It was about two years ago that I started seeing a counselor to talk through a bunch of food issues I was having. I had just lost eighty pounds and was trying to navigate the healthy eating world alone without a whole lot of knowledge on the subject. I had a lot of food anxiety, weight gain fears, and body image problems- and after months of calorie counting- I was under eating and struggling to understand how to fuel and nourish my body appropriately. It was through sessions with my counselor that I realized I needed the help of a registered dietitian. And then after about six months with my R.D. and counselor, I was well enough and had learned enough to be “discharged” and venture out into the world by myself.
And here I am.
It’s amazing how much I’ve grown and changed since then- even though it wasn’t all that long ago. I still have all of the emails between myself and my R.D. and counselor… which- I don’t even think I could ever bring myself to read. The emotional stuff I was sharing with them is painful to remember- let alone read. How could that even have been me? It feels like a different person.
But for all of the leaps and bounds I have made, there are definitely still things that I am working on mentally. On my mind lately have been 1) the correlation between self-worth and exercising and 2) the struggle between being unhappy with what I look like on the outside versus being healthy on the inside.I’ve talked about number one a lot. I especially like the words I shared with you all in this post about stillness. Stillness is still something that’s hard for me. The idea of not exercising enough gets me all upset and fat fears creep in. I can say a million times over and know in my right mind that being healthy is more about a generally active lifestyle and the food choices we make… but crazy Allison refuses to believe that. My mind totally blows out of proportion the consequences of going lighter on the workout load.
It’s for these reasons that the past two months have been a major challenge for me. September in particular has been ROUGH. I’ve been working out a lot less (3-4 times a week) and opting for slower and less physically exhaustive activities like walking. Partially because I hurt my foot in June and haven’t been able to run- partially because I was feeling run down and too tired for the routine I used to put myself through- partially because I wanted to focus on sleep in order to better heal my gut issues- partially because I had/have been feeling way more stressed out because of life things and exercise was just making the stress worse. I knew I was making the right choices for me at this point in time in my life- but I was still really hard on myself for not maintaining the same level of fitness that I had just months before.Will and I were supposed to run a half marathon together this past Saturday down the Cape. I didn’t run it. He did.
And while I’m ridiculously proud of him and cannot even believe he trained for four months and really did this thing- it was really hard for me to watch him run every day and to not be able to go with him when that had been the plan.
When I realized in July that there was no way I was going to be able to run this race because I couldn’t run without my foot killing me (aargh plantar fasciitis), I was really upset. I wanted to run it so bad. But besides just being mad that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do- the fact that I couldn’t run was much more mentally stressful for me. My frustration was more of a running is my safety blanket and what ensured I would never gain weight or have to worry about being fat because I was running off all my calories kind of thing. Even though I was still eating healthy, food became more stressful again because I didn’t have the guarantee that I’d burn hundreds of calories running. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know, but that’s how my brain was working. Like hm, I don’t know Allison, you eat pretty dang healthy… that in it of itself is commendable.This whole experience has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. After I threw myself a pity party for a while about not running, I realized I couldn’t live in that “feeling sorry for myself” mode.
So instead of being down about what I couldn’t do (run), I tried my best to find alternatives that worked for me. I fell in love with slow, weight training sessions and the 1 or 2 spin classes I started taking weekly. It was (still is?) really uncomfortable not to run and not to be all about cardio, but it has gotten so much better and has strengthened my relationship with myself. I am more than the miles I run. I know that. But this period of time is just reinforcing it. I’m no worse of a person because I’m not running. I’m not a “less healthy” person because I’m not running. I’m still me. And I’m still healthy. And I would argue that I’m healthier because I’m not forcing myself to run and am instead doing what seems o be better for me right now.
The past two months have seen some pretty bad body days for me. Again, while logical Allison knows I’m making a multitude of healthy choices day in and day out and doing my absolute best every day, mental basket case Allison purely focuses on vanity and appearance and body image. How does the world see me? Do I look fat to everyone? Has my recent ten pound weight gain made people judge me? How do I look in this outfit- in that outfit? On bad body days, its impossible to recognize all the good that I do for myself and I can only focus on the negative. You’re not running. You’re gaining weight probably. You don’t deserve to have fun at that event. You don’t deserve to eat that cake. You don’t deserve that to drink that wine. You don’t deserve love. You’re so gross. Just stop. Just hideaway inside and don’t let anyone see you. Keep to yourself.
Gena’s post on bad body days pretty much hit the nail on the head.On those bad body days, all I could do was try not to listen to that voice in my head. Try to reach out to people to remind myself that I did deserve to be surrounded by people that genuinely care about me.
I did my best to remember to remember: whatever you look like on the outside isn’t a true indicator of if you’re healthy on the inside.
I did my best to reinforce: being healthy is the goal- naht being a certain size.
I did my best not to fight what my body looks like: if this is the shape my body is taking on now and I know that I’m eating well and moving in a way that feels right and taking care of myself mentally- well then that’s healthy. I can’t fight the shape that my body is taking on. This is what it needs- this is what it wants to be. I
shouldn’t can’t feel guilty for not having the body I think I’m supposed to have by society’s standard.Everything I’ve been doing and all the choices I’ve been making have been born out of love and compassion for myself- out of me doing my best to be kind to myself.
It’s amazing how kind I can be to others and not to my own person.
Dear Allison, you’re doing okay- in fact- you’re doing great. Don’t be so hard on yourself and recognize all of the good you welcome into your life. Recognize all of the positive choices you make daily. Mental health and physical health are intertwined and both equally important. And you’re doing a good job at addressing both for the place that your life is right now. No one else knows what you’re going through or what your body needs besides you. Anyone who doesn’t trust that you’re doing everything in your power to take care of yourself- well- they can take a hike. You’re doing great. Keep it up. Love, me.Sorry to be so heavy on a Monday, guys! I was just thinking a lot about all this over the weekend (driving to Massachusetts from DC gives you like nine hours to contemplate life… just what I need, right?!)
Let’s end this post on a smile…