It’s been a while! And I am happy to say that this is 100% a good thing. My life has been busy this summer, but I am so happy. With the exception of doctor appointments (and even those are beginning to dwindle a bit), my life has consisted of “normal” 20 year old busyness, and I am so, so thankful for that.
It dawned on me this morning (while I was coaching at swim practice, and had a fresh blackberry that one of the lifeguards offered me) just how far I’ve come in the last few months. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but MAN, I almost started crying as I thought about it! I didn’t even give a second thought to having an extra bite of fruit, after having already had breakfast, and me refusing to eat a fresh blackberry (Yes, just ONE!) from the bushes while my mom and I went for a walk is something we argued about frequently just six months ago.
Because of that realization, I decided to pop on here and make a list of recent happenings that I am proud of. Here goes.
- Timing: The time at which I eat my meals and snacks has become so much more flexible. I used to eat breakfast at 8:30, morning snack at 11, lunch at 1, afternoon snack at 4, dinner at 7, and evening snack at 9. On. The. Dot. As you can probably imagine, being this rigid around meal and snack times can be a challenge for, well, life. I would turn down social situations so that I could make sure I was home to eat my food. And no, eating out with a friend wasn’t an option (see #2 and #4), so that meant I couldn’t do anything with anyone for about half of my day. Talk about a challenge!
- Variation in Food Choices: The list of foods that I’m comfortable eating has grown, a lot. I used to rotate between 2 or 3 meal plans, and would eat those same meals and snacks every day. Yes, every day, and no, I did not get tired of them (Which is weird, I know. Welcome to living with an eating disorder!). I’ve begun experimenting in the kitchen more, which for the most part, I am actually enjoying. I’ve discovered that I really like sautéed kale, and have been using that in a lot of bowls and salads as opposed to my usual romaine lettuce base. I’m really proud of myself for this, because I continued to use it even after realizing that kale contains quite a bit more calories than romaine. I also know, however, that it has more nutrients, which is something that wouldn’t have mattered to me a few months ago (more calories = not going to eat it, regardless of the nutritional value), but now, I am able to appreciate.
- Dating: I’ve gone on a few dates. Like actual, real dates where we got food, not just “grabbing coffee.” I was telling my mom, you don’t realize how much you’re limiting yourself by only allowing social interactions to occur around coffee (which was my life for the last few years), until you start expanding that and being okay with going to get a meal, or ice cream, or whatever. It sure is a lot more fun, and opens up WAY more doors. Who knows if anything will come of these dates, but regardless, they have been fun opportunities for me to have to step outside of my normal routine, and get to know new people.
- Eating Out: Kind of going off that last one, going out to eat doesn’t scare me anymore. I can remember a time (not long ago!) when I couldn’t imagine myself ever being able to go out to a restaurant and order something off the menu. Ever. I really thought that wouldn’t happen for me. I’m proud to say that that is not the case anymore! While some restaurants may be more of a challenge than others, I’m pretty confident that I can find SOMETHING that I am comfortable eating on any menu. As a matter of fact, my mom and I are even planning a little staycation before I go back to school, and included in those plans are a few restaurants around Portland that I want to try. Yes, you read that right! That I. WANT. TO. TRY. Wooot!
- Fluctuations: I’m way more okay with fluctuations. This is a big one as well. A couple of times at weigh-ins, my weight’s been up a little, and other times, it’s been down a little, which is completely normal, but to me a few months ago, would’ve been terrifying. I haven’t allowed those minor differences in my weight to determine what I ate that day or the following one, and I’ve continued to adhere to my meal plan, per my doctor’s orders. I trust that my body knows where it wants to be, and frankly, I’m really not scared of what would happen if I ended up gaining another pound or two. To be honest, I feel like I’ve already had to gain so much weight, that one or two pounds just doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I’m practically pinching myself as I’m writing this, because I can remember the way it made me feel, like my skin was crawling, when just a couple of months ago, my doctor asked how I would feel if I ended up having to gain another pound or two. I’m seeing huge progress here. Huge. Progress.
- Body Dysmorphia: I have a more accurate view of my body. I don’t see myself as “fat”, which, even though I’ve always known that medically I wasn’t, my own view of myself was so skewed that even a few months ago, I would’ve bet you money that I was. I am gaining muscle through weight-lifting, which I’m proud of, but I also think that I’m just getting more comfortable in my own skin. My treatment team has been telling me FOREVER that this would happen (medically speaking, distorted body image is a side-effect of being even just a pound or two underweight), and I’m elated that it finally has. I still have days where I don’t love my body, but who doesn’t? I’m trying to focus more on the things that it CAN do than the things that it isn’t.
- Exercise: I’m less rigid in my exercise. This is a huge one for me. I love working out, and I always have. The euphoric feeling people often refer to as a “runner’s high,” I seem to get whenever I get my heart rate up. And to be honest, I think I’ve always been that way, but for a good chunk of my recent life, my eating disorder stole that from me. I worked out because I had to, because I was scared of what my body would do if I didn’t burn X number of calories on the elliptical for even one day, because I didn’t trust my body to take the food that I was giving it and use it to nourish itself, etc. The list could go on, and on, and on. Recently, since having been cleared to add cardiovascular exercise back into my life after an 18-month hiatus, I’ve been able to enjoy things like lap swimming, hiking, circuits with weights, and power yoga. I have some other bodily issues (which have been very frustrating) that are making running not an option for me right now, and I’m staying away from doing cardio machines for the foreseeable future, but these other fun ways of exercise have helped me to realize that I DO love working out, and not just for the sake of burning calories. I’m so incredibly proud of myself for taking the long break from cardio that I did, because now, I’m not scared of what will happen to my body if I take a few days off from working out. I used to be held captive by the monitor that would read how many calories I’ve burned, and now I’m getting to redefine my relationship with exercise in a completely new and healthy way. And, most importantly, I’m having fun while I’m doing it!
Whew! That was quite a list! There are more things, but those are the major ones, and all that I’m going to take the time for. Did I mention it’s been a busy summer?
In all honesty, the hardest part of recovery right now, is that I’m still not “recovered,” even though for the most part, I feel like I am. Both my mom and my treatment team are still very wary of me slipping backwards, and that has been frustrating for me. I would like for my doctors and therapy appointments to be reduced to once every few weeks or so, but no one else is on board with that just yet.
I have to continually remind myself that they are this way because of how many times I’ve relapsed. And I understand it…but still, it can be hard. I get mad when my mom isn’t giving my praise or compliments (full disclaimer…my mom gives me A LOT of praise and compliments…but she gives me constructive criticism, too!), or when she asks me to send her a meal plan for the umpteenth day in a row, but usually, once I take a step back and take a deep breath, I can identify where she’s coming from, and then I’m okay.
Well, I think that’s it! As always, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for following along on my recovery journey. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it.