Aside

dieting season and milkshakes.

Dear Bee,

Good morning, sunshine. Haven’t written to you in awhile. Too busy. Okay, that’s a fallacy. Not having enough time is a misconception. It’s more like not making it a priority. 

At one point, you were my biggest priority. Writing to you, talking to you, getting to know every little part about you. I had to familiarize myself with your voice. I had to study and dissect and analyze it until I knew every suckle of your distorted self.

I’m happy with the number on the scale, but not with the reflection in the mirror. And it’s petty. My thighs will always look too big. My stomach will always look too round. These are all misconceptions in my head. It’s my mind that needs a workout, not my body. No matter how much I whittle down my frame, it won’t matter. The mind will see what it wants to see. You will see FAT if you want me to believe I’m fat.

People around me are losing weight. Everyone, it seems, is on a diet. Guess it’s that time of year. Summer and itty-bitty short season is just around the corner, and we all know that means short-term crash dieting and fanatic exercise. I hate it, probably because I’m jealous of it. Probably because I still fall prey to the idea that just losing ten pounds would dramatically enhance my already wonderful life. Probably because I am torn between STILL believing the perfect body will give me the perfect life and realistically knowing that the very idea of that is absolute bullshit. 

I’m not bingeing so much, but I’m overeating. I don’t like that either. That’s more in the gray area, and that area frightens me. It’s the meshing of “safe” and “unsafe” foods. It’s the no-man’s land between “perfect” eating and “destructive” eating. Perfect, being the foods I can eat without worry or fear. Destructive, being the pathological, insatiable bottomless pit that craves all the sugars and fats. This weekend was good practice in the gray area. There was lots of meals out. Heavy meals. Desserts. French toast and cheesecake and milkshakes. Triggering meals. But happy ones because they were spent with the people I love. To eat those by myself would have been much more dangerous. 

And I’m not exercising as much as I would like. Because I’m busier than I have been in years. I have about 12-15 clients on an average week now. In addition to running two therapy groups, supervision meetings, trainings, and a full course load of classes. It’s chaotic. It’s what I love. It’s not going to be this fast-paced forever, but for right now, time is of the essence. There are days when I barely even get to move. My restless homeostasis hates that, but, at this point in my life, I’m taking care of other aspects of my health…and that is by advancing my passions and pursuing my dreams. I am working out my mind and soul, instead of just my body. Different, but just as important.

I’m trying to do the best I can. It’s not easy. It’s a conscious effort. There are many times when I fall backwards. The definition of recovery constantly changes. But I know I’m better than I was. And I’m happy where I am. And I’m excited for where I will be. 

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R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y. You know it’s worth it!

R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y acronym (I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP MYSELF. I would love to give credit to the original creator of this beautiful acronym, though!).

Realizing you’re worth it

Until I believed that I was worthy of treating myself with kindness and healing the maladies inside me, I could not start recovery. I stayed sick and tormented. I did not believe that my problem warranted help, and for a long time, I dismissed the severity of my eating disorder. In fact, I didn’t even know my issues consisted of an eating disorder until I received an actual diagnosis! You would think that dropping thirty pounds on my already normal frame in two months, losing my period, freezing my ass off all the time, and refusing to eat almost anything would have convinced me to go to the doctor. But, no. You would think stuffing myself senseless with food, punishing myself with hours upon hours of exercise, starving off cravings with excessive amounts of water and calorie-free drinks would make me realize I had an issue. It took awhile. I was convinced it was a willpower problem, convinced I could fix it on my own. It took so long to realize I was worth help. No matter how little or how much you eat or weigh, if it is affecting your functioning and quality of life, you have a problem, and you are WORTH more than the suffering you are inflicting on yourself.

Experiencing true happiness

Happiness is stable over time, as much as we like to believe it is fickle, fleeting, and depending on situational circumstances. I used to wait on happiness. Like many, I relied on external sources to lift my mood: boyfriends, wealth, success. And yet, happiness is innate. It lies within us. We all know the happiest moments (those BIG huge moments we can hardly wait for) pass. It’s the day-to-day mood that counts. Being able to experience the virtues of true, unadulterated bliss is what my life is now all about. Be present. Be rich with feelings. Be authentic with your needs. Happiness is a choice: each day, I do my best to wake up and CHOOSE it.

