Trying to Lose Weight While Recovering From an Eating Disorder

When I tell people I’m trying to lose weight, they all feel the need to share their own opinions about how they think I should go about doing it: juice cleanses, special diets, cutting out all junk food, going vegetarian, exercising a whole bunch, etc.

It’s not that I’m grateful for their advice–I am. But most of them fail to take into account one detail: I’m a recovering Anorexic.

So what? some might say.

The point is losing weight healthily is hard enough without factoring in the fact that once I lost weight very unhealthily, and it’s so easy to fall back into that destructive pattern of behavior.

As a recovering Anorexic, I am acutely aware of two things:

  1. I cannot want to lose weight because I hate how I look because the last time I tried that, my life spiraled out of control for about 5 years–Being thinner became an obsession; I would be happier if I was Thin.
  2.  I cannot cut foods out of my diet because I want to restrict calories because I remember one summer when I ate nothing but a handful of crackers a day for weeks, subsisting on chewing gum and Mt. Dew.

And because of these two things this weight loss journey has been tough. I’ve started and restarted so many times. I’ve stopped because I’ve become discouraged and have seen myself falling into destructive patterns–skipping meals (never a good idea because it’s so easy to fall back into that habit), hating how I looked (causing me to push myself way harder than I should have).

This time, though, it’s different. After struggling with my self-image and self-worth for so long, I’m finally at that point where I am comfortable enough with who I am as a person that it doesn’t matter to me how I look.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a low opinion of myself–it started with bullying, and then got worse after I was raped. I started starving myself because I wanted to acontrol one thing in my life.

I thought my value was based on my weight, that it was inversely proportional: the less I weighed, the more I was worth.

After years of trying to recover my sense of worth and trying to find my identity, I now know that my value lies in who I am as a human being, and not in how much I weigh. I am beautiful because of who I am, and not what I look like.

It is for that reason that I know I am ready for this journey of weight loss because I know I’m doing it for the right reasons–trying to be my best self– and not for the wrong reasons–trying to make myself more valuable.

It’s been a month since I started this journey. It’s been a month of sore muscles, burning lungs, unmotivated mornings, and days where I’d rather do anything else. But, for the most part, (minus a few days I took off for a leg injury), it’s been a month of five-day-workout weeks.

It’s been a month of making healthy choices: choosing salads over microwaved burritos, drinking water over sugary drinks, taking more vegetables and less meat. But it’s also been a month of eating microwaved burritos, drinking sugary drinks, and eating meats. It’s been a month of limiting myself rather than denying myself.

So far, I’ve lost about 12 pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but to me, it’s huge. And it may not look like a lot, but I feel so much more confident than I have in ages. And isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

Tonight for dinner I had a greasy cheeseburger with bacon, fries, and an Oreo Milkshake. And I’m ok with that, not because I had a salad for lunch and yogurt for breakfast.

I’m ok with that because life is too short to deny myself simple pleasures. I’m working on becoming my best self and the road to that is paved with leafy greens, greasy cheeseburgers, and lots of cardio.

I’ve discovered it’s easier to make healthy choices when you love who you are. And I love who I am.

 

 

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Just Me, My Selfie, and I

There’s 521 photos on my phone’s photo album. 1/3 of them are selfies. Now before you ask yourself, “Who does this chick think she is?” and before you think I’m vain, let me tell you about my pain.

I remember the first time I was called ‘ugly.’ I was in Kindergarten, barely old enough to understand the meaning behind the word, but old enough to feel the crater-size impression it left in my chest. And I wondered how a word I barely knew how to spell could make me feel so small. Because suddenly, I became aware of how vast the universe is, and dictionaries and encyclopedias can only tell you so much.

They can tell you a definition, but can’t help you understand the concept. Concepts have to be taught and learned. So, when I looked up the definition of ‘ugly,’ I was confused, because I thought everything was beautiful, and I didn’t understand how everybody else couldn’t think so, too. But, boy, did I learn. Because hearing the same thing over and over and over again makes you start to believe it. And no matter how untrue it may be, it eats away at your self-esteem until it’s as small as you felt the day you realized the magnitude of the universe. 

I can’t remember the second time, or the third time, or the 444th time. But I remember the first time, and I remember the worst time. (and if you know anything about me, you probably know the worst time, too.) Between the first time and the worst time I tried to swallow myself up, because then maybe I could feel bigger. But I also starved myself, because I wanted to be smaller. And when people acknowledged my existence, I would stare at the floor while my ears turned red, and my breath left my chest. And I would mumble out my answer–quickly and quietly, like the way teachers tell children to evacuate during a fire drill. Quickly and quietly.

Speak up.

Slow down.

And sometimes I still talk the same way: eyes down cast, quickly and quietly. Afraid if I take too long to answer, the person I’m talking to will realize I’m not as beautiful as I should be or want to be. And maybe they’ll see past the makeup I wear to hide my imperfections, because somehow, I got the short end of the stick in the Looks’ Department, and nobody will love me now. And that explains how I can go from self-confident to self-conscious in no time at all (especially in a dining hall that can go from empty to crowded in less time than it takes for me to realize I can’t measure up to the beautiful people I’m surrounded by). And don’t get me started on the whispers, the pointing, the stares. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

And this ugliness I was told I possessed turned into an ugliness I felt in every breath. I call it: Depression.

