I wanted to share this blog here with anybody who struggles with their body image. I know it has helped a few people that I have connected with on my fitness page on facebook and I hope it may help some of you as well! I have come a long way since writing this, but I do feel many many people struggle with these same types of issues.
I think now would be a great time to post a new blog entry. It's been just over 1 month since my fitness competitions and it's been a SERIOUSLY challenging time. Over the course of the past month I've learned that I still have SO much more to learn.. and that things I THOUGHT I mastered were really just new coping tactics that never actually mastered "fixing" the root of the problem. Here, I'll say it. I have massive eating issues..disordered eating, body obsession, etc.. I always have... ...I thought prep would be a way to truly show myself once and for all that I was stronger than all this diet/food mumbo jumbo. I thought if I could learn to control everything about the way I ate that finally I would be free from the plaguing thoughts that have occupied my every day since I hit puberty. And, by golly, for 3.5 months I DID have control over my food. My thoughts were no longer plagued by cravings, by making the choice of YES/NO in terms of giving into temptations to enjoy an indulgence. I thought I had this down pat... I thought being able to say no so easily would last forever. Hmmm... it didn't exactly work this way... ....So, prep ends and there is no future target date to anticipate getting ready for. It felt literally as if I was dropped from an alien spaceship, back to earth, and was expected to learn to live normally again. You would think I would remember how to live normal, but I think prep is something that changes you forever. For 3.5 months I had a coach telling me when to sleep/eat/workout..every single part of my day was dictated, scheduled, consistent and completely controlled. At the time I thought being able to follow this meant I was completely in control of my life for the first time ever. I could say no to cravings, I could say yes to 5am wakeups after 1am bedtimes...But, looking back, I realize that I gave full control to somebody else for all those months and simply just learned to follow suit. I always said there was so much freedom in not having freedom. The same goes for control.... And isn't what so much of all this is about? Control. We all want so badly to be able to control our eating habits, our lethargy, our motivation. ...After a good solid month of serious struggle while trying to balance my life, I became well aware I was going to need help with this. There is no way I'm just going to be able to slip out of this by myself. All the issues I thought doing a competition were going to cure for me were, in fact, increased tenfold. There's the cold hard pill to swallow. The question keeps coming up: "why?".. Why is it SO hard to control my cravings/urges/diet when before it came so easy?? Why does it matter SO much if I put on some weight?? Why do I equate having an awesome successful day in life with eating well, and equate myself to having a day filled with terrible disappointment and failure if I end up eating "cheat food"? WHY CANT I JUST GET IT TOGETHER!??! Go back on the diet, I'll tell myself.. Just do the easy parts of prep, you will get used to it. Hmmm, well THAT wasnt working. The reintroductory of FRIENDS in my life that I never realized how distant I became from due to prep has really changed my schedule. Now, instead I must balance work, diet, gym, sleep AND social life, fun, friends, family, boyfriend. The latter half of the list simply didnt exist for 4 months. But these things are IMPORTANT... These things are just as MUCH a part of the recipe for a successful, healthy, happy life as a "fit" body is, if not MORE. So here I've sat in limbo, trying to balance "living my prep life" with "living my social life"... We only have 24 hours, you cant have both without learning a proper balance. For me...balance and moderation are things that have NEVER been in my vocabulary. (This is also why I was SO successful in competition prep- My all or nothing attitude is simply the best way to sum up the entirety of my life.. I EXCEL like crazy when I decide to do something because it becomes the only thing I care about... but, when I am ready to throw in the towel and I'm on the "nothing" portion I also tend in to throw in towels, sheets, blankets, elephants, trees as well and end up getting myself into some really dark places).. ...So yes, I've set up a counseling appointment (they rescheduled my first attempt and I wasnt going to go but Ive decided I DO need it) and I look forward to this. What has truly been the eye opener is reading the blogs and books of a coach I happened to stumble upon on facebook. His statuses rung bells in my head for days and I knew I had to do some further investigation and see if this man had written books on his