Caring about yourself

Caring about myself? What did that once mean? Pushing myself to extreme limits. Always working, never resting. Putting the needs of others before my own. Caring about myself was something I could do later. I really learned about the importance of self-care in graduate school. My professors emphasize it in every class on a daily basis. It is that important. Taking care of myself now means checking in with my emotions, learning how to distinguish what is and what is not in my control, doing activities that make me feel good, visiting places that I like, spending time with people who make my time worthwhile, and being able to relax! For someone who was always go, go, go, really learning how to relax took practice! I care about myself: I now care about myself the way I would care about a best friend. Finally!

Overcoming your own demons

My demon was my eating disorder voice. I nicknamed her Bee and personified her pathology in these letters. At the time, separating my eating disorder from my existence made it easier to confront and dissect. I had to recognize what was factual and what was eating disordered logic, as it had all mushed into my reality. Bee was harsh: she told me I didn’t deserve to eat or that I needed to eat everything in sight, she wanted me to exercise when my body was exhausted, she always needed me thinner and prettier, she told me I was never good enough and that I would never get better. Bee scared me, but she was the only real voice I knew. I have learned how to overcome her voice through a variety of coping strategies: writing to her, talking to my support team, relaxation training, meditation and yoga, etc. I now know when I am overreacting or faltering between the dichotomous thinking. I now recognize when I am being triggered or vulnerable to eating disordered thoughts and behaviors.

Validating your worth

I am worth anything and everything. What does that even mean? It means that I can and will stand up for what I believe in. I deserve the best and nothing less. This may sound conceited, but it’s not. I used to settle for the mediocre because I thought that was all I could get. Because I thought that was all I was worth. Wrong. I am worth treating myself with kindness, nourishing myself with love, and providing myself with happiness. That mantra has changed my entire life perspective.

Eating without regret

With an eating disorder, eating is never just a neutral act. It’s an emotional ritual: a challenge, a fear, an internal battle. We may look normal to any outsider, as we delicately sip our drinks and play around with our food, but inside, we are in genuine, deep pain. Most of us experience the regret and remorse after an eating episode from time to time. Especially when learning how to break the barrier between “good” and “bad” foods. Especially when we eat more than we desire. Especially when we are having a low body-image day. Eating without regret is one of the hardest challenges to overcome in recovery. In order to achieve this, we must PRACTICE eating while continuously telling ourselves that we DESERVE to nourish our bodies. We need food to survive, and nothing can possibly make us gain or lose significant weight in one day. Therefore, no matter how difficult our days in recovery may feel, eventually the emotions stabilize. In recovery, we can learn how to ENJOY and SAVOR food once again, without fear that we will restrict, binge, or need to compensate for the eating.

Relapse- it’s going to happen at one point or another, and that’s okay.

My current therapist told me Relapse is a part of recovery during our very first session. This terrified me. Throughout the year, I slipped. I made mistakes. Take a couple steps forward, take one step back. That’s what she used to say. Relapse is a part of recovery. It made me feel doomed. I wanted to be the exception. I wanted the perfect recovery. I wanted to just be cured and healed and forget any remnant of my vicious disorder. It didn’t happen quite that way. Again, I wanted the black-and-white, when really, I needed to learn how to exist comfortably within the shades of gray. Still, I pushed. I kept trying. Picked myself up. Wiped away the tears and put my fighting face back on. Relapse is hard: it’s painstaking, gut-wrenching, and exhaustive. It makes us feel defeated. In fact, I believe relapse is harder than life before recovery. Because before recovery, we are often in denial. In recovery, we have gained acute awareness. We acquire resources and tools to overcome our triggers and habits. Some of us gain a willingness to get better and a sense of motivation to heal ourselves. Thus, we feel like failures when we engage in behaviors that detract us from those goals. We are not failures. Every lapse is a learning mistake, a teachable opportunity, a chance for us to try something new. The message and reasoning may not be immediately obvious and clear, but it always comes. Relapse is okay. Nobody told you that you had to be perfect. Your journey is your own, and it will take you to extraordinary places so long as you trust the process.

