Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘weight’

Someone from a wonderful, supportive online community that I am a member of responded to a post I had written about the progress I had made in recovery. In her response, she indicated that at times she had been a little worried because my behaviour had perhaps seemed less recovery-oriented than it should have done. But I insisted I was fine, so she didn’t say anything. And she suggested that maybe it was just a necessary step that I had to take.

Writing a response to her, I was really able to think things through and gain more clarity on the issue. What I wrote came off the top of my head but I think it explains where I am, and how I got here, quite succinctly. So I’ve copied and pasted it here… because why rewrite something that came from such an honest place?

 

I think it was a necessary step. And I was fine, absolutely. Sometimes I wasn’t eating quite enough for my own body’s needs (considering the level of exercise), but what I was eating was probably what most people eat during the day. The excessive control meant that I didn’t indulge as much as I do now, or if I did I put way too much thought into it. It didn’t come naturally. But day to day, I was enjoying food, eating plenty of it, cooking healthy meals and feeling a kind of freedom that I had never experienced in adulthood.
But you start to want more. When I first started to recover, I was pleased with myself if I managed to eat three meals and healthy snacks. Just basic stuff. If I got up, and regardless of how I felt or what the scale said, I ate breakfast. That gave me a sense of pride. After a while, the pride wore off. It became routine. It wasn’t enough just to eat three meals. I got good at doing that, and so I had to take it a step further.

That’s all recovery has ever been, and at no point do I think I could have done any better. I have been completely aware of where I am at all times. When I was being too rigid, I knew it. But I had no choice. It was where I needed to be. It was the stepping stone between completely disordered and completely healthy. Well, there are many stepping stones along that path and I’m still somewhere in between the two, although a lot nearer to completely healthy.

I got to the point where I was learning to indulge without feeling guilty (although I actually started in recovery that way…not feeling guilty, enjoying little indulgences…but when the novelty of recovery wore off, I let some of the old guilt creep in). And then I was still so reliant on the scale. But I managed to break free of the calorie counting. And I needed the scale still there. Reassurance.

Well I guess now I’ve taken another step along the path and don’t need the scale anymore. Or I’m learning not to. I’ve had two years to play around with my body and what it needs. I’ve dropped weight, I’ve gained a little and now I think I have a good, intuitive grasp of what it needs to maintain considering the training that I do (when I’m not injured). I think recovery is different for everyone. Maybe some people go straight into not weighing themselves, not counting calories…just like that. I couldn’t. At times I felt like maybe I should have been stricter with myself. Thrown the scale away.

But I think I was right to trust myself. Because I feel like I’m getting to a point where I can do that, naturally. I’m outgrowing the eating disorder. It doesn’t fit who I am anymore, and I’m shedding that old skin. And I’m doing it at a pace that feels right. There are a lot of changes that you go through in recovery, inside and out. Those inner changes can’t be rushed. And I feel totally comfortable with the pace that my recovery is going at.

I have felt very stuck at times, and wondered if I was actually making progress. Particularly because I couldn’t understand why, if my attitude was so pro-recovery and I was adamant that weight and calories didn’t matter, I couldn’t stop relying on those numbers. And now I know that I was always making progress. It just happened in tiny steps. Or in big steps, followed by periods of standstill.

I woke up this morning, and I looked at my scale. The temptation was there, but I knew I wouldn’t weigh myself. It just didn’t seem important. I know I ate plenty, but not too much, yesterday. My body has no reason to gain weight. I have no reason to seek reassurance.

I’m trying to decide whether to buy a bag of (vegan!) sweets from the deli before I head to the library. My healthy alternative is grapes. I do grapes by the box. They’re awesome snack food. Particularly when you’re working and want something to nibble on. And the dilemma is between the sweets that I really do quite fancy, and something healthier considering how much ‘unhealthy’ (for the body…but good for the soul!) food I’ve been eating over Christmas.

This dilemma is not characterised by feelings of guilt and anxiety. Whether I choose the sweets or the fruit has no bearing on my worth as a human being.

I’m simply wondering what to do, quite casually and without great emotion. This is the kind of dilemma that would have caused great stress once upon a time.

I’m so pleased to start the year feeling like I’ve made a big leap in recovery.

