I don’t feel great about my body this week. It’s been a long few days of looking in the mirror and breathing a heavy sigh at the woman looking back at me. There are a million phrases in my head that negatively describe what I see, but I’m trying still to focus on those few positive ones that remind me how far I’ve come and that I’m doing my best.
I’m still eating mindfully and frequently, I’m still trying to hold my 80-20 balance of healthy food and indulgences – but one thing I haven’t done this week is work out. I haven’t lifted a single kettlebell, I haven’t so much as jogged around my neighborhood or played a round of Zumba on my Wii. And honestly? I’m really not sorry. The reason for this is something everyone faces with body image: shame. Coming from an eating disorder where my version purging was hours upon hours of exercise a day – it’s a heavy and frequent battle with my psyche to not turn to exercise to feel better about my body.
Looking in the mirror can be a great motivator for a lot of people – they see a person they don’t recognize and it pushes them to do better and regain the image they’ve lost. But for those of us who are recovering from an eating disorder, the motivation that comes with looking in the mirror, simply boils down to shame – it just isn’t healthy. We look in the mirror and obsess over every ounce of fat we’ve gained and in which areas they are most prominent. We lament over the figures that used to grace our mirrors and sometimes are repulsed by what is now staring back at us.
If you’re wondering if I know from experience, the answer is yes: most days this week I have been ashamed of the body I currently inhabit. I am ashamed that I had a body only a short year ago that was deemed “normal” and I let that all go. In less than six months I gained 30 pounds in the name of health and safety. I looked my biggest fear straight in the face in the hopes of creating a future for myself where my weight is no longer a burden I bear both physically and mentally. And honestly I’m ashamed that I let things get that far, both with my disorder and my rapid weight gain during recovery. But what I’m not ashamed of is my drive to get better. I’m not ashamed of my mission to get healthy, and I’m certainly not ashamed of the work I’ve put into creating a better life for myself.
What I have learned is that when I let shame dictate my life and my health choices, I am playing with fire. When I let shame become my motivation for working out, I risk relapse. I risk all of my year’s worth of hard work and progress standing still while I indulge some silly notion that if I work out enough, I will be good enough. I haven’t worked out this week – and I won’t work out until I’m out of this valley and can silence the small voices that tell me I’m not good enough until I work more. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.