It was a slow realization when you found yourself so disconnected from your body that you didn’t know how, when, or what to eat. Perhaps you over exercised and then under-ate only to pendulum to day long binge episodes, too tired and ashamed of yourself to get out of your pajamas. The balance with food and body seemed to be a razor thin edge that you cut yourself on every time you passed over it in your all or nothing mindset. Back and forth you’d go, one painful day after the next, and you wondered to yourself, will I ever find peace with this?
But what if you just played with this idea: right now, today, in this moment, you have a perfectly healthy and balanced relationship with food and your body.
I know that for me it was somewhat of a slow process to come around and admit that I was not happy in my body. I had lost weight and, objectively speaking, had the body I always wanted. But as I pushed to become even thinner, I developed a gripping fear around food and became unreasonably protective of my exercise routine. Dinner party at 8pm? No way, dude. Kitchen closes at 5. You want to join me for a walk this morning? That’s cool, I’m just going to run while you walk, meet you back at the house for some breakfast rice cakes. I would take my gluten-free/vegan snacks to the public library where I would scour the shelves for books on nutritional healing and then privately, perhaps even secretly, write notes on how this or that nutrient would calm inflammation or detox your kidneys. Then I would take laxatives to “cleanse” my gut. I shit my pants on more than one occasion.
Still, I considered myself a self-educated professional. I filled journals with “study notes” on amino acids, lipids, carbohydrate timing, supplemental nutrition, and metabolic performance. The idea was that I would become a health coach and help other people find “health”.. But ultimately, I was always just looking for more ways to lose even more weight in the crest of my plateau. While I wanted to lose weight, I was losing everything else: my boyfriend, my friends, my period, my purpose, my sanity! Not to mention, I was hungry ALL THE TIME. And yet, I had this idea in my head that I was going to tout “health” through diet and exercise and charge people money for it.
That was me at my sickest point. I was not only the thinnest I had ever been, but I was pretending like there wasn’t something deep inside me that knew this was not true health. The doubt crept in like a tiny seedling’s roots can slip through the loam of the earth. Deep in me, I knew that I was living a lie. Not only that, but I was the silent glue helping to hold together the 66 billion dollar fairy tale narrative of the diet industry! I was so embarrassed. Where on the outside it looked like I had achieved the fruits that come with discipline, delayed gratification, and self-control, on the inside I was like a house of cards, obsessively protecting the fragile framework of a “healthy” lifestyle.
Now, it’s very possible that some people have followed whatever weight loss endeavor fed to them by mass media to lifelong weight maintenance and overall health. Good for them. But do you ever wonder how many of them are just silencing that little seed of truth in them as they go on counting their macros, miles, lbs, and minutes until their next low-carb meal bar? How many days have I wasted spinning widdershins over the energy calculations of my body?
The deconstruction of this fortified fiction has been, without doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than the days on months on years that I starved myself through restrictive dieting. When I started to feed my body again, it was difficult not to binge every time I ate and within just a few months I had gained all of the weight back and more. I believe this was a necessary part of my process because I had to get through my biggest fear: my fear of getting fat again. But for everyone it will be different.
Whatever it is that is bringing you through your recovery, the question looms above all of our heads: Is recovery even possible!?
Maybe you’re still skipping meals, counting calories or waking up with a binge hangover, surrounded by wrappers of those cookies you told yourself you’d never buy again.
You keep making promises to yourself that “this is the last time” you’re going to stick your finger down your throat but then you told yourself that last time, didn’t you? You don’t feel like you’ve recovered from this at all because no “normal” person would do these things to themselves.
Yet, here you are, reading this article. You’ve already read over half of this rant not just because it’s relieving to relate to someone else’s experience, but because you more or less agree that the biggest sickness in this whole thing is in our relentless commitment to the myth that weight loss is the answer to all your problems. Perhaps you found out the easy way, by realizing that your perceived body image did not improve with the definition of your triceps. Or maybe you had to find out the hard way when you wound up in the hospital, literally dying to be thin. Either way, you have come to realize that your health and happiness are not built upon things so insufficient as Body Mass Index.
This realization doesn’t suddenly sedate all of the behaviors that you developed in your membership to the “body project”, as habits die hard. I still compulsively count the calories in my breakfast, and I have to work daily to control my urges to over eat. But somewhere in there, there is balance. And as long as I know I am nourishing that seed of inner wisdom, I can let myself flail all over and know that health will find me.
Perhaps it is not so much that we are “recovered” as much as we are “enlightened” by an inner wisdom that has exposed the chaos of our body obsessed culture. As it is, we cannot “unsee” what has been revealed to us, and we will always be working to find that a healthy relationship with food and body in the same way that we are trying to find balance in all other aspects of our life: in our partnerships, in our careers, in our intimacy, in our bravery to explore our limits and expectations of ourselves in action.
“Recovery” is not something to be attained and held onto like the many diets and protocols we adhered to in our blind search for fitness. It is something you already have. It is in you in every mistake and relapse, in every part of your being and identity as you stumble wildly from one extreme to another. You are more whole than ever, right now, with all your flaws, with all your misjudgments, with all your dirty desires and bumps in the road. Your body is not perfect, but you love it anyway. Your judgment is not always perfect either, do you have it in you to love it, too?
Explore and have fun!
Sarah is a climbing instructor for She Moves Mountains and works with us each year to host our Body Positive Climbing Workshop. To sign up for this 2 day experience visit the Escapes page.