Monday, April 25, 2011

Stopping Self-Sabotage

I spent all day Saturday at the beach. For most people, the wonder and beauty of the ocean elicit feelings of peace, tranquility, spirituality, awe. When walking along the seashore, I am no exception. I stand, arms outstretched and eyes closed, breathing in the majesty. My stress levels recede. My body is healed. (I suffer from horrendous allergies. The ocean is the only place on earth where I can, literally, breathe clearly). My soul is healed. I feel closer to God. I feel complete.

Unless, of course, the beach is crowded and I am wearing a swimsuit, which I avoid like the plague. This was the case Saturday. I spent 10% of my time marveling at the wonders of creation, and 90% of my time feeling fat, wishing I was thin like the woman lying 8 feet from me on the pink and white beach towel, that my abs were more defined like the girl in the blue bikini throwing a frisbee with her friends. I spent 90% of my time feeling ashamed and strangely out of place inside my own skin. I didn't take off my sunglasses, attempting to create a barrier between myself and the rest of the world. I tried to lie very still as if I could somehow dissolve into the sand, blend in and become so commonplace that no one would notice me.

After about an hour or two of lying on the crowded beach, my boyfriend unpacked the lunches we had brought with us. He had a tuna sandwich. I had a veggie sandwich with vegan mayo and spinach. He also brought along some fat free pretzels. There was no part of this meal that would have ordinarily made me feel ashamed to eat it. It was reasonably healthy. But I couldn't eat it. I felt as though the entire beach was gawking at me, counting every bite, validating my "fatness". I ate a little less than half of the sandwich and put it back inside the cooler. I felt so open and exposed, something I had not felt in a very long time. I lay on my back and watched the seagulls circle over me. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the tide rolling in and out again. I could no longer see the girl on the pink and white towel, the girl with the abs throwing the frisbee. I just listened and tried to forget. I became aware that I was sabotaging myself-- something I am guilty of daily. Any time there is a good opportunity or I am in a good situation, I unconsciously try to sabotage it and make myself miserable. It's not on purpose. But I always do it. I let my emotions, my eating disorder, all of the baggage that I have impose itself and manifest itself and steal all of the spotlight until I'm having a horrible time and a good situation has turned quickly into a miserable one. I realized that lying there on the sand. And I vowed to stop self-sabotaging, to enjoy my time at the beach, to enjoy my life.

So I pushed my sunglasses back onto the top of my head, took off the shirt I was wearing over my swimsuit, kicked off my sandals, and walked into the water. Past the girl on the pink and white towel. Past the girl with the abs and the frisbee. I stood with my hands on my hips, the entire beach looking or not looking, and let the water rush in to meet me. Literally and metaphorically seeking renewal.

My boyfriend walked out to the water to join me. We found a little deconstructed crab shell stuck in the sand, the legs broken and disjointed lying all around it. It put things in perspective for me somehow.

I realized before long that I was still hungry. Instead of fighting it, I returned to my beach towel, unpacked the rest of my sandwich, and finished all of it. It was a beautiful day. I've said it before and I will say it again, every day for the rest of my life if I have to:

There is no room for an eating disorder in my life.

Life is too short.

Life is too precious.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What happened to the playground? Children and Weight Loss

I apologize for being absent lately. Normally, when I refrain from writing for so long, it's because I haven't been eating well and I'm not making my recovery an active part of my everyday life. But that isn't the case right now. Actually, it's quite the opposite.

The reason I really wanted to write today was to ask the opinion of you, my beautiful readers, regarding something that has been very puzzling to me lately. I belong to a gym in the city where I live. This gym, unlike any that I've belonged to in the past, allows children to gain membership (as part of a family plan, I'm sure) and use the equipment, most of them unsupervised. When I say children, I don't mean teenagers. I mean children. Little kids. 8, 9, 10 years old, swinging around on the elliptical like it's a toy. Not only is it unsafe, it begs the question, what kind of message is being sent these children about body image?

Even when the children are being supervised, it's still incredibly disturbing to me. Like yesterday, a father was working out on an elliptical next to his son, who was around 10 years old. The kid was pedaling the elliptical, sweating, wiping his forehead, sipping water. He was pushing himself as hard as I was. A few rows ahead of us, a trainer from the gym was teaching a kids class. 6 children were stretching, doing sit-ups, running in place, doing squats, taking turns on the treadmill. All the adults in the gym were going about their business. No one seemed to be freaking out, except for me. So I wonder, am I too sensitive? Is it because I have an eating disorder and I understand not only the benefit, but the possible dangers associated with diet and exercise? Is it because I used to be that kid, overweight, always thinking about my body, on a diet every day of my life before I was even in high school? I understand that childhood obesity is a problem in this country. But is strapping your kid to an elliptical where he can look at the calories he's burned the solution?

It made me think: what happened to the playground? What happened to playing tag, kickball, dodgeball. Red rover, red rover, send so-and-so over?

Isn't there a better way to teach our children how to be healthy?

In other words, can't we help them be healthy without calling so much attention to it? Can't we let them think exercise and healthy eating are just normal, not something they have to think about and be conscious of and monitor their progress with?

I understand there are two sides to this issue. I am not an expert in this field. It just seems so unnatural and unsafe to me. It seems so alarming because I was that chubby, unhealthy kid. I went on my first diet when I was 8 years old. I was taking diet pills on and off from ages 14-22. I've lost 80 lbs, I've been bulimic. I've tried every diet, every trick, I've been, at one point or another, almost every size in the clothing department. The point being, I've never felt just good enough. I've never been satisfied with my weight, no matter how fat or how thin. I've never been happy being me.

I just don't want anyone else to have to go through that. And when I see these kids at the gym I can't help but think of the child version of myself, struggling and sad and feeling fat and ordinary, wishing she were thin. Wishing she were pretty. Willing and sick and desperate enough to do whatever she had to do to lose weight.

And then she did. And it didn't change anything.

What was the point, then? What did it solve, all those years of dieting and exercise and purging and restricting and binge eating and crying and not feeling good enough and wanting to change and wanting to die?


It solved nothing.

I guess the point I'm trying to arrive at is this: if you are unhappy, if you don't feel good enough, if you don't love yourself, if you aren't at peace with who you are right now, then losing weight isn't going to change any of that. Even if the diet commercials and talk shows on television tell you otherwise. Changing your outward appearance does just that: it changes you physically. If you are emotionally damaged, it's the inside of your body that needs to be changed. It's your heart that is in need of healing. Your spirit. Your mind. Your soul.

No diet is going to change that.