Maybe it's that I am very quickly approaching 30 years old, maybe it's personal growth, maybe it's that in light of all the other things going on in the world I am completely out of fricks to give...I'm not sure, but I what I am sure about is that I am really really really over hating my body. You may not know this about me, but like so many other women, I am a recovering disordered eater. In my late teen years, I developed anorexia that later turned into binge eating disorder. It has been a long hard slog of owning my truth, being really frustrated with myself, and learning new healthy ways to navigate the world but I am learning that despite the shame I have felt my body over the years, there are also a lot of things about my body that I should be really proud of and grateful for.
The first time I can consciously remember hating my body was just after a sexual assault that happened in my teen years. I was angry that my body could invite something so awful, devastated by the idea that my body was somehow not my own. I had always been a chubby girl and this experience made me want nothing to do with the thick hips and curves that made me seem so much older than I was. In the midst of feeling so emotionally out of control, I took control of the one thing I thought I could- food. It started as an effort to get a stronger body- a body that could fight, a body that could run, a body that was better equipped to defend itself. I started counting calories and running. The weight dripped off of me, slowly at first and then like an avalanche, but it was never enough. No matter how far I got or how much weight I lost the emotions I was running from kept catching me. I started exercising more and cutting back more, distracting myself from the demons I wasn't ready to face, and before I knew it I had developed full blown anorexia. I was chewing up food and spitting it out to avoid weight gain, I was exercising for hours at a time every single day of the week, I was hiding in bathroom stalls waiting for privacy so that I could purge, and I was limiting myself to an absurdly low number of calories each day. When we would go out to eat I would order a side of steamed veggies as my entree. What started as a way for me to gain a sense of control had suddenly become the thing that was controlling me.
I got down into the 120s just before I got married. Even though I was at the lower end of a healthy weight range, perhaps for the first time in my life, I had gotten there in a terribly unhealthy way and far too quickly. When I moved in with my husband I found that hiding my lifestyle and unhealthy habits was hard. I wasn't alone enough to continue purging as often as I wanted and I didn't have the same time in my schedule to continue over-exercising. The weight crept back up and since I couldn't keep running from the bad feelings with my anorexia, I started stuffing them down with binge eating. I ate what I wanted when I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. I ate until I felt okay, and it took a lot of food for me to feel even a little bit okay. I snuck through fast food places for extra meals and disposed of the evidence. I sat at my desk and stuffed my face with as many carbs as I could get my hands on, binging on food that the store I was working at was discarding (yikes). I ate entire family-size boxes of snack foods in one sitting. A few months of this and unsurprisingly I was bigger and weighed more than I ever had in my entire life. I was officially obese.
When we moved away from our hometown and I was no longer living in the same city where the trauma happened, the walls started coming down. I went to therapy. I started running and eating healthy. I got back down to my average weight...the weight I was at before anorexia and later binge eating took over my life. And yet again- it wasn't sustainable. We became parents. The foster care system wrecked me emotionally. Every one of our son's diagnoses wrecked me emotionally. And like most addicts, I turned to the thing that I knew would make me feel good even if it was just for a moment. A few months into this cycle, I ended up going to months of therapy specifically for binge eating because I just couldn't get a handle on it by myself. I was no long too proud to say I was out of control. I remember sitting in my therapist's office blankly staring at her because she asked me to identify my feelings and I couldn't. Literally not a single feeling came to mind. I was just.....empty....numb...disengaged. She handed me a list that had hundreds of feeling words on it and I started weeping because the last ten years had just been sort of grey. Feeling anything meant also feeling the bad things I had been trying to escape for so long and it had never been worth it to me. I had learned to stay numb as a way to stay safe but I also knew that in the numbness I was using to protect myself that I was missing out on some really great feelings too. I also knew that I had a little guy who needed a good example of dealing with big feelings in a healthy way, a way I couldn't show him at that point in my life. So I fought. It was hard and a lot of the time it was awful. There were setbacks and breakdowns and days I wanted to give up. There were days I retreated into the nothingness I had created for myself. I learned my triggers. I learned self-care. I faced big hard scary parts of my story. It has been a long hard journey and it's not over yet. It may never really be over for me and that's okay. I know now that the good beautiful moments are so good and the hard scary moments will pass. I know that no amount of food will make the feelings I'm trying to avoid go away. I know that I can't run forever and that when reality catches up it hits hard. I've learned that in the midst of running and stuffing down that other parts of my life suffer. I've learned that there are people who love me who will stand alongside me for the hard scary parts if I'll let them. I've learned that I am resilient. I've learned that I am enough. I've learned that I am lovable.
I haven't lost the weight that I put on during my last cycle of binging that happened a few years ago and I have had a lot of shame tied up in that. Every fat roll, every piece of clothing tucked in my closet that no longer fits because of the weight I gained, every photo of myself that I hate is a reminder of how easily things can get out of control. It happens so fast and you are in so deep before you even realize it. But in the midst of this season I am also learning to love myself and to love my body. No, I am not where I want to be in terms of my health and physical fitness, but every day is a chance for me to take one step closer to those goals. And you know what else? Despite all of this, there are a lot of things my body is really great at. In just the past 24 hours, I.... ran a couple of miles, carried several days of groceries for a family of three up a flight of stairs, hugged my son, prepared food for the boys who have my heart, made art, moved boxes, swam laps. I loved big and I loved well. I refuse to be ashamed of the vessel that has carried me this far and has brought so much joy and strength to my life. This body has seen some shhh and it keeps getting back up. One day, this body will quit, but today was not that day so I refuse be ashamed of it for one more second.