Yearning to live

I used to look at recovery as the SUBTRACTION of things: subtraction of the obsession with food and weight, subtraction of eating disordered behaviors, subtraction of feeling triggered, experiencing negative thoughts, subtraction of feeling worthless. Now, I perceive recovery as the ADDITION of things: addition of the joys and treasures that make life worth living, addition of new ways to indulge and take care of myself, addition of wanting to experience and savor each moment as it comes, addition of feeling worthwhile and beautiful. I used to yearn to do. Now I yearn to be.

Preachy or not, repetitive or not, I like to leave a positive note at the end of these journal entries to remind ALL OF YOU that my life has been transformed by virtues of choosing recovery. It may be the hardest decision you ever make. It will hurt. It will feel uncomfortable. You WILL have to take risks, bust out of your homeostasis, and learn to sit with difficult feelings. You WILL feel shame, fear, and humiliation. You WILL need support and a positive mindset. I’m not some unique know-it-all hotshot. I don’t have all the answers (or any of them, for that matter). I don’t believe in the I-can-do-this-so-can-you comparison game of recovery, because everyday is still a learning lesson for me.

I’m just an everyday girl who decided that there was more to life than the food I ate and number I weighed. I hope all of you can one day choose to believe the same 🙂

Recovery is a gift. Everyday, I get to choose to reopen it. And being able to open it is the most amazing miracle.

Fourth of July success!

Dear Bee,

When does this euphoria fade? Because I’m still floating on Cloud Nine. Either I have been in terrible relationships my entire life or these feelings are just beyond my conscious scope of happiness and virtue.

I can’t stop smiling. It’s almost obnoxious.

Fourth of July was amazing. Everything with him is amazing. We spent the entire day at the beach with some friends. We rode bikes and lied on the sand and watched fireworks and laughed and took pictures and cuddled and it was perfect. So, so perfect. Why is this so effortless? It just blows my mind away. I am so present with him. We are so connected, this energy we share. I could write about this guy and our disgusting bliss all day, but this is an eating disorder blog and not a mushy-gushy love one. Sorry, not sorry.

But seriously, Fourth of July used to be a rough holiday for me. All that food and alcohol. So much temptation. I can distinctly remember the past four of them by whether I binged or starved. Lovely. None of that even crossed my mind yesterday. Last year, I was so damn proud of myself for not bingeing. But how much energy did I focus on avoiding that? The entire day’s worth. I can barely remember anything I did. I only remember where I was and who I was with. Hardly present. We were too enmeshed. It was sad.

I’ve been eating so normally that it’s almost ridiculous. I haven’t been afraid of food. I’ve been eating all kinds of things. Just because. Because the lines between “safe” and “unsafe” are so flexible now. I haven’t wanted to binge. I have been eating less, but, to be honest, it’s because food hasn’t been on my mind. That’s something I never believed could happen. 

I did weigh myself the other day. I’ve been doing this more frequently. Not everyday or anything, but when I first started recovery, I went months without stepping on the scale. Now, I check every so often. I don’t know why. Okay, I do, and the reasons are eating-disordered. I like that sense of satisfaction when that number is lower than I expected. I still tie some of my self-worth to that digital reading. I weigh less than I have in awhile, but I’m definitely still in a normal range. Do I still think about losing weight? Yes. Am I going to act upon those urges? Probably not. Conscious dieting is way too slippery of a slope for me. There is no need. I have a beautiful body. I am healthy. Most importantly, I am worthy of treating it with kindness and nourishing it the best ways I know how. 

In my last relationship, I became such an exercise fanatic. Maybe it was to compensate for his sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to motivate him. Okay, I wanted to change him. And I was wrapped up in my own insecurities and fears and unhappiness. That’s not going to happen this time around. I’m done with letting my eating disorder triangulate myself into anything meaningful to me. Because whenever you are feeling RIGHT, something in my life is very WRONG. And I need to address whatever it is that feels wrong before listening to you.

 The summer is turning out to be so wonderful. I have a week and a half left of this intense summer class, and then I’m as free as a bird until the end of August! Ah! Just two months and I’ll be seeing my first clients! AHHHHH. Super excited and somewhat nervous. But, I’m trying not to focus on any of that right now. I want to enjoy this summer.

Be present. That’s what matters.  

I’m still writing my review on the DSM-V revisions for eating disorders, so I’ll post that soon. I’m actually making it a relatively legit and somewhat professional entry, so it won’t be just a bunch of senseless rambles like my normal ones.

compulsive exercise recovery! It IS possible.