 

Her reply to this was, ‘Here’s to wanting more’. And it really struck a chord with me. Because that is the key to recovery, is it not? Wanting more. Realising that although you could carry on living with an eating disorder, and hiding from your problems through food, actually you want more from life. You don’t want to live the shadow of who you are, the pale reflection of your authentic life. You want the real thing. You want to taste, smell, feel again. You don’t want to be numb anymore.

And when you get started on recovery, it’s wanting more that keeps you going. So I could have stopped once I got to a stage where I was eating regularly and not purging. My body was sufficiently healthy again. I wasn’t experiencing the inner turmoil that my eating disorder had previously caused. But again, I wanted more. And so, through all of the hard times and the days and weeks where it felt like my journey was slowing down, my recovery stagnating, it was wanting more that kept me inching along.

And so I have entered the new year by almost accidentally achieving a goal in recovery that a few months ago felt near impossible. I have stopped weighing myself. And not through sheer willpower. I haven’t had to battle with myself to avoid the scale. I’ve just arrived at this point naturally. The desire to be free has outweighed (sorry for the pun!) my need for reassurance and control. That number no longer seems relevant to my life.

The eating disorder is no longer relevant to my life. It’s not who I am anymore.

And that is a delightful, beautiful, gratifying thing to be able to say with total honesty. I wanted more, and that is what I got. That’s what true self-respect is – when you recognise that you deserve more than you’re giving yourself, and you set out to achieve it.

I like to think that this will be a theme for 2012. Not settling for second best, not coasting along on one level when I know I’m capable, and deserving, of reaching so much higher.

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve put off posting in here lately. On holiday I couldn’t wait to get back home and write in it (although I wasn’t that desperate to leave the 27 degree weather and the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks by our apartment while we slept). But for some reason I’ve delayed my first post-holiday post. Every day I had the intention to write in it but found some excuse not to.

So today I have brought myself to the deli by my house, ordered a cup of coffee and forced myself to get started. Because I just have so much to say. My holiday changed a lot for me and I need to talk about it. And I think part of the reason I avoided this blog was that I didn’t want to talk about it. I stepped on the plane in Menorca feeling inspired, refreshed, sunny and happy. And when we landed in England and stepped through the front door, the reality of every day life hit me hard. Without the distraction of sun, sea and sand my weight became an issue again. I felt anxious about having gained weight, and I have found it very hard to love my body lately.

As I said in the last post, I began the holiday fraught with worry about weight gain and loss of control. Despite my agreement with M that I owed him five Euro every time I mentioned fat, calories or weight, we quickly slipped back into our routine pattern of me seeking reassurance and using him as a tool through which to vent my frustrations, and him becoming increasingly annoyed at having to repeatedly remind me that I am not fat, I am not gaining weight, I do deserve to treat myself…

But although nothing appeared to have changed on the surface, underneath changes were definitely happening. For one, I had no scale and was forced to cope with eating without knowing my weight. Not only that, but I couldn’t count calories so I had to eat what I thought was the right amount. And I couldn’t rely on familiar foods either; being on holiday meant that I was eating completely different things to normal, many of which were unhealthy and indulgent.

This combination of not weighing myself or my food is something that I have successfully avoided throughout my recovery. I have found numerous reasons not to make the transition into intuitive eating and I have always insisted that when I did take the step, I would have to continue weighing myself for reassurance until I felt strong enough to stop that too.

Well here I was, eating chips for lunch by the pool and drinking cocktails in the middle of the day. I had to get up in the morning and smile and be happy and eat breakfast, and then put on a skimpy bikini and lie there in front of other people, all without the reassurance of having stepped on the scale.

I could write for hours about this so I will try and stick to the main points. What did I learn over the course of the holiday?

Well, for one I learnt that actually it wasn’t that hard to not know my weight. Okay, honestly it was harder than I expected in the beginning. But after that, when I woke up in the morning I didn’t feel like a whale. After a few days of waking up feeling as if my body was rapidly expanding before my very eyes, I began to realise that my weight was in fact stable and I felt more able to trust it.

What else did I learn? I learnt that after the initial anxiety I felt by being presented with all of these new food choices and having the freedom to eat whatever I wanted without counting the calories in my food, I was much better at eating according to hunger than I thought. I made a conscious decision to let myself go a bit wild if I wanted to, because I knew that I needed to let the excitement (and fear) of unlimited food options wear off. So I indulged in chips at random times throughout the day, ice lollies when I felt like it and banana daquiris pretty much any time from 12pm.

