t interacted with them in a variety of occasions where we can make any assumptions.
To that girl a few years younger than me: Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee it happening to you..I guess likewise my family with me. I see you going a similar route that I once rode. I wish I could stop you..beg you. I know there hasn’t been an appropriate time wherein I could probe deep matters (for that I feel almost..guilty) and the few words I’ve brought about fell on deaf ears, judging by your deterring murmurs of “oh, I’m fine, yeah” response. You are vague and distant; your eyes lighting up when prompted to discuss your “healthy” habits, proudly sharing your perfect breakfast of a protein shake..the amazing knack it has for keeping you full until your egg white(seriously?) dinner. There is so much passion in your voice – I feel deflated even before attempting to tell you otherwise (not that you will listen) – when you declare your love for working out intensely every single day …if the day is too full you fit it in before bed. I too did not crave sweets and nary a chocolate seemed irresistible; not because I had staunch willpower like I thought I did, but my taste buds had died it seemed, along with my malnourished soul. I didn’t see the abnormalcy in it either: when I would sit down in a gathering and sip on tea, not an allergy could I supply in my defense..I simply did not feel to eat anything [forbidden]. How did those around me stand to see me behave in that manner? ..To allow me to find my own feet while seeing me crashing to the ground? I legit want to cry in front of you, overwhelmed by the sad reality of what is transpiring within you.
To the beautiful soul who for some reason needed to justify – to me – the reason for consuming cake on a special day in your life. I swear I was not judging (and I never would). You don’t need to feel bad for enjoying some cake on your healthy eating plan; more importantly you do not have to explain it to anybody. I know – by “indulging” – it seems as though you’ve failed and you need to burn off every morsel that passed your lips NOW! I’m not sure what exactly you expected my reply to be, but I’m hoping the words, “a little cake is essential for the soul” – touched you in the right way.
To my exercise-obsessed kinswoman: Following the health-scare I strongly hope you will never go back to killing yourself. I know “easing up” feels like the worse assignment to undertake, but I promise you; keep at it and you will reap the goodness that comes from a transformed mental view.
You know you need to cut the exercise. You are prepared to give your body the rest it needs. You want to heal. Yet it’s so hard. Let me tell you – from my experience – that the difficulty will always be there until you take the risk to rebel against the disordered mindset and break free. I’m sure I am not alone in having awaited an epiphany where it would dawn on me that I do not need to drive myself to death by exercising every day (intensely or otherwise). It never came. Only when I stopped and rested, then restarted – did I view “working out” from a rather thrillingly strange point. I’d say I’m hovering on low impact right now, but one thing is for sure: I am not detesting doing less and thinking of it as a struggle, and a difficult time. I am not yearning to start high-intensity jazz anytime soon because I am happy where I am. My intention is not to present myself as a Miss know-it-all because c’mon, things are always changing and we are continuously figuring where we are in life, but what’s to say that the steps that assisted me can’t help you!?
REPLACE. This may or may not come as a surprise, but I didn’t take up knitting, painting, lego building to occupy free time in lieu of scheduled workouts. Why? There is no time for that. Maybe if I had a passion for that kind of thing, it would be a different story; but that’s neither here nor there. Correct me if I’m wrong but the majority of us lead full, busy lives..over-exercising or not. Fitting in 45 min. of additional exercise after an hour of sporting activity – without exaggerating – had me running around like a headless chicken every.single.bloomin.day. There was no time to breathe..to appreciate..to feel. I was a robot and my life was based on sufficiently draining myself physically and mentally (in the office). Take away the hours of destroying myself every week and life does not change dramatically. It simply becomes…easier. Instead of rushing through everything, I began experiencing it.
REDEEM your self-worth. With beginning to truly experience every little routine task of my day, I realized I love myself. I do. I love to take care of myself and pamper myself. I am a master at turning a mundane shower into an esteemed ritual of care. Turn off that tap and feel the lather of the shower cream, gently massage the shampoo in. Remember: no workout cramped in before that means sufficient time now. I will not spend the day in work-out clothes to prevent myself from weasling out of exercising. If the morning’s events do not run me into the ground, I will get some movement in and I will enjoy it. However, there’s something about piecing together my outfit for the day in accordance to my mood that makes me happy.
