I feel like I’ve come a long way with how I feel about my body, health, exercise and my relationship with food. I have people tell me quite consistently how much healthier and happier I look and that they can see the positive changes I’ve made in my life.
And I have. I feel immensely healthier and happier than I did 12 months ago. This time last year I only was starting to admit that I had a problem which needed to be fixed. I was slowly coming to the confronting realisation that maybe I couldn’t compete, that maybe I did have some kind of eating disorder and perhaps the self talk that I had with myself around my body was unhealthy and abnormal.
I have changed a lot. Positive, monumental changes have taken place over the past 12 months. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days, weeks or even months where I revert back to those feelings that encumbered me for many years.
To be completely honest, I’ve held off talking about it for so long because I feel like I should have my shit together by now. That by admitting that I’m struggling somewhat discounts all of the progress that I’ve made. I feel almost like a fraud.
But that’s the nature of eating disorders and that’s the nature of life. You make progress and then you fail so you start over again, just to make more progress, and then fail. And so on.
Truth be told, the past month or so has been a mental battle in my head. I have recognised that some feelings that I naively thought I had shaken for good have slowly seeped back into my mind. Feelings of guilt, scrutiny, loathing, self-reproach and obsess have become regular visitors again, knocking on my door almost daily.
After I eat, whether it is vegetables and chicken or homemade muesli, I have the familiar feeling of ‘fat’. If I miss the gym or don’t push myself to the absolute limit, I get that pang of guilt. It has made me stop in my tracks and take a good hard look at myself.
The difference this time around is that I have the knowledge and power to identify their essence and categorize them just as they are; thoughts that pass through my mind. They don’t need attention, they don’t need action, and they’re simply thoughts like clouds drifting through the sky. Some are white and fluffy that signifies sun, while others are dark and grey that mean potential rain. Regardless of the nature of the clouds, they will drift away in their own time and more will take their place.
When I take a step back and look and myself objectively I realise how diluted these thoughts are. But that doesn’t take anything away from how real they feel. It wasn’t until very recently that I was honest enough with myself to admit maybe I’d lost touch with my body.
I began to realise that I had focused so much on repairing my body that I had completely neglected my mind. I had detached the two from each other, like they were two separate entities when in reality, they are the most two in sync organisms, feeding off each other in every way possible.
Further, I started to refocus on how I looked and totally disregarded how I felt. I see people around me and on social media training hard, eating a certain way and leaning down that I started to feel like I do the same in order to be worthy for them.
Generally, I would have talked to someone, asked for support or simply vented so it was off my chest. But I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that these thoughts and feelings had crept back into my life; so much so that I hid it from everyone around me. I kept it bottled up; brewing so they became stronger and more persistent and threatening.
It wasn’t until these feelings started to have a negative effect in my life that I had no choice but to feverishly explain what had been going on. I didn’t want people to know I’m struggling again, I don’t want the questions, the worry or the concern about my wellbeing because I damn well know that this isn’t like last time.
This is merely a road bump in my journey. I know so much more about myself and my body that I know these feelings will be on their way again. But I know it will take conscious effort to leave them behind. They’re not magically going to disappear without a fight because that’s not what disorders do. They hang around as long as they can until you have to physically force them out.
The positive thing is, I can now identify when they’re back and when I take time to really focus on my environments and myself, I also recognise why.
Despite the relapse of these feelings I haven’t let them take a toll of my life. I still live a balanced lifestyle. I know those thoughts are there but I don’t give in to them
These things take time and success is never linear. What I’ve learned is that if you’re honest with yourself and others, these problems don’t need to linger. I’d spent so much time over the past few weeks trying to ignore what was going on in hopes that it would disappear. But it’s kind of like a child demanding attention. The more you ignore them the louder they become.
Sometimes it takes courage to accept that we’re imperfect and often it’s those imperfections and vulnerabilities that make us beautiful.