Dear Bee,

So, it’s about 7pm, and I want to knock out. 

I spent all day hiking with one of my best friends, and it was an amazing 10-mile trek of river-jumping, rock-climbing, and blazing under the hot, cruel sun. We’re both thrill-seekers, so our dynamic is a great one. Hiking, though it requires physical exertion and strength, is such a mental game. You need to be with a good companion(s) at a similar fitness level or it gets challenging REAL fast. 

I used to really struggle with compulsive and excessive exercise. How do you know when you have this problem? When the thought of skipping a workout makes you feel incomplete, anxious, and ready to cry, when you schedule life around exercise, when you push your body beyond its limitations just to “feel the burn,” when you feel dissatisfied if you don’t wake up with allover soreness, when you’re exercising because you feel like “you HAVE to.” 

I consider myself recovered from compulsive exercise. Not in recovery. Recovered. 

Uh, then why are you on a 10-mile hike? Sounds kinda extreme. 

Because, here’s my theory: I like staying active. It’s part of who I am. Once I learned how to walk my itty-bitty feet, I never wanted to return to the stroller. I spent entire summers in my backyard. I grew up playing sports. This was all before the eating disorder. This was all before I cared about body shape or food or control. At one point, “playing” became “exercising,” and it no longer felt enjoyable. I did it because I “had to.” Because it was “good for my body.” Because I wanted to lose weight, stay in shape, tone up, lose fat, etc. The reasons were endless. 

I had to learn how to challenge my distortions. I realized that skipping one workout would NOT make me gain five pounds overnight. I learned that I was literally driving myself sick and wretched with all the stress I was placing on my body. And so, slowly and patiently, I began restructuring my beliefs. I stopped waking up at 4:45am to work out, because I decided I valued sleeping more. I stopped running 3497389374 miles a day. I stopped following anything labeled as a “regime,” “six-week this-or-that,” or “summer-body-workout.” I got over being a gym rat. I let myself experience the full range of emotions when I purposely or accidentally missed a planned work out. 

I don’t exercise carrying these feelings of anger towards my body anymore. I don’t exercise to punish myself. I don’t exercise to offset calories. I don’t exercise because it’s Wednesday. For instance, a year ago, had I gone on this same hike, I would have been calculating the total number of calories burned; I would have been thinking about what alternative exercise class I could go to tomorrow in case my calves or thighs were sore (which they undoubtedly will be, along with the rest of my body); I would have been worrying about the calorie content of the food I was eating. Today, none of these thoughts popped into my mind. 

My views have changed!

I hike, because i love exploring the wilderness. I love the smells of trees; I love the accomplishment of reaching the top of something; I love the sound of nature’s silence.

I walk, because I love enjoying scenery and breathing fresh air. I love the feeling of warm sand beneath my toes; I love crunching on new fall leaves; I love having a great conversation with someone next to me. 

I do yoga, because I love indulging my body with deep stretches and poses. I love focusing on my breath; I love rejuvenating my energy; I love the spirit and meaning of namaste.

I strength-train, because I love the feeling of strength. I love challenging my muscles; I love the isolated discipline; I love feeling the internal power.

I dance, because I love letting loose. I love feeling good; I love flowing with the music; I love having a good partner to share the vibe with.

I do martial arts, because I love the practice. I love the rush before a good spar; I love the precision behind each punch and kick; I love the history of its origins. 

I also love riding my bike and kayaking. I love swimming and soccer. I love jumping on trampolines, playing tennis, and doing pilates. I love surfing and paddle boarding, skiing and wakeboarding. 

The point is, it’s playing now. It’s channeling my inner child again. I don’t think of it as exercise. I don’t think of it has something I have to do anymore. I simply think of it as, wow, I spent all day in the middle of the beautiful and serene wilderness laughing and getting filthy with my best friend! 

 

 

 

PS: I’m talking to someone new, and it’s going very well 🙂 

PPS: Medication is going well.

PPPS: Apartment-hunting is still in progress. More details to follow. Maybe? 

 

 

Shine on<3

Pantless Yoga

Dear Bee,

I never really thought I could ever wrap my head around that crazy, cultish-sounding Anonymous jargon known as Higher Power. But, after a few months of attending these OA meetings, I have.

