The Ideal Body

I’m growing a little tired of the ideal body. Not necessarily that it’s a size 0 or 2 which, for the record, is only attainable by a small percentage of the population naturally (aka without starvation/radical measures), but the very notion of an ‘ideal.’ There seems to be ideals even in recovery- ideal recovery bodies, recovering for boobs or ‘the booty,’ getting perfect abs or toned arms, etc. There’s target weights, goals of growing a certain shape and stopping the recovery process there and it’s wrong.

I understand where these motivations come from, I do. I understand that having a healthy mindset around gaining weight and recovering is absolutely necessary for those who are in the depths of their eating disorders. I understand that it can be difficult for us to envision our bodies at a larger size and being beautiful so we focus on things like booties and boobs. It makes us feel better while we’re putting on the necessary pounds to save our lives.

Here’s my problem with it:

It’s still disordered. It still feeds your disorder just in a different way. That’s why it makes it easier. You’re catering to your ED, not breaking free of it. You aren’t embracing your natural shape that’s determined by your genetics. You’re still trying to change your body to fit some new ideal. Regardless of what the scale says, fighting your natural body is still hurting it. I don’t care if you’re naturally a 4 or naturally an 8. If you’re striving for anything less than that, you’re hurting yourself. There is absolutely no way you will ever be free of your ED if you don’t let your body settle where it’s naturally supposed to be. Where you’re optimally healthy. The only way your mind heals is if you let your body do what it needs to do. Trust me.

I was in quasi recovery for a long time. Years. I was better, but still not at my optimal weight. I was told I looked fantastic and healthy but I was dying inside. Both literally and figuratively. I still didn’t have my period, I was in pain a lot, my bones were weak, I had very little energy, my hair fell out on the daily and my moods were all over the place. When I reached a size 2, there was still no period. Size 4 and things were getting better but I still had body dysmorphia and some of my behaviors hadn’t gone away. I still obsessed over calories, exercising, stomach pain was still present and I was still terrified of certain foods and gaining weight.

Then I settled at a size 6. Something I honestly didn’t think I’d ever do again. Oddly enough, all of a sudden, the body dysmorphia went away, I didn’t go crazy over calories, I took a lot more rest days and didn’t really care if I was lazy some days. I didn’t compensate my food to make up for doing less, my appetite regulated and I never thought twice about going out to eat, having a drink, eating dessert, eating whatever I wanted, etc. I also started to really, really love my body. A lot. My stomach swelling reduced greatly (I still have some weight distribution taking place), my hair became strong and thick and I had the energy I was so desperately working for.

I could very well go up to a size 8 over the next while if that’s where my body wants to be. Maybe it won’t. An overshoot is also possible and maybe I’ll go back to a size 4 (I always fluctuated between 4 and 6 pre ed), maybe I won’t. Honestly? I don’t really care either way. That’s how I know I’m recovered. My body is what it is and it’s beautiful in it’s own right. MY ideal body is whatever body can walk all over the city as I don’t have a car. It can be intimate with my fiance, it can eat what it wants, it can do yoga, lift weights if I feel like it, work long hours and laugh until it hurts. My ideal body feels awesome most of the time, sleeps through the night, has very little anxiety, has clearer skin and beautiful hair. It had bright eyes, strong legs, finally has boobs again (doesn’t matter what size), and dances through the day. I don’t care what it looks like, I care what it feels like.

When you feel healthy and happy, that’s the reflection you see in the mirror. Your ideal body is whatever one provides you with the life you love most and nothing short of that. If you’re still looking in the mirror and hating your reflection, you’re not there yet. Give it time and trust your body. It knows what’s best. Please, relax, eat the food, and do your best to not stress over the shape of your body (easier said than done).

I can almost guarantee once you’re truly healthy, you’ll learn to love and appreciate the body you live in. It’s a miraculous machine, your body. It’s also incredibly beautiful.

 

Girls Weekend

Happy Friday lovely faces!

