“Shredding for the Wedding”

“Shredding for the Wedding”

Two years & a day ago my husband asked me to be his forever companion.

engaged

I had been binge eating every weekend for the past 5 or so months before this day, and after my new fianc√© dropped me off at my parent’s house the night of our engagment, I continued my ‘tradition’ and I binged on cereal, peanut butter and ice cream.

After tearfully tip-toeing into my bed for the night after coming back out of the fog created by the binge, I told myself that this night would be my last binge ever. I reasoned that I couldn’t keep binge eating, espcially now that I would have to fit into a wedding dress, look ‘good’ for all the pictures that would hang in my home for the rest of my life, and above all… have a literally bangin’ bod for the honeymoonūüėČūüė¨

I broke that promise to “never binge again” the very next day.

Every time I binged during the 2 1/2 months that we were engaged (yes, I know, incredibly¬†short engagement!) I was terrified of the ‘damage’ that was being done before my wedding day. I watched the scale rising weekly. 5 pounds. 10 pounds. 15 pounds. I hated trying on my wedding dress leading up to the big day because each time I did it felt tighter and tighter.

I felt so ashamed. Instead of shrinking like everyone’s ‘supposed’ to do before their wedding day… I was growing. The pressure to lose weight was so strong, and it only threw me deeper and deeper into my cycles of restricting and binge eating. This time that was supposed to be filled with the excitement and euphoric stress of planning one of the biggest moments of my life was tainted with hatred of my body, hatred of my ‘lack of self control’, and fear over the fact that my body was the largest it had ever been.

I wish I could say that I figured everything out before my wedding day. That I made peace with my body, and that my mind wasn’t being consumed with thoughts of what I was eating and how much fat was resting on my tummy on that lovely afternoon on June 10… but I can’t. As I mentioned in this post, I was living a ‘half life’, unable to be fully present on my own wedding day because of my disordered thoughts.

Now I don’t tell you this to be a Debbie downer, or to make it sound like the time leading up to my big day & the day itself sucked; I still had a lovely wedding day with moments where all I thought about was the love I had for my husband. But with ‘wedding season’ coming up, I wanted to share my experience in hopes that someone else can avoid the same heartaches as I had, and continue to have when I look back at my wedding photos & videos.

Please believe me when I say this: You don’t need to change your body. Not for any season, any holiday, any vacation, any person, or any event. Not even your own wedding day. While pictures from your wedding may hang in your living room for the rest of your life, I promise you, it’s not worth looking thin just to have the memories of the horrible things you put your body through in order to look that way. (Yes, those “bridal boot camps” and juice cleanses ARE horrible.)

wedding day.jpg

You don’t need to avoid [insert delicious food here] because “you have a wedding dress to fit into” (the amount of times I have heard this phrase just this year alone breaks my heart). You don’t need to force down that ‘effin apple cider vinegar that’s supposed to clear your skin, make you lose weight, detox your body, and make all your wildest dreams come true.

Instead of planning your next ’20 weeks to lose 20 pounds’ why don’t you plan new traditions that you and your partner can start once you are married? Instead of spending hours at the gym, why don’t you spend hours making a meaningful decoration for your wedding/home? Instead of talking about cutting carbs & sugar from your diet before your big day, why don’t you talk about ways you and your partner can strengthen your future marriage?

Take it from someone who had their wedding experience tainted by the grasps of diet culture & the obsessive desire to change their body. It’s not worth it. You deserve SO MUCH MORE than to be defined by how a wedding dress fits or how ‘toned’ your body looks on that first night. You deserve to enjoy your wedding as a day celebrating the love you and your partner have created… not how ‘fit’ you look.

If you are getting married soon, or in the future, I hope you can find the strength within yourself to throw out any belief that you must change your body to be a worthy bride (or groom). You are worthy already.

I’m Not Special

I’m Not Special

I’m not special.

I probably don’t offer anything that is going to completely change the world.