Depression isn’t always beautiful girls slicing their skin, and handsome guys fighting a glorified, heroic battle. Sometimes Depression means not wanting to get out of bed ever, because somehow your feet refuse to believe they won’t shatter on impact when they hit the ground. Nobody likes things that are broken. Sometimes Depression means doing laundry is the biggest feat of the week, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes Depression means lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, thinking about nothing and everything, because your body is convinced it’s paralyzed. Sometimes Depression means that I, a writer at heart, can’t even string together coherent thoughts other than, “I’m trapped and drowning, and I swear I’m trying.” And people don’t want to hear the same story over and over again. But sometimes, that’s the only story I know how to tell. Sometimes Depression means every bone in your body aches, but you have to keep doing your routine, because some people still think Depression isn’t a valid disease. Sometime Depression is ignoring every text message you receive, because even though the number is right, the person they’re searching for is nowhere to be found.

And it’s days like this, days where all I want to do is lie on the floor and never move again, days where I feel the ugliest that I post selfies.

Selfies like these:

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I post selfies on my “I feel ugly” days, because they allow me to see my whole face and whole body in ways I’m not always able to. Because of selfies, I have become a regular part of the world, not always beautiful, but not always hiding my face and body. And it’s so liberating.

I post selfies, because they help me believe I’m beautiful.

I told myself the only way to be beautiful was to be someone else. Boy, was I wrong.

Accidental Inheritance

In her kitchen, my Grandmother prepares enough food for a small army, which is more than enough food for our 13-person family. She’s not afraid of food, but so many people are.

Sitting in the dining hall, I watch young women count the calories. They say they don’t deprive themselves, but my instinct tells me better. I’ve learned to find hidden meanings in every movement of the fork pushing the food around their plate, in every held back tear as they take one more bite. I wonder if they eat when no one’s around.

I wonder if this is why the world feels so big: it’s proportional. As girls shrink to fit themselves in the box labeled “perfection” by society, the unoccupied space around them increases exponentially. This world seems increasingly vast.

And it’s not that we are scared of food, because our lineages are intermingled with stories of big, strong women who knew how to eat. As humans, we are genetically-bred to love food, but we’re not bred to love ourselves. This world is focused on obesity and malnutrition, plenty and need, excess and want.

And somewhere in our history women were taught they were lesser without a man, and men only wanted women without excess fat.  Somewhere in our lineage, excess women turned into less women: shrinking women made space for men to enter their lives.

I have been taught that everything’s better in moderation, but I’ve learned not to accommodate others if it means devaluing myself. We’ve been taught to have a relationship with food. A love-hate relationship: love the taste, hate the calories.

The world needs more confident women. Women who know that they are beautiful despite being excess, women who know how to exude confidence when they open their mouth, women who know how to mix the words they speak into the food they eat to fill everyone up. Women who don’t begin every sentence with “sorry.”

The previous generation teaches the next generation, and even though genes are inherited, behaviors are replicated, which is why I don’t know how to knit. But I can still feel the silence weaved by the previous generation onto this collective blanket of “Topics Society does not talk about.” This blanket feels heavy as it covers this ever-growing world.

And we unknowingly pick up the habits of society when we deem somebody less because they are excess. And we pick up the crumbs of food dropped by a fugitive stealing food she does not deserve. We are prisoners to society.

I watch these girls as they figure out how many bites they are entitled to, and I’ve learned to mimic them. Because sometimes inheritance is genetic, but sometimes it’s accidental, and while I try so hard to unlearn this learned behavior, a girl more perfect than I walks by. I don’t know whether to hate her or be like her, but I don’t want to do either anymore.

We don’t want to do either anymore, but the burden of society has wrapped us up tight, which is why we don’t know the requirements we need to graduate, but we know how many more calories we can eat.

Because we spend an entire lunch time deciding whether or not we deserve another piece of pizza, a circular obsession we never wanted, but have accidentally inherited.

And all we want to do is not start every sentence with the word “sorry.”

 

see also: https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/game-of-comparisons/    AND https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/your-body-is-not-your-own/

 

Plan B

I wear more makeup on days that I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, hoping people won’t look at me and hate me as much as I hate myself. But at the same time, I’m hoping that somebody will hate me more, because than I won’t be the one left hating me the most.

It’s hard being a survivor. Anybody who says it’s easy is lying to you and probably themselves as well. It’s hard being a survivor, because even though I’m trying to heal, 90% of my being is telling me that I deserve to stay broken.

There are days when I feel like closing the door, collapsing in a heap on the floor, and putting myself in the washer with the worn clothes. Because that’s how I feel: dirty. I have lost the ability to wear white, because I am no longer pure. I am not red, but pink, because somebody mistook my purity to be theirs for the taking.  And I have been hung out to dry so many times before.