Big weekend plans? Usually I’d say no but this weekend is different. My closest friends and I have had a weekend away planned for quite some time and it has finally arrived! Shopping, eating, having a few drinks, winery, casino, swimming. All the good things! I’m pretty excited.

I can’t even remember the last time we did a girls weekend. I used to always opt out of things like this because to be honest, they scared me. When anorexia crept in, I couldn’t handle being out of my comfort zone, not knowing what I was going to eat, not being on my usual schedule or anything else that interfered with my rigid rules and behaviors. I would be a ball of anxiety the entire time if I went so I simply didn’t.

As I got better, I started to be okay with things like day trips and family vacations that were planned to a T. I knew what restaurants we would be going to, what we’d be doing every minute and I was able to have some sort of control. This wasn’t recovery, it was managing symptoms the best I could while trying to have some semblance of a life. Unfortunately, the only way I was comfortable even doing this was if I knew a month or a few weeks ahead of time and I could restrict my food intake so that I could ‘save’ calories to be able to ‘spend’ on my trips. This enabled me to eat out and a little less rigidly than normal. I still felt the guilt though, believe me. I still hated that I had used any of the saved up calories.

It was miserable and a terrible way to live. Sure, it was better than doing nothing at all… but I had intense anxiety leading up to the trip and punished myself ahead of time to be able to ‘deserve’ the trip. Yikes.

Now that I’m in real recovery, I don’t have the rigidity of ED rules. I go out when I feel like it, I get together with friends unplanned and if a bottle of wine disappears along with all the cheese and chocolate some nights with my fiance or friends, that’s fine. I don’t hate myself for it or restrict the next day.

This morning as I was working and talking with my customers about my trip, I realized that for the first time in seven years, I hadn’t stressed about a trip or restricted and ‘saved’ calories for the weekend. I had literally spent the time anxiously waiting to leave. I was desperate to do all of the things we have planned, have some fancy drinks (as many as I feel like), eat at fancy restaurants, buy new clothes for the spring, and have an amazing time. I was saving money, not calories. I realized that I was legitimately excited about the time with my best friends, not terrified. I also made plans for immediately after getting back to have a night with a few other girlfriends who couldn’t attend to simply have some wine, cheese, chocolate, watch some movies and just relax.

That NEVER would have happened before. There would never be additional plans to consume MORE after a trip. Never.

Now? All the time.

It made me really, really happy this morning.

I hope this gives some of you hope that real recovery is possible, it is a real thing and it can be yours too.

Have you had any #recoverywin moments lately? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear them!!

Have a great weekend and remember to keep fighting the good fight!

5 Tips for dealing with Bloating in Recovery

Bloating. One of the most uncomfortable aspects of recovery. To be honest, we all experience it at any weight. Most of the time, it’s not super noticeable but some days, it’s a little more pronounced. Why? Because we eat and drink! When you consume anything, it’s taking up space in your body. It isn’t weight gain, it’s food and liquids being digested so that your body can use it’s valuable nutrients. It doesn’t last.

For those who are recovering, the bloat of food does last longer than the average person. This is simply because the digestive system has slowed down as a result of being starved for so long. It isn’t permanent, the body does speed back up but only after being provided with adequate nutrition and calories. Eventually your body will trust that it will be getting a steady supply of food whenever it needs and your digestion will kick back in to gear.

So, what to do about the bloating (which is mostly a combination of food, gas and water retention)? It can’t be avoided. It’s a necessary part of recovery which, for most of us, is the absolute worst part. It makes us feel huge and ugly and disgusting.

First, I want you to know that you are not huge, ugly and disgusting. Your warped perception of your body is likely making the bloating out to be something so much worse than what it is. Second, know that it will eventually pass. I promise. All that we can do is manage the bloat until the body does what it needs to do. Here’s some tips that helped me manage my symptoms:

1. Stop sucking it in.

I know you’re doing it. We all do it. We want flatter stomachs because they’re more flattering and attractive. Stop it. Stop trying to hold it in. Holding it in only makes it harder for your body to digest your food and move things along. Squishing your organs is not going to make it better. You’re only going to be more uncomfortable and slow the process. Let it out. Let your stomach bloat. I understand how hard this is, I understand how very triggering it is and how uncomfortable it is and that leads me to ..