Instead of rising earlier to work out – if I’m up for it – I’ll swish oil before preparing a breakfast that adheres to my cravings, without questioning them. I can’t imagine bustling about to work up my heart rate in the AM (something I stood staunch on previously), when I now enjoy taking my time to ready for the day.
REVALUE what exercise feels like to your body. Once I learnt how good it feels to move when I want to instead of following a concrete plan, I started acknowledging the highs and lows of energy signals running through me on a daily basis. I was stuck in this rut where I believed I loved this “rush” that exercise gave me. But in all honesty, I’m not sure I was privy to any endorphin rush at all. There was no margin for a spur-of-the-moment decision based upon how I felt at that particular time; as a result my response to exercise had became insensitive and mechanical, where my utterly exhausted self seemed to have shut down on the world . Not anymore. There is so much fulfillment derived from directing energy and effort into other things with exercise a tiny portion of the magnificent picture.
I am ashamed. For having behaved as though “cutting down on exercise” is the worst endeavour to be carrying out. For reacting as though “resting” is a struggle. Only now do I see things from the viewpoint of my loved ones around me.
Not for a stinking second, did I believe I would arrive at a state of mind where I would be comfortable with my life not evolving around “exercise”. I had consented I was indeed going to rest and recover, but on first contemplation – the idea of slowing down depressed me. How else would I have “me” time? If not by exercising, how would I take care of myself? And that is where I ran into trouble. While exercising is in fact an act of taking care of oneself, it is not even close to the whole picture. Think about it. How damaging to believe that the only form of care is through exerting oneself…and taxing the body more than it can handle at that! It was unpleasantly impossible to comprehend that I might just enjoy life with less exercise. As I started off toying around by easing up for a few weeks, getting the taste of days without having to fit workouts into my already jam-packed schedule – a strange sensation of sorts entered my bloodstream. I began to “experience” life…every little meander outdoors, the fresh air filling my lungs… taking time to leisurely consume my snacks during office breaks…waking up with the prospect of a positively full day, with no space for shoving in a “planned” workout. And loving it. Because taking care of myself is not signified by running 5 k’s, or so many reps of weights, or enforcing an imaginary rule of doing some activity before breakfast. If I want to fabricate things; I’m better off imagining unicorns! I was using exercise as a means of escaping my miserable mood; but surely a daily despondent outlook on life is a warning sign of something deeper. It is not normal to sub-consciously feel anxious every day until I get in the amount of exercise I deem suitable. Every day is gift…every moment a blessing. Why should my energy and time be dedicated to workouts when I can derive indescribable satisfaction from: playing ball with my dog..completing an office project..pondering over my outfit for the day..heading out for dinner with family..relaxing in bed with a book…whipping up a bowl of Oatmeal cookie dough after a busy day.. topped with vanilla ice-cream. Because…do you have a better way? Mentally congratulating Amanda on such a chef-d’oeuvre with every heavenly mouthful.. Ohmygoose! Just go make it. I made a few substitutions to accommodate to what I had on hand: mashed banana for the applesauce, peanut butter, omitted the honey, all purpose flour, and my choice of chocolate chips was 2 squares of chopped 70% Lindt. I assure you the end result was nothing less than magnificent! So as I was saying…I understand. The frustration that met my so called “devotion” to my healthy lifestyle was not selfish on their part. It was normal. Selfish was me, believing that I was ‘suffering’ in my midst of attempting to put an end to self-destruction.
I have no workout program; no agenda of strength training x times a week, cardio on so many days, stretching and so on. Perhaps there will be a time where I will need to have some sort of exercise schedule, but as off now I can’t deny I am loving the liberty of going with the flow. Now that the roller coaster levels of intense fatigue has long passed I find myself enjoying doing a little something every day. Its incredible how sharp my body is..I do not have to make a mental effort to ensure my forms of exercise is kept light, because my body feels tired once I’ve done enough. And that “enough” varies from day to day.
I’m learning so much just by listening. I’m learning that when I feel ‘lazy’ and ‘sluggish’, a little walking and stretching is just what I need to pep me up. After sitting for most of the day and I’m a ball of restless energy – a few intervals of skipping in the fresh air works magic. When I’ve got a good balance of calm and energetic going on, I’ll zen out on my pilates mat. I find pilates to be an utterly thorough workout, engaging the muscles deep within – to successfully carry out a few movements I have to be nicely “in tune”. But the most important thing I have determined: after a few minutes of “moving” I should be invigorated and enjoying the feel of energy running through me. If once the blood is flowing I am struggling and lacking oomph then I need to stop. It’s my body’s way of saying I should be resting today/right now.
