I feel like I’ve been engulfed by a big cloud of sadness and frustration for so many weeks now, and I’m torn between wanting to hide away or to just be honest and upfront with how all this mental stress has affected my physical health.
I’m not going to beat around the bush - I've been experiencing daily bouts of diarrhoea, my lower abdomen and back are constantly distended, I'm holding onto so much water, I’ve consistently been gaining weight, I’ve visibly lost muscle and I’ve gained fat.
None of this has been in a controlled, healthy or desirable manner.
Yes - weight gain has been a goal of mine for a few years now following my ED, but this recent gain has felt nothing like the gain’s I’ve achieved for myself in the past.
This is my body sending me a sign that something is wrong - this is not my body thriving.
Weight gain has always been something I've associated with fear - but throughout recovery from my ED it was also something I happily came to experience could be accompanied with improvements in my physical and mental health.
This time around though? My energy levels haven’t increased, my strength hasn’t improved, my moods are lower than ever, and I just don’t feel healthy. I feel like I’ve completely lost control of my body and no matter how diligent and consistent I remain with my eating and my training - I’m losing all feeling of wellbeing, fitness and happiness.
My gut instinct is to slash my calories and to add more cardio to “strip away” this uncomfortable new space I’ve come to fill. I can’t even explain how f*cking hard I’ve fought to not give in and do just that. The mental battle of NOT relapsing has been exhausting as it is, but I’m fighting even harder than just "pushing through" and barely keeping my head above water. I’m taking action and proving to myself that what I need now is ENOUGH food, and MORE rest (see my post on Cortisol and Body Composition to explain why)
I need to step back, and accept that my body is acting out of stress and fear. It’s literally protecting itself from me, and while it’s the most disheartening realisation ever, it's also liberating to know that it's up to me to change this.
So, the solution now is to be loving and proactive and to show my body with consistent action that I really do want it to heal and to regain it’s strength and vigour again. Yes, I've put it through years of destruction, hatred and careless disregard.....but that's all about to change.
I'm writing a separate post on tips for reducing cortisol/stress, regaining self-love and rebalancing my hormones, but for now, here's a brief run down of what I'm prioritising:
There's more detail to come, but basically, I’m doing what I can to push through this little revolt my body has thrown against me, and I’m getting it back on my side again.
My body has endured chronic stress, so now it needs to experience persistent and ongoing rest, love, compassion and patience - something that feels mentally foreign, but also overwhelmingly right.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.....so here's to turning over a new chapter of true health and happiness with my body xx
Where do I even begin….
It’s safe to say that my journey toward a healthy lifestyle has been anything BUT easy, ideal or consistent. It’s been years of struggling, of going to extremes, of enduring pain and depression, of losing friends, hurting my family, of making lots of mistakes and learning a lot of lessons…over and over again.
Most of my childhood and early teens were spent overweight. I had zero care in the world for health or fitness. I ate what I wanted and my only form of exercise was some dabbling in sports at school. I was naïve and unhealthy, but I was content and carefree. This lasted until I reached high school, and all of a sudden, being unhealthy turned into being 'fat', being bullied and being made to feel inadequate, unattractive and worthless.
I was hurled insults, had snide comments and cruel jokes made about me and had all my flaws pointed out. I was made to feel so uncomfortable that I began to not just question my own worth…but to truly hate myself. I would wear layers of clothes to cover up my ‘disgusting’ body, I would say no to social situations, I wouldn’t dare speak up to any of my skinnier, prettier friends and I mistakenly learned from a very young age that my appearance determined my happiness.
Toward the end of high school I had become depressed. I adopted the rationale that the only way I was going to be happy was to lose weight, change how I looked and to show everyone that I DID have self-control and wasn't as 'lazy' as they told me I was.
So that’s what I did.
Initially, it started off very innocently. I began eating healthier foods, exercising more and just becoming more conscious of what I was putting into my body and what I was expending. I became aware of the changes my body was making, and I become hyper-aware of all the compliments and encouragement I was receiving with every gram I lost from my body.
By the time I was in my final year of high school, I was the smallest I'd been in years and also the most 'disciplined' with my eating and exercise. I felt like every ‘no’ I said to food offerings was an achievement and I became convinced that I was doing all the right things to feel better about myself.
My eating disorder escalated when I finished up that final year of high school. I’d just come out of an extremely stressful exam period, and all of a sudden I had too much time on my hands, and no where to unleash my perfectionist, driven and controlling energy. I was unemployed, still lacked confidence, had low self-esteem and I decided that I would cling to the only thing that I seemed to be succeeding at…losing weight.
All of a sudden I wasn't eating at all.
I was exercising until my heart ached with pain and exhaustion.
I was weak, I was moody at best, I was angry and I was miserable.
But in my eyes I was still channeling my energy into something positive – I genuinely thought that continuing to lose weight was what I needed to do and that by doing so, I was proving how dedicated and worthy I was and how much I deserved to be happy.
I remember frantically doing burpees as quietly as I could in my bedroom after Christmas lunch.
I remember fighting off tiredness to do ab exercises in my bed instead of sleeping because I needed to burn off what little food I'd eaten.
I remember declining every delicious food offered to me, and counting every single "no thank you" as a victory.
I remember having fights with my friends and family because I was so hostile to anyone who tried to tell me what I was doing what wrong, or anyone who tried to make me deviate from my strict routine.
I remember feeling so miserable, full of self-hated and of torturing myself so devastatingly.
I remember my mum crying on a holiday she should have been enjoying because she was in such despair of what her youngest daughter was doing to herself.
I remember admitting to my doctor that I’d lost my period, having her weigh me and being told I’d lost almost 10kgs in a month.
I remember undergoing physical examinations and mental tests and being diagnosed all in one day.
I remember starting what would turn out to be 2 years of Psychologist sessions the following week, and battling day in and day out with an illness I never thought I had, or ever would have wished upon myself.
That was almost 5 years ago.
I’m extremely proud to say that I have come a long way since then, and feel like I’ve transformed into a whole other person.
Unfortunately, those years of torture and control and misery are still engrained somewhat in my mental state. I still have restrictive tendencies at times. I still struggle with body dysmorphia every now and then. I still fight depression and anxiety.
But for once in my life, I consider myself to be healthy - and most importantly, happy.
I fought a battle that exhausts people to death – literally, and I’ve managed to come out of it with a wealth of insight, self-perception, appreciation and drive.
I’ve pushed myself past my comfort zone and overcome endless challenges to get to the stage I’m at now.
A stage where I’m eating well and I’m eating enough.
A stage where I’m exercising sustainably and out of enjoyment.
A stage where I’m showing up to things, putting myself out there and saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities.
A stage where I’m feeling confident and proud and happy within myself.
Repairing a broken mindset has taken me years, but I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve built for myself now for an easier alternative.