This was a very difficult one for me to write…but damn it felt good. 🙂
Today I am pausing on a recipe, and adorable animal pictures, and focusing on something near and dear to me: being healthy & taking care of my body. I’m hoping this post will be the beginning an ongoing conversation I want to continue with y’all because I know there are so many of you out there who share a similar struggle.
The struggle is real.
To begin, I want to tell you a story about me.
I started the W&W blog because when I began blogging a few years ago I had an enormous outcry of support from family and friends, and from people I didn’t even know. Several women reached out to me about their ongoing, personal struggles -I even had friends I’d known for a long time email and text me to share their stories. At the time, I had no idea that so many of them shared a story similar to mine.
What is this “story” that I’m talking about?
An eating disorder. Yep, that’s right. I said it out loud – something I never thought I would do, but once I did, I felt like a huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. This isn’t a story I’ve talked about much on W&W, and I keep making excuses not to share, until a few weeks ago when some of my old thoughts and feelings came back to haunt me again so I started writing. And writing. And eventually I came up with this post.
So here goes…
Today’s story: A good body isn’t hard to find. Just look in the damn mirror.
Just an average girl. As a young girl, I did what most young kids do, I ignored my body. Sure, I had allergies, struggled with asthma, the common cold, pneumonia (this one scared mom)… If I ate too much sugar I would get a tummy ache…blah blah blah, etc. etc... But I was never fully aware of my body and I didn’t pay much attention to it.
Then I became a teenager (insert high pitched scream here) . Things began changing rapidly, I got my period, hormones were going crazy, and suddenly, I was overly aware of my body and I began treating it like an enemy.
I had a mangled view of what beautiful was supposed to look like. Sounds like almost every teenage girl ever, right?
Perhaps my view was mangled because there wasn’t a whole lot of girl power, self-esteem talk back in the mid to late 90’s (whoops, I just aged myself). And if there was, I sure missed it. My only sources were my surroundings – magazines, peers, pop culture. Oh, and let’s not forget the girl groups TLC and the Spice Girls…
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…
I really really wanna chase waterfalls…oh wait…
I truly don’t know why my self esteem wasn’t soaring back then- some people say women are more likely to develop some kind of an eating disorder when they have family or other personal problems, but I didn’t have any of that. I had a lot of friends, a wonderful and supportive family, I was athletic, I received good grades. People loved me. So why didn’t I love me?
Suddenly, and without realizing it at the time, my teenage doubts were manifesting in a negative way. A dangerous one.
Even though my body was allowing me to do incredible things – basketball, pole vaulting, running, hiking with friends, I would look in the mirror and think…
I hate you. I mean, I really hate you.
Fact: About 24 million Americans struggle with some kind of eating disorder.
Fact: 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported in engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating.
It started my senior year of high school, but it took a turn for the worse when I was a freshman in college. Freshman fifteen strike any chords? Well, I didn’t gain the freshman fifteen, I gained the freshman 25. I reached close to 150 pounds, when I normally fluctuate between 120-125. When this happened I felt like I was losing control of my body, so for a good year and a half I started starving and overworking it. I remember days when I would spend two hours at the gym in the morning, go back to my apartment for an hour to recoup, then go back to the gym. And for what? Sure, I succeeded in my efforts, and I lost a bunch of weight, but my body was screaming at me.
Frail and exhausted, I stopped going out with friends (I even lost a few of them), my energy level plummeted. It became a struggle to want to do anything.
I felt isolated. All I wanted was for someone to tell me that I wasn’t broken and I was going to be okay. But how could I expect that when no one knew what was going on inside of me? Through it all, I had no idea that so many people around me were going through the same problem, on varying levels.
My behavior turned into what we can officially call an eating disorder (there you go, I said it again). No, I was never officially diagnosed, but I knew I had one. And it was at a time when talking openly about it was such an awkward thing, so no one did. Including myself.
Finally, I woke up and I began seeing what was happening. I looked like shit. I felt like shit and I wanted out. It was a harsh reality.
Even though I can talk (almost) openly about it today, I admit, I’m still upset at myself for the whole thing. And this is one of the reasons I’m writing about it today – maybe I’ll inspire one of you to talk about it without feeling shameful like I sometimes do. Guess what? There’s this little thing called life, and we all go through it. And along with life comes a lot of shit, and we all go through that too. Hopefully, we can find comfort in going through some shit together. 🙂
Flash forward to now. 2016. Am I better? Yes, I’m much better. But am I perfect? Absolutely not. Crawling out of the giant rabbit hole didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I still have negative thoughts about my body, but I would never go back to that scary place I found myself in back then. But for the most part, I am so lucky and thankful that I came out of it.
How did I come out of it?
Simple. I’m learning to love my body again.
I’m also realizing that true beauty comes from the inside. Such a cliche I know, but so many young girls (and boys) are never taught this simple fact. So much beauty lies in each and every single one of us, but the world will never see it until you believe in yourself.
Trust me, I’m still working on it too.
It took me a long time to realize that I would probably always have problems with my body. As a society, we are taught to find flaws and to fix them. We have medical issues and we fix them, we have physical issues and we fix them. Is it any wonder why we look in the mirror and almost all we see are flaws that we want to fix?
And let me say that learning to love your body doesn’t magically happen when you lose weight. For a long time I was very thin and I still wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror. I was thin, but I wasn’t healthy.
It was just a number on a scale.
At 33 years old, I’m forgetting about the number on the scale, and instead I choose to focus on things I love: family, animals, nature, yoga, writing, healthy food, feelings, words, Bryan. I’m also trying to turn my challenges into positive outcomes – like sharing this post with y’all in hopes that I’ll give back to some of those still struggling.
Here are a few other things that helped me beat my obsession:
2- Stop counting calories. There are those damn numbers again. I don’t know about you, but I never really liked math anyway, so ditch these numbers too. Focus on your overall health.
3- Learn. Teach yourself about nutrition. It really is a beautiful thing. Learn about the components of food, digestion, physiology, etc. It’s interesting and you may discover how much you really love it! I no longer view food as how many calories it has. Instead, I appreciate how complex nutritious foods are and what they do for my body. Our bodies are incredible!
4- Get outside. Nature is a beautiful thing. Learn to appreciate it.
5- Don’t compare. This is a big one for me. I used to compare myself to other women. She has bigger boobs, a smaller waste, longer legs…blah blah. It’s a vicious cycle that will never end until you just STOP IT! There will always be someone out there who’s better at something than you, or that has something you want. But guess what? You probably have something they want too. Honestly, have you ever met someone who said “I absolutely love everything about myself?!” Most likely not. Commit to accepting yourself.
It’s a long road my friends, but I assure you, it’s worth traveling.
Sharing this story was not easy – it’s been sitting in “drafts” for a few days now, but I finally hit the “publish” button because if I can make one person feel less isolated, it is worth it.
Now let me ask you a favor. Please join me in this conversation. Leave a comment, reach out to me, share your story. I would love to hear it. We are all in this together.
And if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it here, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
Here are a few other women who have helped inspire me:
Jenna, The Love Bomb Company
Kathy Patalzky, HealthyHappyLife.com
And P.S. You’re like super pretty. 🙂 Don’t forget it.