Alright, y'all. I need to start this post off with a few clarifications. First and foremost: trigger warning. This post discusses pregnancy loss and disordered eating and exercise habits. Second, I'm still trying to make sense of the following ramblings on a daily basis. I tried my best to clearly express my current state of reflections.
What you need to know about me is I'm an Enneagram type 3, wing 4. For those of you unsure of what all these numbers stand for, it means I'm driven by achievement. I get a high by getting shit done and then being recognized for said shit. Each number is a spectrum, and we have tendencies to swing in and out of healthy and unhealthy habits associated with our number. I can easily get caught up in "go, go, go" mode, losing sight of my emotions and the emotions of others. A defense mechanism for Threes is identification: we defend ourselves against harm by completely immersing ourselves in tasks. The way the world perceives me is important - I value image. Learning about my type has allowed me to face both the helpful and unhelpful attributes of my personality, of my history, of my story. It's allowed me to understand that expectations are the trigger to my anxiety and to my disordered eating and exercise habits.
For the past year, I've been digging deep into my relationship with myself. What started out as something forced upon me in a dark season has ended up being the greatest blessing in disguise.
After our loss, I didn't know who I was. I felt numb. Everything was dark. I didn't want to face the world. I felt like a stranger in my own body. And while my rational brain knows I did nothing wrong, at the time, all I could feel was failure. I had failed our daughter. My body had failed me. Being an Enneagram 3, I wouldn't let the world see this. I have my people, of whom I feel safe being vulnerable with. To everyone else, I faulted to my "go, go, go...everything is on track" personality. I didn't fail. I couldn't have.
After about a month of sitting in my sorrows, I finally mustered up the courage to look towards the tiniest ray of light. I turned to reading self help books as a means to understand the endless stream of thoughts that flooded my mind.
It was at this point, I realized I was living with anxiety - and had been for years. What made our loss a thousand times more unbearable (if that's even a thing) was the fact that I had no control. I have spent the entirety of my life attempting to feel in control in any and every situation. I found things to grasp onto, to keep my mind busy. But, in this situation, I was left with nothing but grief. I was forced to sit in it. Don't get me wrong - I tried. I mean - the number of ovulation sticks I peed on a day is mildly embarrassing. Don't even get me started on my google history.
By December of 2019, I had decided I could not continue to live like this. Each day I obsessed over pregnancy. It was all I could think or talk about. I realized I wasn't living. This wasn't a life - at least, it wasn't one I could sustain. So, I decided to let it all go.
Looking back now - I did let my obsession with pregnancy go. Control, on the other hand, I still tried my damnedest to maintain. I simply filtered it into a different avenue - fitness. If I wasn't going to be pregnant, I was going to get back into being really fit.
This wasn't long lived, as the next month we were fortunate enough to find out we were pregnant again. I battled anxiety throughout my entire pregnancy. Some days were better than others. Some days were really dark. I leaned into my support hard - releasing all the feelings all the time. I was scared shitless. I didn't have control and the stakes were the highest they'd ever been - the life of our baby boy.
Though some of the days were dark, I had committed to trusting my body. Something I don't think - something I know - I've never been able to do. And it wasn't until our sweet Hollis was born that I was able to realize it.
Throughout the pregnancy, I had taken a step back from exercise. I still moved my body, but how I moved it was different than ever before. Truth be told, I was terrified anything I did would cause him harm so I stuck to movements I knew were safe. I embraced my changing body. In fact, I firmly believe pregnancy was the first step in healing my eating disorder.
I want to pause here and say that all of this reflection is just that...a reflection. It is the unpacking of 20+ years of disordered eating and exercise habits. Let me say that again - 20 plus years. I've learned that having an eating disorder is so much more complex than the simplified labels of "anorexia" or "bulimia." Note - there is nothing simple about the disorders themselves, but disordered eating and exercise habits extend far beyond what we were taught in school (i.e. being anorexic or bulimic).
Once Hollis was here - I checked myself. And I mean I checked myself hard. One day, I sat in the kitchen, measuring out and weighing food with him in the chair watching me. It felt wrong. I felt icky. This was not the example I wanted my son to grow up with. I didn't want him thinking it was normal or necessary to measure and weigh out your food. I had spent the past 9 months eating based on intuition - by listening to what my body craved and when it was full. It felt natural. It felt right. So, I put the food back and started again - freely scooping the food onto my plate.
