How I’ve Come to Embrace My Body: Rediscovering a Healthy Body Image

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Since I opened up about my struggles with an eating disorder a few weeks ago, I’ve had some time to think about how I’ve found healing in my recovery process. I know that my story is fairly unique (or at least I suspect that it is). I never sought counseling, though I would go if my struggles resurfaced in the future. There was no moment when I hit rock bottom, no flash of insight that I desperately needed help. My rock bottom was more of a plateau, and my recovery was so gradual that I didn’t even notice it until it was practically over. In my case, it was more like waking up from a dream, knowing that your dream began as a nightmare, but not remembering when that transition began.

By the time I realized that my behavior was disordered, I was already well on my way to recovery. At some point between getting engaged, getting married, and having my first child, my eating disorder faded away.  Between work, wedding planning, and finishing my Master’s degree, I didn’t have time to obsess about calories consumed, miles logged, or pounds lost or left to lose. And without the obsession, I adopted healthier eating and exercise habits. These habits have helped me to maintain a healthy sense of body image, and have served me well through two pregnancies and two postpartum periods.

1.) Food and exercise are both meant to be enjoyed as goods, and in moderation. Food was never meant to be used as a coping mechanism, a crutch, or a necessary evil for staying alive. Likewise, exercise shouldn’t be used as a punishment, or as a way to negate the few calories you needed to consume to survive. If I have a bad day, I don’t punish myself with extra, or more intense, exercise, and I don’t starve myself to make up for it. If I have a bad day, I just get back on track when I can. I engage in my regular workouts, and I eat as I usually would. In a day or two, I go back to feeling fine, and I don’t find myself hating exercise because I used it to punish myself.

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2.) Portion out what you plan to eat. I started doing this after my son began eating solids. I didn’t want him to develop the bad habit of eating snacks out of the bag in front of the TV, so I’ve always poured out his snacks ahead of time. I started to do the same for myself, to set a good example for him. As for meals, we’ve always been in the habit of cooking just enough for one meal. Neither my husband nor I is a big fan of leftovers, so I do my best to ensure that there are none. We’ve gotten pretty good at knowing just what we’re going to eat on any given evening over the years.

3.) Toss the scale, if you can. Technically I never threw mine away. I think it’s still sitting at the back of our main bathroom, batteries dead, and that’s where I plan to leave it. I made the decision to stop weighing myself, and instead to trust my body. The only time I’ve known my weight is when I’ve been weighed at the doctor’s office, or if I accidentally stumble across it (like I did at Great Wolf Lodge this past summer, when the loading platform for a ride also weighed the group). I just try to eat well and to exercise moderately, and I trust that if I’m treating my body well, the number on the scale really doesn’t matter. And you know what? I’m a million times happier now than when I weighed myself obsessively, hoping to see the number drop some more.

I still have my bad days, but now that I’ve adopted healthier eating and exercise habits, I finally feel like my body and I are in sync. If I’m hungry, I eat something. If I begin to feel full, I push my plate away. I can recognize my body’s cues again, and I finally have the freedom and self control to respond to my body properly. After so many years of feeling out of control, trapped in a body that I hated, and betrayed by my very flesh, I finally feel at peace, and one, with my body, and it’s an incredible, rewarding feeling!

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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