I found that drinking alcohol is more fun than I remembered. I learnt that running is also fun when you do it just because. I ran three times while I was away, and each time it was because I woke up and thought ‘What a beautiful day to go for a run!’. And I ran as far as I felt like running. And I had no guilt.

In short, I rediscovered a little bit of my passion for life. I don’t think I realised just how constrained I have been by all of my rules and rigidity. I tried my hardest to keep my cool with M (I’m famously moody, which I think largely arises out of my need to be in control of everything) and I made a big effort to be the girlfriend he deserves to have. Someone who can match his carefree personality, live as each moment comes and not spend so much time planning and worrying about the future.

In an effort to save money (and because Menorca doesn’t cater at all for vegans!), we ate in the apartment quite a few times. Instead of insisting on being the one doing the cooking, as I would at home, I asked M if he wanted to cook. He was happy to do so, and made some absolutely delicious meals for us. We agreed that he would cook more often when we got home. I made a promise to myself that I would let him.

I left Menorca with all of these good intentions. I wasn’t going to weigh myself right away (I agreed to wait until at least Monday), and I was going to continue not to count calories. We had a busy weekend to return to, with a race on Saturday morning, a family meal and his end of season fancy dress party at the cricket club. I was determined to try and bring some of that careless holiday spirit home with me.

Did I manage?

A tough question to answer. I think so. I didn’t weigh myself on Friday. M and I ate out at our favourite tapas place (you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find veggie tapas in Menorca!) to soften the blow of returning to rainy England. I didn’t weigh myself on Saturday. I dragged myself out of bed early, had breakfast and went off to Delamere Forest to compete in a gloriously muddy and slightly insane trail race for which I had done absolutely no training. I got very dirty, and wet, and I loved every minute of it. Afterwards, as I stood in my hot shower trying to scrub dried mud off my legs, I felt thankful to my body for being strong enough to take part in such ridiculous pursuits, and thoughts of weight and calories seemed a million miles away. When your body allows you to do what you love, its size suddenly seems so irrelevant. To reduce its meaning to the amount of fat it carries is to miss the point. It’s offensive, in fact.

Of course these moments of clarity do not always last, and in this case it was fleeting because my thoughts then turned to the meal I was having later that evening with my family, before heading out in a stomach-baring fancy dress costume. Would I look okay? Would I be able to silence the negative thoughts about my bloated stomach that are inevitable after a big meal and enjoy myself?

I did, to an extent. From what I remember. I don’t remember a great deal quite honestly, and that is a very good thing because it means I got drunk for the first time in goodness-knows-how-long. I remember jumping on one of Matt’s friends after he stole my specs. I remember dancing wildly and hitting people with my cane. I remember sharing with J (the girlfriend of M’s team mate and our neighbour) my brutally honest opinion of some of the other girlfriends (turns out I’m a bitch when I drink!). And I vaguely remember flirting outrageously with M, throwing myself at him when we got home and then being put to bed with towels and a sick bucket.

This brings us to Sunday. So far I had continued to eat according to hunger, no calorie counting allowed. I still didn’t know what I weighed. And despite being only one day away from my minimum permitted ‘weigh day’ I completely caved. I jumped on the scale. I couldn’t handle it any longer. I could see fat everywhere, I had convinced myself that I was significantly larger, and I was NOT okay with it.

I know why I shouldn’t have weighed myself. I know that the point is not to prove that I can eat in a relaxed way and not gain weight, but to show that it doesn’t matter if I gain weight. Weight doesn’t matter. And I say this to other people all the time. But do I practice what I preach?

Apparently not. I spent Sunday moping around prodding myself in the stomach and obsessing about my weight gain. So yes, I did gain a little weight. Not as much as I first thought, as I discovered when I stepped on the scale the next day. And yes, I stepped on the scale the day after that. And this morning.

So the weighing is back. And I’m not proud of that. But I am absolutely determined to continue with some of the god work that I started whilst away. Last night I asked M to cook dinner, and he made yet another delicious meal. I enjoyed being cooked for. He served me what looked like a large portion and I initially freaked out, because he served us both the same amount (he’s a foot taller and is double my weight) and I started panicking that I shouldn’t be eating the same as him and clearly I had no idea about portion control and OH MY GOODNESS I’M SO OUT OF CONTROL. I quickly shut up though, and resolved to eat slowly (I’ve decided that I’m going to try and spend at least 15 minutes on each meal… normally, despite spending over an hour cooking most night, I polish my dinner off in less than 10) and stop if I got full.