I sat in this feeling of not being comfortable with weighing food. I knew the science behind nutrition - I mean, hell, I have a freaking degree in Health and Wellness Promotion. But, I couldn't shake the fact that it felt wrong. So, I decided to do my research and dove head first into all things "anti-diet culture."
Y'all. I was deep in it - diet culture that is. And I quickly learned I have been my whole life, despite the fact that I have never once followed a "diet."
I'm not going to even attempt to summarize the book. First of all, it's worth the read. Second of all, you owe it to yourself to be educated on diet culture. So TLDR: having thoughts about controlling your body (be it with food or exercise) is disordered and it stems from our societies obsession with "health." I say "health" because the truth is what most of us are doing is not healthy. We (society) has placed this fear and hatred of FAT in our minds and hearts. We restrict ourselves and then tell ourselves we aren't. Some of us don't eat carbs. Other's completely skip meals or go hours without eating in the name of "fasting." Some of us "allow" ourselves to eat whatever we want but "balance" it out with protein - or by making a mock up of what we really want and labeling it the "healthy version."
THIS WAS ME. I preached the lifestyle. I wasn't trying to lose weight - hell, I was trying to gain weight! So I must be healthy. Ignore the fact that I had every single thing I ate planned down to the gram and tracked in a "nutrition" app. I was thin. I had abs. I was was strong. Clearly, I was healthy.
Except, clearly...I wasn't. Do you know how much time was freed up by not tracking my meals? By not meal prepping? Do you know how many other hobbies I can have when I only do a 10-20 minute workout at home? Do you know the mental load that was released when I didn't spend every hour of every day trying to control my body?
Allow me to paint a picture of how deep this stems, y'all. I vividly remember being in fourth grade and noticing that my belly had expanded by the end of the day. It would be years before I would try to control it, but every day I would stand in front of the mirror in our living room and look at my stomach - specifically to see how big it was.
A few years later, in Middle School, I became aware of what I was putting in my body. Somewhere along the line, I realized certain foods were deemed "unhealthy." I didn't really know what carbohydrates were, but I knew that I "shouldn't" eat a lot of pasta and bread. It was also around this time that people began praising me for how skinny I was. I didn't really have much control over it but I took pride in it.
High School was a whole new game. I joined the Cross Country team and was a natural long distance runner. Running made me feel "good" - it made me feel in control. I started to spiral. I began creating and following rules with food. I wouldn't eat anything "unhealthy" or that would make me bloat. I didn't eat bagels for years. I'd only allow myself to have dry cereal. And if I did eat something I knew I "shouldn't have"? I'd find a way to control it by doing ab exercises. It didn't matter where I was - school, a friends house - I'd sneak into the bathroom and do hollow hold and pulses.
Y'all - I laid down on my high school bathroom floor DAILY to do hollow holds after eating a bag of dry cheerios. I was sick. But no one called me on my shit because I wasn't starving myself, I wasn't forcing myself to purge, and I didn't binge. I was a runner - I was "healthy."
At some point during my junior year, I was able to admit that I had an eating disorder and sought out therapy. From what I remember - my therapist was not helpful for me. To be honest, I was a high schooler and didn't understand that I could be picky with my therapist and there was such a thing as choosing the right one for you. She constantly told me I was wise beyond my years and eventually - I stopped going to her. From what I recall, I never received any specific exercises to better this disease I'd been fighting for years.
Fast forward to the past decade and you'll see me still obsessed with what my body looked like. Only, I was able to mask it behind statements like "I'm trying to gain weight," or "I'm eating to fuel my body." Hell - I probably didn't have to say anything other than "I do CrossFit" and people would assume I was healthy. And let me be clear - I believed these things about myself. I declared my ED as a thing in the past. I had no clue my behaviors were disordered because, in our society, being thin and having abs/muscles equates health.
I didn't even begin to question my habits until Hollis was born. The habits I exhibit daily are what will grow to be his normal. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't okay with this being his normal.
"Being fat" was never my fear. Being a failure, though? I couldn't have it. I had set the expectation up to the world that I was thin, I was fit. This is what is expected of me, and being an Enneagram 3, I was going to achieve it.
Expectations are my triggers. They open the door to my ego and allow it to take over. They force me to choose fear - fear of failure - over love.
So, I'm setting boundaries. I'm exploring what feels good for my body. What allows me to show it love - what allows me to let go of control. I'm breaking decades of habits and I'm calling society out on it's shit along the way.