Being There, Being Here

The shitty thing about eating disorders is that they are the ultimate self-absorption.  You become so convinced that your body is unacceptable that you have to create a whole narrative framework to make yourself okay.  And you become so attached to that framework that anything that doesn't reinforce it feels like a threat.  You lose sight of people you like, people you care about, in the process of feathering that odious nest, of building walls around yourself brick by brick.

It came to my attention today that I'd been a schmuck to one of my friends.  Rather than building a fortress of fragile self-righteousness to protect myself from the pain of being wrong, I've decided to examine where I went off the rails and open myself up to that discomfort.  

I was dismissive and judgmental of this friend because what she wanted to do in her own fitness journey contrasted strongly with mine and I perceived that as a threat.  

Not competition, as I think would be easy to assume.  I know other people are thinner and prettier than I am - after all, there's always someone better looking and more fit than you, isn't there?  But more because it felt like if she went that direction, she would no longer be one of us, part of Team Finish. And that felt sad and scary.  I felt a little abandoned, concerned that the support network I'd tried so hard to build would crumble.

I also felt a bit lost, because the tack she was taking was something she'd warned me off in the past.  It took me awhile to remember that just because one path is right for one woman, it may not be right for another, and that that is always okay.

You may not know what it's like for someone in recovery from an Eating Disorder to be exposed to someone else's restrictive eating plan, no matter how awesome or well-intentioned it may be.  This article from Choosing Raw really helped me get some clarity about what I was feeling.  

When I hear about these regimes, I feel two things. The rational, mature half of me feels a sense of sympathy, because I know that flirting with deprivation is almost always bound to backfire. There’s also an irrational, petulant, and stubborn part of me that hears these things and feels an instinctual urge to compete. To interject with my own nutrition expertise, or (much worse) to prove that I’m no less capable of incredible feats of self-discipline. I don’t act on the impulse, which is good, but the whole thing leaves me unnerved and insecure.

You can have a great relationship with food, a restored relationship with your own body, and many years of recovery behind you and still feel triggered by what I call “food noise”: that great nimbus of conversation that includes, but is not limited to, detoxes, weight loss initiatives, slim downs, tone ups, dietary reboots, and/or lessons in why a particular food is the devil, or why a bite of some other suspect ingredient is sure to make you fat, sick, and nearly dead. And if you’re anything like me, the fact that these moments make you feel anxious becomes yet another source of grief, because there’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that you’re just a little more tender and vulnerable than you thought you were.
— Choosing Raw

Ultimately, I want to be the best friend I can be.  That is hard, sometimes, as I grapple with my own insecurity about my recovering body.  It can be hard to figure out what is right for me, independent of everyone else, especially if that person is someone I look up to.  

It also just goes to show that you're always at the bottom of one mountain, even if you've just scaled another.  I'm always learning.  This is still new to me, and that's okay.  

I feel badly that I hurt my friend's feelings by being unsupportive.  I've apologized, and I hope she accepts.  After all, we all need a little support when things are hard.  I think I'm ready to be there for her now, even as I honor where I am right now.


Don't Forget to Look Back

I'm someone who looks forward a lot.  If you know me in person, you also know I document quite a bit as I go along, but I rarely actually look backwards, which seems kind of funny to me now.  Why document all of this stuff if I don't look at it that often?

It's for days when I want to locate a happy memory.  It's also useful for seeing how far I've come.

As part of honoring my body's journey, I decided to check out some photos of me in the past and see if I noticed anything.  These are from 2008 (sorry about the picture quality):

I clearly had not yet learned how to stand up straight or pose for pictures.  Also, this sweater? Not flattering.

I clearly had not yet learned how to stand up straight or pose for pictures.  Also, this sweater? Not flattering.

And another, a little later in the year, after I'd gone on my first stint of trying to eat healthy and hit the gym, in order to be in better shape for my wedding.

Cute shoes!  I wish they'd lasted.

Cute shoes!  I wish they'd lasted.

Better fashion, better pose, and I look happy. 

Here's two from the past few months:

This is my partner's way of trying to be "arty".  I think the angle is silly, but the outfit was cute.

This is my partner's way of trying to be "arty".  I think the angle is silly, but the outfit was cute.

Dress, cute booties, statement necklace.  BOOM.

Dress, cute booties, statement necklace.  BOOM.

