An Honest Post: Treating My Body With Kindness
This topic is pretty heavy and loaded for me. For so long, I have done nothing but treat my body horribly. In one form or another, I have been hard on my body. I have restricted the food that I give my body, I have depleted it of it’s necessary and needed vitamins and nutrients. I have starved my body. I have forced my body to exercise on barely enough fuel to make it through any given day. I have pushed my body to exercise extremes; insisting that it keep going and move more, burn more, tone more. I was essentially treating my body as a slave. I was trying to beat it into submission, forcing it to work harder than it should have had any need to…trying to make it become thinner and more slender than my body should ever be. I made no room for excuses. I treated my body harshly, in every.single.sense of the word. I honestly can’t really think back to a time when I treated my body with love, patience, kindness, and understanding.
I have been doing a lot of thinking on this topic, especially since it’s been a topic of conversation with my therapist, and especially so since I’ve just recently started seeing a dietitian again. It really came to a cusp yesterday, however. Scott and I signed up for a 5k run, which we were planning on doing last night at 9pm in downtown Milwaukee. (Yeah, I know…9pm?!?) I had just casually mentioned it to my mom, since she had invited me over after she was done with work for the day, as I had to decline her invite. That’s when the sh*t hit the fan. My mom got really upset and really worried about me and my well-being. Granted, I knew her concern and worry came from a place of love. She felt that running was the absolute last thing that I should be doing right now. Yet, I was quick (maybe too quick) to come to my defense and tell her all the reasons it was OK for me to run and that I’d be ‘just fine’! I reasoned, ‘it’s only 3.1 miles’ or ‘I’ve run that distance before’ or ‘it’s really not a big deal at all’ or ‘I’m not that unhealthy, so running isn’t a problem for me’ She took those comments, one by one, and she quickly realized, (or so she stated) that I wasn’t reasoning on the matter or being rational. She indicated that she felt it was my ED that was saying these things. I, however, didn’t feel that way at all. I felt I was being rationalize and reasonable and that I would have no reason not to run the 5k that night. I told her that she had nothing to worry about and that I was going to run it. I even assured her that I had talked to my therapist and dietitian about the fact that I run, so they were also in the loop about it.
However, what she had all said, all about her fears, worries, concerns, anxieties, etc. about me and my general health and well being, really started to get me thinking. So, in need of further processing, I mentioned the situation to my co-worker, who I pretty much go to for anything/everything that weighs on my mind and he is actively aware of my health situation. He, of course, sided with my mother…stating that I was clearly not healthy enough to be running right now. I also brought it up to my best friend, someone who I knew would identify and be able to provide me with some rationality and help me to really distinguish if I was being ED’ed or if I was being rational Elise.
So she asked me the reason why I wanted to run the race. I gave her my reasons, consisting of feeling like I was finally healthy enough to run a 5k, because in the past I was either too heavy and couldn’t run, or far too sick/skinny to be able to run well. I said that it would be a way for me to feel good about myself and accomplished and that it would make me feel like I was in a better place recovery-wise. We talked a bit more on it, and she determined that I was definitely using running for the wrong reasons. She also said that unhealthy people can run, so just because I was finally able to run didn’t mean that I was healthy, nor in any condition to be running. She gave me her honest opinion (which I value very, very highly) and told me that she didn’t think I was anywhere near healthy enough to be running at all, let alone for the 5k run that night. It’s funny because as she was saying it, it was like I was having the exact same feelings and thoughts that she was. I could easily tell when rational Elise thoughts were coming through versus my disordered thoughts. I had even thought that it may be best for me to stop running altogether right now for a while, and I got the extra oomph of support from her to advise me that that was probably the best option for me right now.
Yet, it is a really, really hard thing for me to admit to. First of all, I am still comparing myself and my physical activity level to others, those who are healthier than I am. And that is just simply unfair to me. I can’t even begin to compare myself with anyone else who is healthier than I am. They are in a place where they can physically handle it. The healthy blogging community makes it an easy place to start comparing…yet I know I realistically just can’t do that. And it’s sad to say that many of the ‘healthy living bloggers’ out there, who portray their lives as ‘healthy’ and ‘in control’ and ‘balanced’ are simply and honestly not. I think a lot of people are living in denial of the fact that their amount of exercise is a little bit out of control and that their view of food and calories and eating is a lot more disordered than actually what they define as healthy. I see all these bloggers who are active 7-days a week, doing intense workouts each day of the week, multiple times a day sometimes. That is not healthy. That is not balanced. Granted, there may be exceptions to this. For instance, if you do more low-intensity work outs on a regular/daily basis, that is okay. But to be running every day, or doing all of these other highly physical, high-intensity workouts every.single.day without having any rest or break is unhealthy. You give your body no time to rest or repair or heal. Your body can only go so long like this before it starts to shut down.
