It seems to be that time of year where we beat ourselves up especially hard for our fitness and nutrition related “shortcomings” (if you want to call them that). Several of my favorite bloggers have been posting about this lately and I have been feeling it myself. I took the week of 4th of July off from work to spend some time with my partner’s family at the beach and on his parents’ boat and then just giving myself some time to breathe. As healthy as I tried to be with my snacks and fitness, there were times when I couldn’t do much to stay on track (it’s hard to go for a run when you’re on a boat in the middle of a mooring field). After vacation was over, I was feeling miserable. I knew I had gained some weight and even though I knew a big chunk of it was water weight I felt like I had let myself (and others) down. How can I hope to be a fitness, nutrition, and wellness inspiration when I fall short of my own expectations?
Just when I was feeling like a complete failure, Caitlin over at Cait Plus Ate published her post I’m Amazing Because… about how guilty she had felt after enjoying a night out where she didn’t eat particularly healthy food and how she was beating herself up over it, despite that she normally doesn’t eat that way. A friend of hers encouraged her to be kind to herself, which inspired her to make a list of all the reasons she is amazing. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me because I was getting so caught up in what I had done wrong that I was losing sight of my successes. I took a page from Caitlin’s book and made my own list. After 47 reasons I’m amazing, I decided to devote an entire post to the exercise and some of the reasons that tugged at my emotions the most (and helped me realize why I was getting so much out of it).
My list is below, but before you continue I’d like to add a little disclaimer. Not all of these reasons are amazing feats of talent, strength, or character. That’s kind of the point. There are a lot of things that make me amazing and I share some of them with a lot of people. Just because other people can do something too doesn’t make it any less awesome that you can! You can totally skip reading the list if you’d like and continue on to the rest of the post. The most important message I want to send by posting it is how fantastic it was to actually make the list, regardless of what’s on it.
- I have lost over 90 lbs. and I did it the right way!
- I have a wonderful boyfriend and am reminded daily how lucky I am to have him.
- I love vegetables.
- I am very tenacious and persistent.
- I am a dreamer.
- I work hard to accomplish my goals.
- I am a good multi-tasker.
- I have a lot of empathy.
- I am quick-witted.
- I am self-sufficient.
- I am a good friend.
- I am creative.
- I have found a niche in the fitness and wellness blogging community.
- I have overcome some very dark times and difficult struggles to shine on the other side.
- I can anticipate problems and set-backs.
- I wore my first bikini this year!
- I am becoming toned and learning to love parts of my body that I used to hate.
- I stand my ground and don’t let people push me around.
- I do my best to be a good girlfriend, daughter, sister, aunt, and co-worker.
- I almost always do my dishes immediately and never leave them for more than 8 hours.
- I devote part of my time to volunteering.
- I am making the switch to organic and whole foods and finding it easier than I imagined.
- I completed four weeks of Ultimate Bootcamp without ever missing a session and loved it!
- I have cut toxic people out of my life and started focusing my time and energy on those who support and value me.
- I have resisted the sometimes strong urge to purge for over 3 years.
- I ran my first half-marathon last year and will complete my second in a few months.
- I believe I can do just about anything I put my mind to.
- I have beautiful eyes.
- I am a good public speaker.
- I am good at explaining things.
- I love trying new things.
- I am good at my job.
- I know my triggers and work to minimize them.
- I have good time management skills and can juggle being very busy.
- I ask for help when I need it.
- I have no credit card debt and a plan for paying off my student loans.
- I will try any food once!
- I love learning new workouts.
- I have good rhythm.
- I am a very fast reader.
- I can type nearly 100 wpm without errors.
- I consistently drink over 8 glasses of water per day.
- I have considerably cut down on my caffeine and sugar intake.
- I have a wide range of interests.
- I have a broadly developed vocabulary.
- I know how to use a semicolon appropriately.
- I have never been arrested, smoked, or done drugs.
As you can see, my list kind of runs the gamut from true accomplishments to things I just like about myself and everything in between. The items that struck me the most were #1, #14, and #25 and I decided that I want to share more about them, and myself in the process.
From a very young age I was overweight. I wasn’t always terribly overweight, but I wasn’t a skinny kid despite always playing sports. As I got older I had some really rough patches that left me feeling anxious and depressed. The more anxious and depressed I became, the more weight I gained. Once when I was a kid my aunt told me she had dreamed the night before about me as a high school student. The only question I had for her was, “Was I skinny?” By the time I actually got to high school I was very unhappy with my appearance. I was still playing sports and had tried a lot of fad diets despite my young age. Dieting so much as a kid really set me up for disordered eating and a very unhealthy relationship with food. While I don’t really blame anyone for this, there were certainly influential people in my life who made me feel like dieting was what I needed to be doing. When I was in 10th grade I joined the swim team because I liked to swim, not because I was particularly good at it. Being in a swimsuit around so many people made me even more self-conscious about my weight and I started to purge. Oddly enough, I got the idea from a Lifetime movie about a young girl with an eating disorder. What I thought when I watched the movie wasn’t, “Wow, that’s so unhealthy,” but rather, “Wow, she’s going about that all wrong, no wonder she’s getting sick!” I was convinced that I could find a “healthy” way to purge and still lose weight.