2. Wear baggy, loose, stretchy and comfortable clothing

Leggings, yoga pants, flowy dresses, flowy tank tops, hoodies, all of the most comfy things you own or can get your hands on. Tight clothes are NOT a good idea right now. They will not make you feel good. They will make you feel worse. Wear whatever clothing allows your body to do what it needs to do and keep you comfortable. The baggy/flowy clothes help hide some of the bloat and you can feel a little less self conscious about it. Leggings are your best friend right now.

3. Avoid fibrous foods

Yes, yes. We want to eat healthy and give our body nutrient rich foods like vegetables and fruit and whole grains so it can be healthy. Just not right now. Right now, that fiber is making the gas situation MUCH MUCH worse. It took a while for me to wrap my head around this but honestly, you need to take a break from the veg. You need easy to digest food right now. Drink whole milk (raw if you can find it!!!!!), eat things like nut butter, butter, cream, white flours, easy to digest fruits, well cooked vegetables in small portions, preferably cooked in butter, etc. You get the idea. Fiber is not your friend right now.

4. Drink water

I am not going to give you an amount to aim for because, just like with everything, all bodies are different and require different amounts of hydration. However, being dehydrated is only going to make your bloating worse. Drink water when you’re thirsty. Drink slowly, don’t chug it. Keeping your body hydrated will help it hold less water.

5. Rest

Lay down, relax on the couch and let your body do what it needs to do. Resting will help move things along a little quicker as your body can put all of it’s focus on the repairs it needs to make without worrying about fueling other daily tasks. Rest when you can for as long as you can and try to enjoy it! Binge watching Full House, anyone???

 

Hopefully this helps! These things really, really helped my bloating symptoms. It wasn’t too long after I stopped trying to suck it in that the bloating lessened in severity for me. It’s a lot more comfortable to just let it out. Trust me. Keep eating the food and be kind to yourself. You’ll get through this.

The Anxiety of Hungry Days

Trigger warning. In this post I discuss calories and BMI. If this is triggering to you, please take care of yourself and do not read on.

You know those days where you you’re hungry every second of the day regardless of how much you eat? No matter how many bananas, spoonfuls of peanut butter, pieces of bread, bowls of pasta, scoops of ice cream or glasses of milk you drink, nothing seems to satisfy your growling stomach? If you’re reading this then I assume it gives you a great deal of anxiety.

The amount of food you feel the need to consume scares you. You couldn’t POSSIBLY need that amount of food. It’s way too much. You’ll gain xx pounds over night. You’re out of control.

I actually seem to get these days on my lazier days. Yep. Days where I’m binge watching netflix, relaxing with my fiance, shopping and doing other leisurely things. You could argue that I’m having these days out of boredom, not hunger. Wrong. I love rest days now. I’m very easily absorbed in to whatever book I’m reading, what show I”m watching, who I’m chatting with, etc. I am not bored. My stomach is physically growling and begging for food. I am a bottomless pit.

It was always on these days that I would get very anxious and tell myself, “You don’t need this. You’re barely doing anything today. How could you possibly want so much? You aren’t burning it off. Stop being a glutton.”

The truth is, I got these days a lot before I was completely weight restored. Knowing what I know now, it was just my body screaming for nutrition so that it could go back to it’s happy place. It happened because my body was finally getting a rest day and it was taking every chance it could to get some much needed calories and nutrition in to my damaged body.

Does that mean that now that I’m weight restored I don’t get these days? Absolutely not. I most definitely get them. Does it still scare me? No, not as much as it used to. Before, for the first few months of my recovery, I was using a calculator to monitor my activity level and calorie needs for a bmi of 19.5. I was 15.5 and knew that pre ed, my bmi was 19.5 and I was incredibly healthy. (note: I have not weighed myself in a very long time therefore do not know my current weight/bmi. I go by clothing. I also let go of weight expectations. If I was going to be bigger than 19.5, that was okay too. I just wanted a healthy starting point for a goal). I did this to make sure I was eating enough to support a healthy weight since I no longer had any idea what a healthy amount of food actually was. I did my best to hit my calorie goals every day (It was between 2400-2800 and yes, that was a weight maintenance level for that bmi).