Sell-out? Maybe. Do I care? Nope.

For me, the definition is simple: The universe will take care of me. And whatever problems I have, they will work themselves out by the natural laws and energies of this universe. I never had much control to begin with and by letting go of that desperate need, I can mature from a life once riddled with fear, anxiety, and preoccupation. 

Even when I’ve lost hope in myself, I’ve never lost hope that somehow everything will work out in the end. John Lennon said it best when he said, Everything will work out in the end. And if it’s doesn’t, it’s not the end.

 And WHO wants to mess around with the Lennon?

So, I understand the whole Higher Power thing now. I really do. It’s just believing that everything will be okay. That I’m being taken care of. That I don’t have to do everything on my own and that I’m not a “failure” for leaning and depending on other people or things.

And for a staunch skeptic, non-religious individual like myself, that must be some kind of miracle. I can just replace God with The Universe. Because, I’ve always believed in the good energy of our world. I’ve always believed in the general karma of spirituality.

Today, I was going to do my Bikram yoga class, but I wasn’t feeling it. I had work in the morning and was just kind of dreading going. I had done yoga yesterday and had an amazing class, but felt I needed to do it today. The reasons are distorted: “I need to exercise.” “I’m wasting money if I don’t use all my classes.” “I’m in the area anyway, so I need to go.”

AKA #compulsiveexerciseprobs (#didireallyjusthashtaginthisblog?). 

I was sitting in my car because I had arrived fairly early. And it was really hot. And I needed to do some homework, but I didn’t have the right textbook with me. So, I was just messing around on my phone (isn’t this a riveting story?). Then, as the start time approached, I pulled out my yoga clothes to get ready. And it was then I noticed that I had packed a black SCARF instead of my my black YOGA PANTS.

Yep. No yoga for me.

I personally have no qualms about doing pantless (or thong-underwear) yoga in 110 degree heat, but I’m not sure if my fellow yogis would be okay with that. 

Where this would have IRRITATED the hell out of me before starting recovery and provoked a plethora (honestly, isn’t plethora the coolest word, ever) of negative self-talk (I can’t believe I drove this far; I can’t believe I waited an hour; I can’t believe I’m so stupid to have made this kind of error), this time, I just laughed. 

As I was driving home, sure, you told me that I had been somewhat lax on my working out lately. You warned me of the repercussions this missed opportunity would have on my weight. You reminded me that I had barely moved my body at all today.

And how did I react? i just reminded you that working my recovery meant that I’d have to sit with some discomfort (and that includes getting over my anxiety of no longer compulsively exercising). Just like one workout cannot sculpt a body, one missed workout cannot destroy a body. That’s recovery logic. That’s common sense. And yet, I could not understand and accept this reasoning until lately

I had to text my sponsor to tell her this interesting phenomenon. Was this some kind of paranormal sign that I was overdoing my exercise this week? A message that my body was sore and needed rest? A gentle reminder to take it easy?

Or did I just make a ridiculous and very common mistake?

Who knows? At this point, who cares? The point is: I didn’t do yoga. I didn’t freak out. In fact, I was relieved. Relieved because I didn’t feel like doing it anyway. And that’s how I know I’m making strides in my recovery. That’s how I know I’m easing away from my compulsive identity and slowly adopting the living life on life’s terms philosophy everyone raves about. 

Yesterday, I spent three hours in an OA meeting. If someone had willingly told me I would spend a Saturday morning surrounded by a bunch of people talking about their food compulsions, pathways to spiritual restoration, and deepest wounds, I would have asked, are these people my clients? Or is this a school assignment? I finished Step Two yesterday and will be sharing it with my sponsor this week. I have been attending meetings daily, sharing, writing, and reading literature. Most importantly, I have not been bingeing. 

Last night, I booked flight tickets for Europe this August. I’ve been dreaming of this forever. One of my best friends and I are going to spend about three weeks bumming around, backpacking, living the young, free spirited life. We fly into Berlin. That’s the only plan we have, and for the first time in my life, I don’t want to plan out anything else. 

