Not so long ago, I knew what I weighed every second day to the absolute gram.
Every second day because I’d rationed that daily weighing was obsessive and I needed to pull back.
That control, discipline and self-talk was exactly the behaviour that had become more than just second nature to me.
It was who I was.
How I achieved what I desired.
What made me happy.
I’ll come back to those 3 very important points later.
Each loss on the scale was a triumphant achievement, even 1 single gram. At my healthy weight, that’s about all there was too.
Each gain left me feeling life-less and yet determined to go on and achieve the holy grail.
So perhaps that exact concept is how best to start this enormously complex, and although personal; very universal situation.
The holy grail.
That elusive and very crucial place where I’d finally look just like the person that I felt I was.
Where all my hard work would pay off.
Where I’d finally be good enough.
There was no number, although I pretended there was.
I just knew it was the best kind of place to be.
I knew I’d earned it.
In fact it’s almost all I thought about.
I was prepared to put myself through pretty much anything to attain it and you know what, that’s precisely what I did.
For 8 years; and 3 acutely; I tortured my own body and mind in the pursuit of looking as I thought I deserved to look.
I recall so vividly, the deep frustration, inner and outward anger at not looking as I deserved.
I was doing everything, I was working on this night and day; I deserved to look as I dreamed.
I deserved to look like I’d worked that hard. People who do nothing look better than I do – how is that fair?
I deserved to look good enough and I guess I always wanted, or at least subconsciously hoped it would flow on to how I felt.
What was the reality?
The discipline provided me with a sense of purpose and control in a life that I was unhappy in.
Knowing everything I ate, down to the last gram of carbohydrate and how many calories I had to work with for that day, left me feeling like I had this and the goal would be mine.
Self-acceptance was something you did once you had what you wanted, or so I thought.
This inner hate and burning desire fuelled my days; for years. It was heartbreaking, soul crushing and insanely satisfying. I’d created a deeply dysfunctional cycle of addiction for myself.
What I desired, took me so far away from what I am.
What I have.
All that I’m capable of.
It took me to the darkest days of my life, the scariest and loneliest moments and it also brought me to peace (or at least closer).
It’s only in the past few months that I’ve come to accept this part of my life as a troubled time.
Perhaps not a clinical eating disorder though disordered eating certainly and body dysmorphia that make me sad to think about.
On one hand, there are years of my life wasted on such pursuits though I’ve come to accept that this was part of my journey. This was meant to happen and gratitude at that is now overtaking the sadness.
It wasn’t so long ago that looking in the mirror was a highly analytical and almost scientific assessment of what was left to work on.
I won’t lie and say that I’m totally past that though I am certainly many suburbs away from it now.
There is more peace than hate.
There’s joy and gratitude in my body.
There’s deep and profound respect for all that it can do and I don’t even mean handstands (although they rock!) though the simple and amazingness of breathing, blinking, seeing the world around me.
Body hate is nothing new.
There’s endless stories in the media about it, right next to stories of celebrities with cellulite and a 3-day detox diet.
It isn’t always easy out there. Moving away from the comparison game and into one of acceptance.
If my tortured 8 years aren’t lesson enough, perhaps think about this.
I essentially look the same now as I did then.
I don’t know what I weight though I do know that I’m a strong, athletic woman with a big smile and bounding energy.
Just as I was all through all of my struggles.
Sure dropping down to 19% body fat a few years back meant I had more pronounced abs though really and truly that’s about it and if I had to guess (based on my past a obsession with numbers) I’d say I’m sitting at around 23% now.
With abs still there and better still, abs strong enough to lift and hold me upside down.
That's pretty much it.
Except of course, the long-term injuries I've sustained from pushing myself too much and now transitioning into less-impactful activity, I'm pretty much the same.
A few things spelt the end of all of this for me.
Firstly, I couldn’t answer simple questions like, 'what’s your goal?' Other than with a really vague answer, 'to look great.'
All that obsession and torture for a vague goal?
Secondly, even for someone who loves to move, I’d begun scheduling certain exercises for their potential aesthetic quality only.
Thirdly, don’t even start me on food. Needless to say it was all about control.
What, when and how much.
I was either miserable, starving or both; for years.
FYI – when you're intentionally depriving yourself, you become obsessed with food. What you can and can’t have, when you can eat next or what everyone else is having.
How on earth is that going to make anyone happy?
Lastly, in the lead up to my wedding in 2014, I knew I didn’t want to have any of the above thoughts at such a special time.
Instead, I envisioned being in a sound and content place; within myself. What a dream!
Calorie control, certain types of food, deprivation, training like a demon.
These are all concepts I’m very familiar with.
Perhaps you are too.
Are you happy?
Do you have what you desire from these actions?
Is this who you are?
What I’ve come to realise is that I want more than that and I dare a guess that you might too.
Yes, I live in the 21st century, work in the health industry and believe that looking great is awesome, though it isn’t all there is.
It doesn’t deserve the attention we give it and it will never be enough to make us happy.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you achieved your goal?
Do you genuinely think you’d be able to drop the obsessions? The counting? The scales? Do you think you could exercise for joy? Not counting km’s run or calories burnt?
Do you think you could take off the heart rate monitor watch? Delete the food counting app from your phone? Stop measuring your food and “fitting” food into your daily numbers?
I feel fairly confident in saying you couldn’t. It's a cycle.
I also feel confident in saying that your goal isn’t really your goal.
I’ve done all of the above. I've dropped the habits, obsessions and control bit by bit, though certainly not without some extremely uncomfortable feelings. In fact it took 12 months to be OK with not weighing everything I ate.
Perhaps like me, you just want to wake up and feel content? Rested and excited for the day ahead? Able to do what you need and spend time with those you love? Eat yummy food, do fun things without limitations and live your dreams.
You can have that.
This is how different my goals are now:
Overall I try not to set hard and fast rules, even though this is in my nature and often easier to adhere to. Going with it, accepting and living are sometimes the much harder choices.
I attempt (because sometimes it doesn’t go to plan) to move my body with joy and for joy. Not in order to look a certain way and not in pursuit of something more. Feeling fit and strong happens without the drama and stress...
Eating with the bigger picture in mind and listening to my body’s instincts; knowing that each day is different. It might not always be kale and green smoothies, though it is real food that tastes great and nourishes me.
I take it easy. On myself, my fears, my goals, my loved ones, my work, the world. The hardest and the most satisfying goal of all. The obsession and focus won't bring about what you crave and in many cases, it pushes it away.
If you feel even slightly connected to this piece, I urge you to see things a different way and perhaps not chip away at the years as I have; fuelled by anger, frustration and fear.
Be your awesome, unique and incredible self. Now.
Your journey is yours alone and perhaps you’ll need to ride it out as I have, until one day you see the other side.
Asking yourself something like, “imagine waking up and not thinking about this?” might be the thing that tips you over to the other side.
Whatever it is, I can tell you with every fibre of my being; it absolutely rocks and is nothing to be afraid of. The world won't fall apart and neither will you.
What have you got to lose?
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