As I ventured in to trusting my body, paying attention to how certain foods made me feel, paying attention to my cravings and hunger levels, trusting my body to tell me what I needed instead of a calculator, I began to notice a pattern. On days where I was more active, I noticed that I was only hungry for 2100-2300. I would feel very, very full and simply could not eat more and frankly, didn’t want to.  I felt sick if I ate more than that. At first, I thought that this wasn’t good because I could start losing the weight I had worked hard to gain. BUT on the days where I was relaxing more, letting my body recoup from the previous days activity, my appetite was just crazy! I was hungry for SO MUCH MORE FOOD than what I thought I needed. I began to realize that this was my body’s way of making up for the lack of calories on my active days. You see? It all evened out.

I have realized why this happens. On my active days (my business requires me to be on my feet for 6-8 hours a day most days), I simply don’t have the time to sit and eat full meals during the day. I also don’t have the time to allow my body to properly digest the food I’m eating to get all of the nutrition I need. I need energy NOW, not a half hour to an hour from now after I’ve eaten a proper meal. My body has adapted to this.On active days, my body relies on stored glycogen and fat stores for my energy. Yes, it takes it from the food I eat as well, but it is able to take the remainder from my energy stores in my body. Makes sense, right?

So here’s the thing. My body and your body has a set range where it likes to keep it’s weight. It has a certain amount of fat stores that makes you happy and healthy. You can fluctuate within that range from day to day. On days where my body is pulling from it’s reserves, the following days, it increases my appetite to replace those stores. Once replaced, my appetite returns to normal. It all balances out as long as you pay attention to your body and respond accordingly.

Your body is brilliant. It knows exactly what it needs, when it needs it and how much. It’s telling you if you will listen. Having an increased appetite is scary. Eating more than you think you need is terrifying. But you know what? There’s a reason it’s happening. Trust your body and eat the food. Don’t let your body think it’s starving and doesn’t have access to the nutrition is needs when it needs it. It needs to trust you to function properly. You are not bingeing, you are taking care of yourself.

Eat the food. Rest. Relax. Have a wonderful day!

Size: What is it that’s so scary?

When I was toying with recovery, the reasons holding me back were really very silly and made no sense. I see this now, but back then they were very real to my eating disordered mind. Why was I so opposed to gaining weight back? Why was I so afraid?

Sure, I had the nagging feeling that we all seem to have: That we’ll gain forever, in to infinity and become morbidly obese. My clear thinking self knew this wouldn’t happen, the real Kathryn knew that when she was eating as she pleased, moving her body in any way she pleased and living life fully, she maintained her weight effortlessly. Our bodies know what they’re doing, they know what size they are healthy at and they will do everything to maintain this. This is called the body weight set point. This is something we will get in to in future posts.

So what was it that was so scary about gaining the weight? About being size x? Well, first, there was my fiance. What if he didn’t find me attractive anymore? What if he no longer wanted me? Then, oddly enough it was his and my family. What would they think of me for gaining so much weight? They’d talk about me behind my back and make fun of the fact that I had let myself go. I was so skinny for so long that it’s pretty much what I was known for and, actually, envied for. Which now, disgusts me.

I can remember every single time I ate something that anyone thought was “fat inducing,” I would get comments like “YOU’RE going to eat THAT?” and with looks that just screamed “someone’s going to gain that butt back.” I felt shamed every time I wanted to recover. Every time I wanted to challenge fear foods.

Then I worried about my customers. You see, I own a cafe and for years I’ve been the skinny baker/cook who can “eat whatever she wants and never gains an ounce” (yeah, right). I thought they would think less of me for embracing my natural shape.