Flashback Friday: Recovery from compulsive exercise

Dear Bee,

This afternoon, I went to a lovely park by my house that I used to frequent. By used to frequent, I am referring to the days I spent running endless laps on the soft grass, hard pavement, trails, and perfectly-defined barometers. At the worst of my compulsive exercise phase, I was running…because I had to run. That’s the only way I can put it. I just had to do it. I’d always been athletic, but this compulsion brought my insanity to an entirely new level. Running became my form of purging, my compensation for an out-of-control “diet.” Or, so I thought. Besides, I figured, isn’t that what everyone did? After all, we always hear  talking about needing to “burn off last night’s dinner.” At least, I was in good shape! 

 What’s my difference between exercise and compulsive exercise? When I am exercising, I am moving to reap the physical and mental benefits. I am moving my body because it is intuitive and enjoyable to me. When I am compulsively exercising, I am moving to ease the preoccupied obsession, to avoid the impermeable guilt and self-loathing I will feel if I don’t engage in it. Compulsive exercise is rigid: it is measured and specific. It needs to be done a certain way, length of time, or provide a certain degree of soreness in order to feel “right.” Non-compulsive exercise does not follow such rules.

When I used to run compulsively, I had to complete X amount of miles in Y amount of time…and when I did that, I could then eat Z amount of calories. It was insane. It was obsessive. I watched every step. Every mile. And I hated every minute of it. And yet, YOU, told me I was this health guru. In fact, you told me I was superior. I ran in spite of ridiculous heat, aches and pains, alternative (and far better) plans, etc. YOU told me that made me a true athlete. YOU convinced me I was special for it.

And what did I like about running? Not much. I liked finishing. I liked the runner’s high I experienced just after finishing. Oh yeah, and I liked the massive calorie burn, even if it was usually offset by frantic binges (because I had “earned” them). And occasionally, I reached clarity in the midst of a hard sprint, but those sparse moments of bliss hardly accounted for the hours I spent panting and wishing I was done already. I may be an athlete and enjoy a variety of activities, but running was never among them, no matter how much I tried to become a “runner.” And yet, the whole time I was engaging in this, I thought I was doing it because I absolutely had to. 

Today, I went to this park after an OA meeting.  I didn’t intend on going there. I planned on doing Bikram yoga this afternoon. However, I got my hair done yesterday. After cutting and highlighting, the woman gave me a fabulous blowout, and since I’m going out tonight….well, I didn’t want to wash my gorgeous-looking head! Normally, you would overrule that logic and tell me that my body is far more important than my hair (or anything else in my life, for that matter), but today, I ignored you.

It is an absolutely perfect day in sunny California, and I needed to be outside. So there I was, in this park, alone with my thoughts, soaking in the sunshine, listening to the birds chirping, walking barefoot in the soft, dewed grass (how cliched does this sound?) My sensations overwhelmed me. How had I been to this park so many times and had never taken the time to enjoy its sheer beauty? I suppose it’s because you never let me.

 When I took that time today, I saw a turtle (my absolute favorite animal) on a rock overlooking the lake, watched two baby ducks trail behind their mother duck in the water, got chased down by a squirrel, smiled and said hello to every single person passing by me, watched leaves tumble from trees….in other words, I was alive and rather than simply doing, I was simply being. 

Was this entire experience spent in a purely meditative stance? Nope. Was I completely present and taking in every sense? No. I’m not quite there yet, and even if this walk in the park may sound like some joyous spiritual awakening, it was just peaceful. I like peaceful, and I will take peaceful.

Still, my mind reeled, and indeed, I spent much of my time reflecting.

I thought about the time I lapped this park at 10pm. I needed to get my run in and naturally tripped over a tree branch and fell flat on my face. I’m already a ridiculous klutz in the daytime, and yet I thought it was perfectly sane to jog around in complete darkness. I thought about my last half-marathon, the one I completed almost a year ago to this day, and how I spent the entire time wishing I was done. After crossing the finish line, I had decided that I was done. With running, that is. I couldn’t bear it anymore. Why continue torturing myself?

 I thought about the past few months and my recovery process, from therapy to OA to writing these letters to how I’ve grown in every aspect of my life. I thought about my future in terms of tonight and in terms of the next couple years. 

Thinking is good. Daydreaming is healing. You robbed me of that for a couple of years, but I’m taking it back, thank you very much!