And no matter how many times I wash myself, I still feel dirty. Because the grime I’m carrying won’t come off without a power-washing with the water from above. In order for this Cinder girl to wear her Cinder dress, some magic needs to be worked in this body and mind.

It’s hard being a survivor when it’s easier to be the victim. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Atlas, it’s that I can hold the weight of the world on these shoulders because I am stronger than I think I am, and I’m not doing it alone.

And even though I can rock my superhero cape, I can’t help everyone. But, I can certainly try. My hands may be small, but you can bet that when the rain falls, I will be out there with my rain-boots on, hands outstretched, trying to catch all the falling tears. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching all those cheesy romance movies, it’s that rain can wash away all your fears if you just let it. After the rain comes the rainbow, and to me, that’s the most amazing thing: beauty after the storm.

And even though I break down over and over and over again, I’ve made it this far, which is a miracle. So don’t you dare tell me miracles don’t exist. Because I’ve seen it in the way the waves refuse to stop kissing the shore no matter how many times they’re sent away. I’ve seen it in the way the sun comes up in the morning and sets in the night to allow the moon to shine. I’ve seen it in the way a baby learns to walk, and how it gets back up no matter how many times it falls.

And even though I may not know all the words to my favorite songs, even though I talk too much or too little, even though my brain moves a mile a minute and my mouth can’t keep up, there’s a healing power in words. There’s a healing power in friendship.

I’ve done a lot of things wrong in this life, but I must have done something right. Because if wealth was based on friendships, I’d be the wealthiest person in the world.

 

Mirror, Mirror

As young children we are taught to say “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” As if wishing on a star isn’t enough to make us feel inadequate because our wishes don’t come true. So we ask ourselves this question because Snow White’s Wicked Stepmother was too concerned with her own beauty to teach us any real lessons, like how not to compare ourselves with others 101, true beauty is on the inside not the outside—you know, the things that count.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

Not me. Not me. Anyone else but me. The answer is always the same: someone else.

So we stand in front of the mirror, listing off our imperfections as if it’s a list of things to pick up at the new body store:  Hair (check), nose (check), smile (check), but wait. There’s more.

And we hide these imperfections behind layers and layers of make-up and clothes, afraid to show who we really are. Because if we are not good enough for ourselves, who else would we be good enough for?

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

Not me. Not me.

So we compare and we compare. If I had this one’s nose, and this one’s smile, this one’s hair, and this one’s personality, I could build myself a castle and call me Cinderella, because this is a rags to riches story. But this is not a fairy tale. There are no fairy Godmothers, and even if there were, they wouldn’t waste their magic on something petty like beauty.

So we sit in silence. Struggling with the fact that we are not good enough. Struggling with the fact that the pretty girl always gets the guy. And we are so far from beautiful that we don’t even see the light from the sun.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

Like some twisted lullaby it repeats in our heads until we become our own worst enemy. It engrains itself into the recesses of our soul, and its cruel words are pumped through our blood until we can’t even look at ourselves without the concealing shade of darkness.

 

 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

You are. You are. Because I Am. I Am.

You are beautiful because you are made in My image, and you are continually made beautiful because of the washing in My blood.

You are beautiful because I made you.

Move over Cinderella, because I have been built a Castle. My body is a Castle. My body is a temple. I am a Princess. I am a Daughter of the King. This is my rags to riches story.

Distorted Reality

 

My handwriting is miniscule, like size 6 font. I like to pretend that it makes my words invisible. I like to believe that, somehow, by using microscopic letters, my words will only be mine—impossible to be used against me.

My self-esteem isn’t that high.

I am my own worst enemy and worst critic. Rusty car doors are symbols of my insecurities. I believe in fairy tale love way more than I should, which causes me to fall in love way too easily. I think people should fall in love during the small moments. What’s more revealing than what happens when they think no oneis watching? The way they are lost in thought, turn the page of a book, absent-mindedly scratching an invisible itch, smiling at a remembered moment are the most beautiful moments.

I believe that the eyes are the windows to the soul; but I believe that mine reveal so much more. I believe that smiling is the best way to trick you into being happy. I have been told I have a nice smile.  I have also been told that I need to smile more.

I read too much. I fall in love with fictional characters as I am transported to another world, living vicariously through my favorite characters.

I believe that everybody deserves a shot, and that everybody is capable of doing something great.

I think that when I’m in love, or am nervous, my stomach sacrifices a butterfly to my mouth as I embarrass myself.

I trust too easily. And sometimes the monsters that used to be under my bed manifest themselves in people around me. I believe empty promises, kind words, and pretty faces as they offer a hand. I take it too quickly, without turning their palm over to see if they have claws.

When I look at faucets, my face bends and reflects at seemingly impossible angles. By the time it once again reaches my retina, it is contorted and distorted beyond recognition. This faucet is where my image of myself comes from.

Smooth mirrors reflect back exactly what is.

My self-esteem isn’t that high. I think I look at faucets too often.