My thoughts:

  • Even I, with my disordered, dysmorphic brain, can tell there's a difference.  I look a lot stronger, especially my arms.
  • My face looks a little more defined.
  • My tummy isn't so prominent.  That could be because I learned how to pose better, and dress my body to disguise it, but I also just think it's a bit flatter.
  • Also, hello, my fashion sense has really evolved.  Wow.  I dress like a damn grown-up now.

This is why this exercise is important: if we are dissatisfied with where we are now, seeing progress from where we were can really help.  It puts things in perspective. 

Over the last 6 years, I've changed a lot.  I may not be a skinny minnie, but I'm a lot of other things - fashionable, cute, happy, fit, and strong.  And that matters. 

Today, I wish to honor the progress I've made, both physical and incorporeal.  I want to affirm that I'm more accomplished, strong, compassionate, thoughtful, socially responsible, wise, and kind, than I was 6 years ago.  That's something to be proud of, and to acknowledge.

Once I've acknowledged it, I can thank  my body, brain, and soul for getting me here, and then gently let it history go to focus on the challenges of today.

Have you thought about how far you've come?  What markers show you that you've made progress?

Honoring the Journey

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, more than I probably ever have, with body image.  My teachers have told me in the past that this is probably a good sign—when we are close to transformation is often when we struggle the most.

It’s funny: I know the most about body dysmorphia and weight gain/loss, and body composition, and the rest of it, than I ever have, and yet my negative self-messages are at an all-time high.  Usually, even when I’m not liking my body, I can find something, one thing, I love about myself.  My hair is a good one; I have great, thick, healthy hair.  But even my hair isn’t doing it for me lately.  That, combined with a bunch of changes due to hormones (going off the pill is a bear) is making me feel like the careful equilibrium I’ve maintained over the years is slipping, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Lacy said to me in an email a few weeks ago, “You may just have to accept that you’ve gained weight.”  When I first read that, I felt like I’d been punched.  What?  Accept that I’ve gained weight?  No way!  That careful web of denial and telling myself “it’s not that bad” have been working for me.  It’s comfortable.  And furthermore, admitting that would be accepting defeat!  But she was on to something, I think, and I’m going to expand on it.

It is only when we can accept where we are right now, and honor our body’s journey, that true change can become possible.

We say this stuff a lot, right?  But I think there’s a little holdout voice in everyone that thinks, Oh, yeah, I know, but if I could just do X, if I could just lose X, if I could insert-your-own-adventure-here, I could accept myself.

No.  Now.  

I have to accept that I’ve gained some weight, but more than that, I need to honor the journey that my body has been through.  You know what?  We don’t always have control over our bodies.  I certainly have no control over these hormones coursing through me.  If I have a baby, I most definitely will have very little control over my body’s transformation.  As we all get older, we have no damn say in what happens.  This weight gain?  It’s practice.

It’s practice for letting go.  Ultimately, it’s not up to me, what my body becomes.  I certainly have some say—I can choose to feed it whole foods, move it in a way that brings me joy, get enough rest to replenish it, and nourish its spirit by honoring it and turning in, rather than tuning out.  But—nature has a part to play in this too.

I might have these grandiose ideas about being a size 6, but it may just not be in the cards.  It may be more important for me to work not on a perception about who I should be, but on being my best self in any given moment.  And that person might be someone whose arms are so ripped from pull-up practice that they hardly fit in her damn blazer.  But is that really so important, that blazer?  It’s just a thing.  What’s important is the journey, the holistic view of a person.  My arms, out of context, would bother me.  My lame inner voice would default to assuming that I’m a lazy, self-indulgent fatass, who has ever-expanding upper extremities.  But I know that I’m an athlete recovering from a Plantaris injury who worked solidly on upper-body strength for 6 weeks, and thus, have biceps that make boys cry.

It’s all about context.  We are mothers, weightlifters, single ladies, partnered ladies, yoginis, aerial enthusiasts, roller derby players, older gals, ladies with muscles, and scars, and rolls, and freckles, and all kinds of other rad body parts, that all come together to form strong, awesome, complicated women.  (And men.  Do men read my blog?  Hey dudes, you’ve got bitchin’ bods too.)

So yeah, there may be stuff I wish I could change, but that’s not all there is.  I’m not just a walking bunch of goals.  I’m a complex, strong, whole person, who’s traveled far to be where she is.  And I’m not going to count myself a failure just because my blazer is a little tight today.  I’m too smart for that now.