A few times, you tried to interrupt my serenity. You told me I needed to “properly” exercise and increase my physical ante. You reminded me of my summer plans and how I needed to get in “perfect” shape in order to feel good about myself and enjoy my time. You also told me walking certainly wasn’t going to get me there and that I was just wasting an hour that could be spent more constructively. 

That’s the thing about you, Bee. You’re just thoughts. You’re just a little girl starving for attention. You’re just distortion. Where you were once my reality, you’re just a figment of my imagination. And I can now distinguish my voice from yours. That’s not to say I no longer listen to you. If I was able to do that 100% of the time, I wouldn’t have any need for treatment. I’m not looking for 100%. I don’t care about 100%. If I can simply increase how often I challenge, shut you out, or simply smile at you from afar, then I’m on the right track. 

If I can wake up everyday and ask myself, how can I show you that I love you today? and actually take some positive, action-orientated steps, then I’m doing the best I can.

I have forgiven myself and many others over the past few months. It’s time to say that I truly and honestly forgive you, too. 

my week of morning walks, crossfit, tennis, and bike rides

Dear Bee,

How far I’ve come since the days where I compulsively exercised, where “exercise” was only deemed successful if it illicit total-body soreness and utter exhaustion. Why? Because that’s, of course, how I gauged progress. I’ll never forget the pitted knot in my stomach I felt when the first therapist I ever spoke to told me I exhibited the symptoms of bulimia. Bulimia? I’m sure my eyebrows were raised to my hairline. But, I don’t throw up. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t an all-knowing, DSM-toting, therapist-in-training yet, and I did not realize the eating disordered world also considered excessive exercise a form of purging.

I no longer compulsively exercise, but I do feel restless if I don’t move my body. I must admit that I sometimes feel bothered when something interrupts a scheduled workout.

However, I think this is “normal.” I don’t think my slight annoyance is just you speaking. How do I know that? Because people without eating disorders also enjoy working out and often experience slight distress if they do not get the opportunity to do so.

I fully believe the human body is meant to be in motion. And regular exercise is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But, like everything else, moderation must be practiced.  I used to pick the most grueling workouts…they were miserable and I loathed doing them. So why bother, one might ask? Because, well, I had to. You told me I had to. Obviously. If I didn’t, I was a failure. If I didn’t, I was going to become fat.

Compulsions are cognitive distortions; they are the rigid, all-or-nothing, inflexible schemas in our minds; the ones implanted by our own self-defacting thoughts and feelings; the ones that pretend to serve us constructively, when really, they only increase our distress and anxiety.

This week, thanks to the increased flexibility in my new schedule, I rounded out my normal exercise routine with a few new hobbies:

I tried Crossfit for the first time (thank you online promotions) and I loved it. For those who are unfamiliar with Crossfit, it is a strength and conditioning workout that incorporates high-intensity cardiovascular activity (jumping rope, sprints, rowing, polymetrics) with weights and resistance (barbells, pullups, pushups). It can be as competitive as you want it to be…or as simple as you want to be. The choice is yours. I have a 30-day trial promotion. Will I upgrade? Nope. I don’t care how solid a workout plan or gym is, I can’t afford $150-$200 a month on something I can do virtually for free.

I played tennis with one of my best friends yesterday and it was really fun. I actually lost track of time and found it to be a great stress reliever. Both of us are at the basic beginner level, but I’ve always wanted to  learn how to really play this sport. I saw a flyer advertising city classes for beginners held once a week starting at the end of the month, and you know what? I’m thinking of registering. Why not?

Finally, today, I went bike riding with my brother. We spent about five hours cruising up and down the beach under the gorgeous cloudless spring skies. We discovered new trails and parked our bikes for a picnic lunch and short hike around the bluff tide pools.

I’ve been trying to go on solo morning walks as often as I can. I went on a simple one around my neighborhood and another one on the beach. Both were healing and meditative in their own sort of serene way. I did not feel any need to move at a “fast” pace or hit a certain “number” of miles. I just soaked in my surroundings and let my body take me where it wanted to go and see what it wanted to see.

I used to see exercise only for what it did for my body…you told me I needed to do it and do as much of it as possible. But now, with you only in the shadows and recovery in my path ahead, I finally understand what exercise can do for my soul. And that’s why it feels so good to move.