The fact that I tire more easily and lack the endless stamina I had once upon a time means nothing to me right now. Never before could I take a random 20 min. walk simply because I want to daydream while my blood pumps through my stiff legs. Funny how pleasant an activity can be when you aren’t doing it to burn off the breakfast you are planning to eat! No longer do I need to get it done with at the break of dawn for fear I will lack the time or energy later in the day. These days I prefer to get moving in the afternoon, so I don’t devote all of my morning energy into exercise when I’ve got a lot of mental work to do. Ten minutes can suffice, abandoning it leaves no guilt, and the only reason I’m moving is because…it feels good.
Its understood that we have to make the choice to recover for ourselves. We cannot succeed if our purpose of healing is for another… the incentive to pull through must come from within. I am not strictly referring to eating disorders; it could be the simple acknowledgement that the body needs to recuperate…that you are underweight…things aren’t in working order – all of which deserves dedicated care. Well, what needs to be done is understood, but there is a little matter of a persons mental anguish getting in the way. Very few are blessed with a perfect body image, many have strived hard to attain a good standing, and the rest of us are optimistically working toward a better place. We know that a healthy mindset is not going to develop overnight, ‘mean voices’ are not going to die down in a “Poof!”. Can you see where I’m going with this? We cannot prolong recovery or weight gain until we are mentally capable to deal with and accept it. How long have you been damaging/overexerting your body? Few months..few years? Don’t let it accumulate to one more day. The negative, berating thoughts are difficult to ignore, but look at it this way. We take on a journey of misery by restricting/over-exercising which in turn serves only to make us more miserable. That can easily be rectified right; eat more when you decide to at some point in life – if you don’t die first – and become happier etc. But did you ever stop to think about the permanent irreversible damage you are doing to your body? When I think I’m attaining some outlandish level of success by ‘controlling’ my diet…what is my idea of ‘achievement’? Is ‘achievement’ having brittle bones, a weakened heart and a body that cannot function the way it’s hypothetically supposed to, just because I think that things are outwardly fine the way they are? This is what has been my driving factor most recently. My health. I have not done any scans or tests to enlighten me of what my bone density is like and so forth. But I can deduce – from certain daily movements – that my bones are quite delicate right now.. and it scares me.
I actually haven’t given my weight much thought these days…it doesn’t matter so much anymore. Who knows how I’ll feel about it in a week? Life is a constant change. I’m just trying to take care of myself.
vanilla ice-cream over a chocolate muffin
Because, nothing is worth destroying yourself for.
As I move through different phases of recovery, I keep thinking “ohhhh so this is now what recovery feels like. I only thought I was in true recovery earlier.” Only to be proven wrong as I enter yet another different period of it. But looking at it as a whole, it is all a continuous part of recovery..ever-changing..mentally and physically. The past week has been..shocking. I thought I had left all the soreness and fatigue behind me in the beginning stages; well what do I know?
Very little Zilch apparently. My body has taken over and is now in charge. I can’t even work up the energy to argue and insist I get in my Pilates session or ignore hunger sensations. For the most part I am anxious and scared, yet..there’s a definite sense of freedom and exhilaration. It’s like jumping off a cliff, but instead of falling to my death I’m suspended on the breeze. At the same time I’m worried that at any moment I may fall..or realize that I don’t like flying and I’d rather be ‘safe’ on the ground but I’m too high up to return. A few months back I thought I had it all figured out; I was going to add in an extra healthy snack and allow myself one treat every single day to increase calories – to gain weight healthfully – all the while keeping up a regular low-impact exercise regimen. Well here I am, I haven’t done any ‘exercise’ for a few days now..my hunger hasn’t decreased as I reassured myself by saying it would and my cravings are all over the show.
I’ve seen a few “Dear Body” letters floating around over time – I can’t recall which blogs exactly – and I simply fell in love with the aspect. I think I would really benefit from writing one to myself right now; to keep me shouldering on, to remind myself why my body may be feeling the way it is and a few of the many reasons that I should honor and take care of it .
