Perpetual diets often land us on a completely different path than expected. Many of us find ourselves on the frontline of Eating Disorder recovery, or fighting off the ED thoughts that a lifetime of dieting encourages. April shares a reflection of her mental journey with ED, an amazing encouragement for those still in the struggle.
It’s been about two years since I met Kiki and Lucia and the EM2WL society. Two years since I started really listening to the advice given to me. Two years since I started fighting the false need to restrict and purge, two years since I threw out the 100-calorie meals and traded them in for what my body really needed, two years since I put down the baby weights and picked up a barbell.
It hasn’t been easy.
The summer of 2012 is when it all began, and I remember it so well. With the encouragement of EM2WL, I’d started to eat a bit more, quite a bit more, and lifting just prior to our summer vacation in Canada. I was still working out like a maniac, getting up at 5am for cardio and then following it up with weights after work. The idea of going to a foreign country without any specific workout schedule was debilitating. The weeks leading up to vacation, I had mini panic attacks that only slowed to a mild fear once my friend secured me a 3-day pass to the Y for our visit.
Also during those weeks, I started to bloat. The extra calories I was consuming (and needed) were throwing my poor body out of whack. My metabolism was such a mess from years of underfeeding it that my body had no choice but to bloat up. My children’s size 12 jean leggings were starting to get too tight, but I shoved myself into them during that vacation. I still fit into my double zero shorts, but barely, and I could see the bloat. I didn’t help matters by drinking a lot of wine that week and staying up late after everyone went to bed to binge on “healthy” snacks I’d brought with us. They were calories I needed, but I ate most of my calories all at once late at night along with a glass of wine. I was so tempted to purge, but I couldn’t since it wasn’t our house, and it was a small house. I would have been heard. I’d never felt so fat.
Once we got home, we had a few weeks before our next vacation – a long weekend on Chincoteague Island. I spent the time detoxing and getting back into my workouts, and I started to feel a bit better. My body was still bloated, and I bought children’s size 14 jean leggings, but for the most part, I still thought I could fit into my double zeros forever. I was determined to do so. Somehow, despite the recent bloating, the four days on the Island were the last days I ever felt “skinny.”
Then we came home, and I started the New Rules of Lifting for Women. Now I REALLY gained weight. I still ate more and lifted heavy, and I was forced to face facts: I would have to buy new clothes.
Over the next year or so, I pretty much hated myself. I’d spend nights binging and sometimes purging. I stuffed my body into clothes that were too tight, praying for my weight to drop. I played with the idea of restricting again, and occasionally, I gave in. Sometimes I changed my mind about lifting and went back to cardio, but nothing changed. Throughout it all, Kiki and Lucia and a handful of others stuck around. They listened to my complaints and encouraged me to keep pushing forward. They filled my head with more and more knowledge about how to eat and what was happening to my body and why lifting is so important.
Eventually, I bought clothes that fit and started to feel marginally better. Gradually, I learned what kinds of workouts my body could handle without destroying my mental state. I finally stopped killing myself with 2 workouts/day and limited most of my cardio to HIIT (albeit LONG HIIT) and hid my scale away which made a HUGE difference in the way I felt about my body.
I can’t pinpoint the exact date or even the exact month, but at some point during 2013, my metabolism evened out. The bloating disappeared. I was still heavier and larger than I’d been during most of my late 20s, but I started to have “sleek” days. I started to enjoy lifting and to rejoice over the NSVs.
I can confidently say that 2014 has been the best year of my life in all the ways that matter. I’m learning about lifting phases and how to plan my workout rotations to keep my body guessing. I no longer stress my body with long HIIT or steady state sessions which means more time with my family. I FINALLY allow my body 2 days of rest each week, and to my surprise, that small change filled me with such relief! It was as though I was finally giving myself permission to sit back and enjoy those weekends without the stress of choosing a workout and trying to burn calories. Most days, I feel great!
I still stress sometimes over calories numbers – calories burned during workouts and calories consumed. I still have my “yuck” days, and I am still TERRIFIED to take a full rest week during vacation this year!
But I’ve learned so much over these past two years and come so far, it’s hard to believe I’m the same person. I no longer look at the pictures of myself when I was 90 pounds and yearn to be that small anymore. I’ve thrown out all of my double zeros and don’t even care what the number on the tags are when I go shopping for new clothes. I have everything from small to large, from 4 to 9, and I just don’t care anymore so long as it fits well and looks good. I'm more confident than I've ever been. I'm talking my entire life. I still have the parts of me I'd like to make better, but for the most part, I've given up the comparison to other women and the self-name-calling. I've given up looking at myself every day and walking away “knowing” I am fat. Because I'm not. Because I'm strong and fit and healthy and beautiful. I don't feel that every day, but I almost never hate myself.
I could never have gotten here without all of you. Never. Thank you all so much for your love and support, for encouraging me through this journey rather than giving up on me. Here’s to the journey, no matter how tough. The end is nowhere in sight, but possibilities are endless.