I realised that I had had enough with about a quarter of the meal left, so I firmly set my fork down and put the food in the fridge. Later on, when I felt like my dinner had digested and I could happily enjoy a snack, I finished it off.

See? It’s not that hard.

I have found that as soon as you stop counting calories, you’re forced to rely on your hunger signals in a way that is just not possible when you’re planning meals according to numbers. And it’s not like I restrict the calories I eat. In fact, I suspect I eat more when calorie counting because I can eat when I’m not hungry in the knowledge that I’m still eating the correct amount because I factor it into my total for the day. Without that reassurance, I don’t feel quite so confident about eating unnecessarily. It seems silly to eat when I’m not hungry. Because then how do I know when to stop? I can’t use calories to moderate my eating. Hunger is all that I have.

Which is why I haven’t eaten the protein bar that I brought to the coffee shop with me. I had a little inner battle with myself prior to setting off, because I often like to enjoy a snack with my morning coffee. But I was still satisfied from breakfast. And it wasn’t long before lunch. What to do? I brought it with me and then decided not to eat it. Then I decided that actually, I would eat it after all. Fuck it. Then I decided not to.

(All of this energy invested in a simple decision about a protein bar… imagine the potential I could unlock in myself if I invested all of this brain-power elsewhere!)

It’s now lunchtime, and I am beginning to feel my appetite stirring. I like this feeling. I enjoy knowing that I am able to allow my hunger to develop, and then satisfy it. All without reading a single label. And I am glad that I didn’t eat a snack I didn’t really want. My brain wanted it, my tastebuds wanted it, but my stomach said actually, I’m not ready for anything else yet. Now I can go home and have a delicious lunch.

And so that’s me caught up. This wasn’t my most inspiring blog post, admittedly. I just had far too much to say. All of these thoughts have been building up inside my head for the last two weeks and they just came tumbling out all at once. I usually like to try and present my ramblings in something that resembles a logical order. But today, the most important thing was just to write. To get it all out. To put those thoughts down that had been overwhelming me and keeping me away from my blog.

One more thing that I just have to mention, as unrelated as it may appear to be, is topless sunbathing. Yes. It turns out that continental Europe has a much more liberal attitude to the naked female form that we do here in the UK. I have witnessed it before but I guess I hadn’t paid much attention because it was an eye-opener when M and I arrived at the beach and the majority of the women there were walking around topless. Women of all shapes and sizes. Single women, those with their boyfriends, and those with their husbands and children. And suddenly it seemed so prudish to be covering myself up. There were men everywhere, and they didn’t seem remotely fazed by it. Of course! Why would they be? If you make breasts into some forbidden object of desire, things that must be hidden at all times, everyone’s attitude towards them changes. If they’re always on display, they quickly become boring and unremarkable. This was evidenced by the number of girls chatting away casually to male friends, topless. Playing with their kids, topless. Jumping in the sea from the rocks with the guys, topless.

So I thought, ‘When in Rome…’

And I spent as much time as possible with my boobs out. I fully, whole-heartedly embraced toplessness. It was one of the most liberating things that I have ever done. And despite showing off parts of my body that are normally considered to be sexual objects, I felt completely non-sexual! My boobs have never felt less sexy. They were just things. Like my arms, and legs. I almost felt more comfortable as a woman than I do covered up, because all barriers were removed. There were men, and there were women, and children, and we all had our tops off. And we all looked pretty much the same. The most wonderful thing was seeing families together. Boys and girls playing in the sand with their mums,  boobs on show. And nobody cared. Because it was the most natural thing in the world. No embarrassment, no shame.

I’ve made it my mission, if (and hopefully when) I have children, to sunbathe topless when we’re on holiday together. I want to teach them that there is nothing to be ashamed of, no reason to cover up just because you’re a woman. Mum and dad, both (not) wearing the same. Equals.

I may be coming across as slightly breast-obsessed right now. But you should try it, if you haven’t already! I think it’s about the most confident and accepting of my body that I have ever felt.

And on that note, my stomach is telling me that it’s lunch time.

Read Full Post »