Whether I was eating a lot or little, I didn’t let much stay in my system. I didn’t have a ton of energy for swim practice which made me even slower than I was to begin with. This made me feel worse about myself, which exacerbated my disordered eating. I became very familiar with all of the bathrooms on campus. Each building had lunch at a different time, so I always knew which buildings to go to after I had eaten lunch to have the greatest probability of not meeting anyone else in the bathroom. When I got home in the evening, I always waited until after dinner to feed our outdoor animals because it meant an opportunity to find somewhere to purge (living in a wooded, rural area that was never too difficult). It “worked” and I started losing weight, but the worst part is how much everyone encouraged me. Of course they couldn’t have known that I was losing weight in an unhealthy way, but people kept telling me how great I looked since I was losing weight. Then I got mono.
I’m convinced that being so run-down wrecked my immune system and made me more susceptible to catching mono, but I have no way to prove that. Unlike a lot of people who have mono, I didn’t lose any weight. That was because I was already getting so few calories into my body through my lifestyle that mono wasn’t a big change. Once I started to recover, I stopped purging for a while. Unsurprisingly, I started to gain weight again and surpassed my pre-purging weight. By the time I finished high school and started college, I was miserably depressed. I started purging again on occasion, just when I felt I had eaten too much. Then, I was put on Wellbutrin to help with my depression symptoms. For those who don’t know, Wellbutrin shouldn’t be used by those with eating disorders as it can increase the chance of seizures due to inadequate nutrition. I was given this warning and took it to heart. I stopped purging entirely, but unfortunately did not really have a grasp on my overeating so I was still eating too much and not compensating in any way. In addition to the overeating, I was largely inactive for the first time since I was 5 and started playing sports. My weight ballooned. This was one of the darkest periods of my life and I was suicidal on more than one occasion.
One night later in college when I was standing in my dorm I started to have a lot of pain in my arm. I felt dizzy and kind of weird overall and the pain was severe. I went to urgent care at University Health Services and was basically told that I was imagining things and there was nothing wrong with me. That was because by the time I got there, whatever had happened was over. Given my subsequent discussions with health professionals, I am fairly certain that I had a mild heart attack at age 21.
Even though I didn’t realize at the time what was happening, I knew I wasn’t in a healthy place. I started eating less and working out and was able to lose about 10 lbs. Then I got appendicitis and had to have surgery. Afterward I wasn’t motivated to work out at all because I was in pain for so long (the appendectomy was open rather than laparoscopic, so my incision was large and through my entire abdominal wall). My weight started to yo-yo and didn’t stop even after graduation. I was at my heaviest, but wasn’t sure what that meant until later.
I was miserable in my first apartment out of college. It was a really terrible fit for a lot of reasons, but I just hadn’t known better. My commute was well over an hour each way and sometimes my job kept me late. This meant that by the time I got home, I didn’t feel like cooking at all. Most nights, I didn’t even bother going straight home and just stopped off at a restaurant instead. Not only did this wreak havoc on my health, it depleted my bank account. My weight was still yo-yoing somewhere between 230-240 at this point. Often I would overeat thinking I could just purge afterward and then I would back out of purging. I was terrified that if I did it even once, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
When I moved into my next apartment, I decided to make a change and that’s when I started running and taking control of my eating. The rest, as they say, is history. Or it would be if I wasn’t still struggling. In fact, this is all still a very real struggle for me. I still sometimes get the urge to purge and it scares the living daylights out of me. I can go months without it ever crossing my mind and then one day I’ll eat just a bit too much and think, “There’s a solution to this.” What I’ve come to realize though is that the solution isn’t purging, it’s to take that feeling and put it in a special place in my memory so I know not to go there in the future. To use that feeling as motivation to live continue to live healthy as much of the time as I can. What I shouldn’t do is dwell on it. That, however, is still a work in progress.
Even though most of these occasions would come nowhere close to being considered a binge, I beat myself up over them to almost no end. It frustrates my partner Joe because he sees that it just makes me miserable despite the fact that I am normally pretty good about my fitness and nutrition and these are temporary slip ups at worst and me allowing myself to actually enjoy a meal out with friends at best.
What all of these similarly themed posts recently from Caitlin and other bloggers (like Lindsay) have taught me is that I’m not alone in this. Body image, disordered eating, and self-esteem are a pain to deal with. If you’ve ever struggled with them, they like to keep coming back to taunt you. That doesn’t mean they have to make you feel guilty or that you have to listen to what they’re saying. The day before I read Caitlin’s post I had a doctor’s appointment and there was a new nurse doing my paperwork. She looked down at my chart and said, “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight, huh?”
That, my #1 reason I’m amazing, is what I need to focus on when times get tough. I have lost 90 pounds and I did it without purging or starving myself. I turned my life around and one week of vacation is not going to change that. So yes, I’m going to have that fruity drink I never drink while I’m on the Cape and I’m going to eat the Italian sausage at the barbecue. I know how to control my eating and behaviors now and I don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying life.
What are some of the things that make you amazing? Celebrate all of them because none of them are insignificant!