philosophy. Low and behold, I got lucky. I ordered 2 Ebooks and have spent several hours reading over all his blogs. His name is Scott Abel (scottabel.com) .. I recommend you check it out. It's a cold hard truth about eating issues and where they come from. I'm sure if you're on sparkpeople, you already share many of these same issues. What I've now opened my eyes to.... My body image issues are a mask to SO many other emotional turmoils I have buried down deep under. I have seriously learned to manifest all sources of stress and pain I feel into "food issues" because it is a familiar enemy for me to deal with. After all, I have been like this nearly my whole life. When Im thin, "Im winning".. when Im chubby, "Im losing"... but what we see here is that I'm never actually in control of my food issues, even when I AM thin. They still control me, because my diet/body size is the #1 thing I use to determine my self worth. You may feel better when you have it together, but at what cost? You get ready to go on this GREAT diet.. you're ready to make the sacrifices and lose all this weight.. but then what? Then you get to the end and you look back and realize that in the process you've missed out on family time, friend time, social time, carefree dinners that SHOULD simply be enjoyable because the name of your game has been RESTRICT, RESTRICT, RESTRICT. The goal here, at least when we REALLY look at what we are trying to accomplish lies a little deeper than wanting to "Be successful in learning to control our eating habits".. It's not control we are searching for, it's freedom from the food controlling us. And you cant find freedom by means of forcing control. What we really want is to be able to think "normally" about food. We want to be able to go to a work event/barbeque/family reunion without first being plagued by anxiety about all the food that will be tempting us there. We are already exhausted from the event, removed from the whole purpose of the event to begin with because we are obsessed and consumed by our fear of temptation. What we seek is to not control ourselves so much in these situations, but experience such a freedom from the fear of food that we no longer will HAVE to obsess. Food will be there, but we do not need to be consumed by it. If we learn to be less consumed by it, the cravings will come and go as something ordinary and simple instead of something that can overwhelm us to the utmost. What we truly wish is to be able to take it or leave it... be ok with leaving it, but ALSO be ok with taking it. And it's all about learning balance. I mean, take a look around. Take a look at the bodies of people who are NOT consumed with their body image. They go out to eat, they enjoy time with friends, have "unhealthy" snacks but often times look much better than us who are constantly trying to restrict, restrict, restrict. What we want is happiness with our bodies, our lives and within our own hearts. I have lived my entire life believing that happiness will always be found on the XS/S stack of shirts and the size 1 pants. What we really need to learn is that food should not control our lives, it should not be our enemy and it should not be our friend. It should be a mere inanimate portion of our lives not laced with all these feelings and attachments. We tend to personify foods. "This food is GOOD, this one is BAD.. this food makes me feel XYZ, and this food makes me feel ABC"... We must learn to control our reactions to food. To give it so little power over us that we no longer need to battle it for control over our own lives. ...What I found the most troubling is when I thought about what my body/diet issues mean to me. I started to think about what it would be like to be rid of them.. and then I started to realize how much of a crutch they have almost been to me. Good times or bad times, it's always been at least close to the drivers seat of my emotional/mental well-being and thought processes on any given day. I would need to find new, healthy, consistent ways to measure my self. Where would my mind be if it were free to not think about dieting/food/body all the time? I was startled to realize that I would be slightly lost if I did not think about it. It has become so ingrained in every part of every day of my life.. I would need to find new things to focus on. Weird to think, it has become so much a part of me that I would have to detach myself from it- much like ending a terrible relationship feels like. You know you are miserable, but the comfort is easier to handle than reaching out for the new and unknown. ...Im on the quest to find my balance. I need to. There is so much work to be done and I aim to find ways to heal. I could write so much more on the ideas I've started to consider and dive into lately.. but this is a blog and not a novel. I hope that this will hit home with somebody, because the lightbulb has gone off in my head. Now it's time to take the first steps to erradicate these issues.