It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
~ Sir Edmund Hillary
Do you live a life of Sustainable Pleasure?
Pleasure is a loaded word, and a mixed relationship with it often relates to fears.
What words do you fear?
"Alone" is a tough one for many people. " Or maybe "powerless"...
I fear the word "skinny".
And that story, my story about an eating disorder, just so happens to be about feeling alone and feeling powerless.
Most gals look forward to the senior year of high school as a time to “rule the roost” and savor friendships as much as possible before everything changes. But that September, my boyfriend was in Army Basic Training, my closest friends had graduated ahead of me, and, though part of me looked forward to expressing my inner self via every club and music group imaginable, I didn't feel 100% in the zone that everyone around me seemed to embrace. Yup: I felt kind of alone.
So, that September (2002), as a self-diagnosed “Uber-Student”, I immersed myself in a new “passion”: Health. I wanted to start exercising and learn more about “healthy eating”. I wanted to find a new groove, my groove--something to call my own. The prospect of diving into uncharted territory excited me like no other. As the kind of student who honestly loved writing research papers, I researched ad nauseam and slowly shifted my formerly pretty-balanced-but-relatively-All-American diet to restrictive veganism.
Thus began my rapid journey down a rather frightening rabbit hole...
Little by little, I trimmed: No more seafood, or eggs, or dairy, very few starchy carbs, very little fat. I learned how to covertly eyeball more “appropriate” servings: One cup of cereal, no more. Half a cup of fat-free frozen yogurt for dessert, no more.
Though I had the best of intentions, I came to enjoy the “high” that this new sense of control created. I felt strong and capable of doing whatever I set my mind to, and this was no exception. I remember a rather twisted sense of pride when I brought my first cup of coffee on the school bus, the warm liquid serving as my breakfast. Over just a few short months, my journey toward “better health” morphed into a not-so-secret obsession.
I remember the small thrill when my pants fit a little more loosely and the day I noticed that my thighs barely touched. At the same time, losing my period worried me--as did the fact that my hair was a bit thinner than usual.
I knew that something was not quite right, but I was afraid and ashamed to admit that my righteous vision was tainted, that my strength and resolve to maintain control had in fact created an out-of-control food monster. I felt angry when anyone told me that they worried about me, that I was “too skinny”. I didn’t want attention, but I also wanted them to see me as more than my weight: I wanted them to appreciate my fortitude.
I currently weigh about the same as I did at my highest weight—so I have never been a voluptuous gal. However, during that fall, I dropped more than 20 pounds, hitting my personal low: 104.
I believe that my eating disorder centered around a need for novelty, a need for control, and a tendency toward perfectionism.
I felt alone, and I needed to connect with something. I felt powerless, and I needed to feel in control.
As a self-driven and organized young woman, the eating disorder represented a fascinating new piece to the identity I wanted so desperately to build--an identity bigger than the rural public school culture I was so ready to move beyond. In retrospect, perhaps it was yet one more way to go out with a bang: Valedictorian, Prom Queen, and Most Knowledgeable About Healthy Eating: The Royal Trifecta.
It was, in a nutshell, a coping mechanism. And when it came down to it, I didn’t feel good at all. It didn’t bring me health or pleasure, it disconnected me from myself and from others, and I ended up more out of control than ever before.
But now, 14 years later, I can honestly say that I am living an empowered life full of connection--and full of pleasure. Though it took me years to unstick myself from the “glue” that held me together for so long, my isolating battle for control shifted to a vision of connection, health, and joy.
I choose eating foods that make my body and my tastebuds smile with gratitude--from kale chips to chocolate.
(* Check out these 3 simple recipes that satisfy your body and your tastebuds!)
I also choose fitness “on the side”, so that I have time and space for what matters most: People I love and passions that inspire me to continually grow as a multifaceted human being--who fully embraces her gangly limbs.
And, yes, I fear being too skinny. Call it a form of PTSD for which I am grateful, because it encourages me to stay strong and fight the good fight. I choose an empowered life of pleasure that feels good in body, mind, and spirit.
I encourage you to fight for your health. You have choices. Life is far too short to sacrifice joy for control, connection for diligence, and mindfulness for automatic pilot. [Tweet this]
You only have one life and, at the end of the day, how do you want to fill it?
~ Start 2017 with some Sustainable Pleasure ~
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