I know at times it seems like I couldn’t care less about you; like I’m set on seeing your weaknesses and flaws. But there is a part of me that truly admires you…that respects you for your strength and courage..your ability to pull through. For so long I continued to almost destroy you with my choice of sport with countless of falls that left me battered and bruised. Coupled with fueling you insufficiently, it was a recipe for disaster. Yet your fighting spirit is spellbounding. I was only concerned about what ‘I’ wanted to do, ignoring your welfare and happiness. The rush of adrenaline, the goal of becoming my best at the sport, the joy that I got from performing well…yet how can it be a good thing at the expense of my physical health? How could I be so selfish..when after each injury I couldn’t wait to get back at it, resenting the pain that ‘slowed’ me down. I thought that by stopping what was hurting me and giving you rest would make me appear weak and I couldn’t bear to let my strong shield crumble. I’m sorry for pushing you to do an hour of cardio after playing 50 min. of sport just so I could feel justified in eating cake that day. I will do my best to give you cake on any day you ask for it regardless of how much you moved. I’m trying hard to stop myself from forcing you to move when you feel tired beyond words; I seem to forget that a few years of damage cannot be healed in a matter of weeks. There are so many things I don’t understand about you and I guess it will always be a challenge to keep silent and trust you because you are definitely more intelligent than I give you credit for. I can’t figure out why you seem to become slightly puffy after a little while of being on the move. It was never like that a year or so ago. And after a good night’s rest or a long time of lying down you lose the puffiness. At first I refused to believe that was happening..it seemed so ridiculous. But I’ve seen it on so many occasions that I can’t deny that even light exercise seems to be having a negative effect on you. Is it your way of saying you don’t want to move? I ‘m thinking off cutting out my 3x a week 40 min. walks or bringing it down..but then it seems to be universally accepted that the body needs to get movement at least 150 min. a week. Do I need to make an exception for you? I would so love to magically become in tune with you, to understand what you need, when. But I know it’s going to be a long time of countless trial and error before I can live in harmony with you. The last few nights proved very frustrating for me..when after an hour of trying to sleep I finally picked up on your requests for more food. And the fact that until you got it sleep was out of the question. My mind is too tired to fight you, so for now I’m sure you are happy that I’m handing the reins to you. We can heal together. I know you are wary of trusting me and how can I blame you? I have proven to be the most unreliable of keepers. Yet I only have one of you and I’ll make you this promise: I will do the best I possibly can.
It’s been 3 days. Three days of incredibly intense, mounting fatigue. I don’t know where it came from and how it got here. There were no warning signs..I was feeling pretty energised – for me – most recently and I was actually proud of myself for taking things in the right direction and moving a little every day, instead of taking advantage of feeling well and doing high energy forms of movement which has always backfired and leaves me sapped and sore. I’ve been getting in a decent amount of veggies and healthy fare due to my craving them (who doesn’t love it when they crave fresh, wholesome eats!?). So imagine my
irratation surprise when on Thursday I woke up feeling physically drained. Not in I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time way either – since I am basically unable to shut off in the day anyway – but a I-can’t-move-because-I-lack-the-energy and feel like lead kind of way. As they day progressed it got out of hand worse. I responded without argument by not doing anything ‘extra’ other than my day-to-day movement. Come Friday I felt the same..only 5 times more exhausted. The blood in me just wasn’t pumping. I *almost* feel guilty when it comes to the night and I can’t wait to lie in bed, aware that I have done nothing that day that could amount to such tiredness. I had to remember my promise to myself; that I would listen to my body, and if I had no problem listening when it wanted to move – regardless how slight – then there is no excuse to ignore when it needs rest. Well when the third day dawns and you go through it at an epic level of slow motion because dang, I just felt like complete ludjah <- made-up word right there but it sounds appropriate don’t you think? :p
I even brought up the possibility of low iron/anaemia with my Mum..something I think I could have if the color of my blood is in fact a sure-fire way to go by. The last few times I’ve got into scrapes and such, my blood didn’t appear a very convincing shade of red; almost a slight orangish tinge to it. Yeah I’m getting really descriptive about the shade off my blood..way to run off topic!
So as I was saying – before my blood came into the picture – how is it that I can be hit yet again with such a fatigue I presumed was exclusive to the beginning of recovery? When it runs on for more than 2 days it can be very challenging to keep calm inside, mainly because I believe I am doing everything right in terms of eating enough and not exerting myself.
Any advice or previous experiences will be greatly appreciated 🙂