Then I realized how ridiculous that all was. I realized that if my fiance, who calls me the love of his life every single day and treats me like a princess didn’t love me anymore because I chose to recover, then he never loved me. And, frankly, he could leave. He could go find someone else who would rather suffer for the rest of their life. Suffer both mentally and physically.

I decided to tell my family to stop making me feel ashamed about my food choices. I told them that I was tired of being unhealthy, miserable and, well, tired. I was tired of being hungry all. the. time. and I was tired of fighting my body. I was going to eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted and my body was going to become it’s natural shape once more. I was going to feel energetic and strong and healthy again. I was going to love life again and their opinion on how I looked didn’t matter.

Then I realized that my customer’s opinion of me also didn’t matter. Know why?

This is MY body. MY life. I choose how I live. I choose how I eat, I choose how I move my body, I choose when I rest and I choose to live in the happiest, healthiest way possible. For me. It’s MY body that would suffer with osteoporosis the longer I went without a period. It’s MY body that was always tired. It’s MY body that never had a sex drive, desire to live, or happiness. It’s ME who suffered with depression and ME who had stomach pains and nausea every day. Not anyone else. If my body settled at size x or size y, that’s my body’s choice. My body reflects the life I am most happy living.

I enjoy having a drink once or twice a week. I enjoy going out to dinner with friends and my fiance. I enjoy burgers and pasta and steak and potatoes. I do not enjoy salad unless it’s ceasar. I love bacon. I love banana bread with butter. I love fruit with cream and chocolate. When I’ve worked really hard all day, I enjoy listening to music at night, peacefully on my couch with or without a glass of wine and some cheese. I love yoga, hiking, walking, volleyball and tennis. I also love lazy sundays where I binge watch netflix all day. Vegetables hurt my stomach unless they’re well cooked and I can’t eat a lot of fruit. I thrive on dairy, carbs and fat. All the carbs. My body was going to settle at a point that I was able to live this life. It wasn’t going to look like I spend time in the gym lifting weight because, well, I don’t. It wasn’t going to be super lean and perfectly toned because that wasn’t healthy for my body. I wasn’t going to exercise to sculpt my body. I was going to do whatever made me happy in every moment of everyday.

I’m not saying this was easy. Believe me, it was rough. I fought my ED mind all day every day. But as the weight went on, it got easier. The healthier I got, the more my ED died. The more nourished my body and mind were, the less dysmorphia I experienced. As I healed my brain, I saw myself for what I really was. I learned to love myself and I didn’t need anybody’s approval because I approved. I approved of me. I WANTED to put more weight on and with time, my body changed to reflect my lifestyle. It settled in to my shape, the shape I always was, and it was and is beautiful. I didn’t gain in to infinity and you know what?

My fiance is more attracted to me than before. It was all in my head that he would think less of me. In fact, he had wanted me to gain weight for years. He was over the moon. He got the old Kathryn back and he loved her even more.

My family thinks I look fantastic and are very happy that I am healthy again. Now, there are members in my family who are disordered themselves… and for that I feel sad. I’m sad for them. And, when they ask me what I ate for dinner and I happily say a burger and caesar salad, a hard cider and topped it off with some chocolate, and they look at me with alarm and proudly say that they ate bowls of vegetables and a piece of cheese, I feel sad for them and then carry on with my day.

My customers? Well they didn’t even notice much. They just thought I looked better and better.

Did any of that matter? No. If anyone didn’t approve, I didn’t need them in my life. Neither do you. You don’t need anybody in your life who disapproves of your body, your choices or your life. We get one life and one body. We all deserve to live in a way that makes us happy, healthy and fulfilled. Whatever size that may be. All sizes are beautiful. you only have time in your life for people who support you and make you feel amazing no matter what. It’s you who feels all of the negative sides of your eating disorder. It’s you who suffers the most. And YOU deserve life. A long, healthy, happy life. You are beautiful, no matter what size or shape your body is.

That’s all for today, guys. I’d love to hear your thoughts.