So for me, I need to focus on me, on doing my version of healthy. Because frankly if I am using the ‘healthy living blog’ community as my standard of what is “healthy” I will continue this disordered pattern and skewed view of exercise and eating. So, I asked my dietitian what was ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ as far as exercise is concerned. She told me that 150 minutes a week is healthy. (And granted this is only if you are eating a normal, balanced diet of what your body needs in order to be healthy and for your body to operate properly) She used the example of 30 minutes a day for 5 days each week. (She also emphasized that if you don’t hit 150 minutes a week that is OK! There is nothing telling you that you must do 150 minutes a week. You need to do what is balanced and healthy and okay for you) She also indicated that this can consist of movement or physical activity of any kind. She was actually pretty much saying that variety is the key….and to not always feel that you need to get your heart really pumping in order for it to be a real workout. Even something as simple as a nice, brisk walk is considered a good exercise. She emphasized the need to have days to rest, too.
She always mentioned that it’s imperative to really exercise for the right reasons. Working out in order to burn calories, in order to allow yourself to eat, or to get rid of that dessert you ‘really shouldn’t have had’ are all the wrong reasons. Exercise is supposed to be something we enjoy and something that gives us energy and satisfaction. It is to be a full, all-encompassing experience that benefits us not only physically but also emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. It should leave us feeling more energized, invigorated and re-charged, not exhausted, worn down, or in pain or discomfort.
So, with that being said, I’ve given a lot of thought to my exercising. It is time for me to start doing what I need to do in order to be healthy. My analysis is this: I don’t take in enough food/nutrients/calories on a daily basis for my normal daily activities, such as waking up, going to work, and coming back home. So, if I’m clearly not eating enough calories for that amount of activity, how have I convinced myself that running any amount of time or any number of days a week, is ‘okay’ or ‘not a big deal’ or ‘just fine’? It’s simply, not. In order to be able to run, I would need to eat over and above my normal eating plan to compensate for what I’m burning, not eat under the normal intake I should have. So with that being said, I’ve decided that it would be best for my health if I would not run for the time being. I’ve decided that once I follow my meal plan, actually 100% follow it, on a consistent basis I can start to run then. But it would have to be for a certain amount of time (yet to be determined) because it could easily knock me off track right away if I jumped into running too soon. I need to make eating my priority now. I will still take walks (in moderation) and do yoga because for one, they are low intensity and two, they are things that I truly benefit from emotionally, mentally and spiritually. My motivation for doing them is for the better of my whole person. They relax me, de-stress me, and center me.
While this is going to be a hard thing for me, I know it is for my benefit. The reality of it is, I’m really not healthy. I’m underweight, I’m not properly nourishing myself. I’m no doubt void of necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients my body needs. I’ve also lost my period (yet again) and haven’t had one since January. Now I’m also experiencing dental problems…which quite honestly I never would have expected. The truth of it is, I had for so long told myself that I wasn’t that unhealthy. Sure, I had an eating disorder, but I wasn’t that bad off. And while I still feel that way, that I could be much, much worse off, I am learning that it is already starting to catch up with me, and I am not as invincible as I may have once thought. Things slowly but surely start to fall apart, piece by piece. I’d like to get this under control before anymore ‘pieces’ fall apart; before any further damage is done to my body.
Needless to say, I decided I wouldn’t be running the 5k. I had to tell the hubster that I decided I wouldn’t be running the race that night. (I really felt like I was letting him down…yet again) But he was absolutely awesome. He assured me that I was not at all letting him down…and even came back with telling me that he’d walk it with me. I insisted that he run it, because I didn’t want him to not do so for my sake, especially because he had been doing so well with his running. Yet he told me that we signed up for this thing together, so we were going to do it together too. 🙂 That meant so, so much to me! What a great guy!
It was like 9pm by the time the race started, so we had some shadows to contend with in the picture 🙂
So here’s to re-shifting my focus and priorities. It’s time for me to finally start taking charge of my health and putting that as a priority in my life. I know it won’t be easy and I know there will be times when I probably will really have the desire to workout more than I should, but I am going to work so hard at this. I’m also going to try and tell as many people as I can about my goal, about not running anymore, about working to do my meal plan entirely before I allow myself to run again, so that I can stay more accountable and more focused on my goal. That’s why I’m sharing it here. This will be a way for me to chart my progress. I will work so hard to finally be 100% compliant with my meal plan and take in the amount of food and nutrients I need in order to be a healthy, 23 year old woman. This is my time to take control of my life.