I’m not the best at anything.

I’m not the most beautiful, most talented, smartest or most inspiring.

I’m just one individual who was placed on this earth and somehow lived my way up to this point. When I started my undergraduate work, I walked into college thinking that I was going to be one of the best athletes on my team. That I was going to be one of the best students who made an incredible impression on my professors and peers. That I was going to walk out of school with my degree in one hand and the offers of all my dream graduate programs in the other. That I would be leaving with my name up on the track school records board, smashing my dream of breaking a 5:00 mile. I thought that I’d be over-the-moon, always happy in my marriage without any arguments between Aust and I. To top it all off, I thought that my recovery story would allow me to change the world of eating disorder recovery for all.

But I’ve come to realize that I’m not that special.¬†Literally every single one of my ‘dreams’ failed. I ended my running career early and significantly slower than what I was when I entered. I find that I try to make comments in class, but there always seems to be someone who thinks more critically and makes more profound comments. I didn’t get accepted into the graduate programs I hoped for. While I am still completely in love with my husband, our relationship certainly hasn’t gone without pain and frustration. My recovery from anorexia wasn’t as solid as I had once believed, and I had a tango with binge eating for the most part of my time in college.

Three years ago, I walked around life thinking that I was ‘oh so special’. Special in the sense that I was¬†better¬†than other people, that I offered more to the world than others. But now, having been straight kicked in the A$$ time after time, I’ve come to realize that I’m not that ‘special’.

From the time that we are youngins, we get told day after day that we are the best. We get a gold star and a ribbon and we fall to believe that we are extraordinary. And then fast forward to entering adult life, I find that we live in a hyper-competitive world… and if we aren’t getting the ‘gold stars’ or the ‘ribbons’, we start to believe that we are worthless, and that we wont make¬†it.

But really, what is that it?

I used to believe that¬†it¬†was being a standout, being on top. I equated¬†it¬†to being the winner of this made up competition I falsely called life.. and now that I’m sitting on the ‘bottom’, I realize that all the while I’ve been chasing down my wild dreams of ‘winning’, I’ve forgotten to take a look at all the things I do have along the way. All the simple things.

I may never break a five minute mile, but I still have the chance to enjoy the feeling of a good run.

I may never get into a graduate program to get the career of my dreams, but I still have had the opportunity to learn so much and to feel passionate about something meaningful.

I may never have the perfect marriage where my husband and I see eye to eye all the time, but I found someone who I can love and who can love me despite any of our differences.

My recovery story may not be as outstanding as someone else’s, but the lessons I have learned, and the life that I have gained from recovery is something that I would never take back.

Now I definitely don’t want this to come off as a depressing, “you’re never going to win, just throw the towel in now” type of message. I firmly believe that we all should shoot for accomplishing all of our big dreams and goals. However, instead of getting stuck in the “I’ll be happy when..” Syndrome, we should appreciate the process unfolding around us as we strive to reach these goals. And if we don’t quite make it, understand that life is still worthwhile.

I’ve been given a life on earth at this time, and I’m not going to waste it trying to beat out everyone around me, and then beating myself up *when* I don’t. I may not be all that special, but I am enough.

Pseudo-Recovery

Pseudo-Recovery

Pseudo-Recovery.

What does that even mean?
It can mean many different things to many different people. But to me, it means looking ‘recovered’ from the outside, not participating in immediately harmful behaviors, not being 100% consumed by the eating disorder… but still having some disordered thoughts and still holding onto a few disordered behaviors as well. But the thing is, many times a person can be pseudo-recovered, but think that they are fully recovered. This happened to me.
Following my battle with anorexia, I can reflect back now and realize that I was only scratching the surface of being ‘recovered’. I was definitely at a much healthier physical and mental state, but I still held onto a few of my demons. While I opened up my freedom with a wider range of foods, I still labeled foods “good” or “bad”, and tried to limit the amount of “bad” foods I consumed (I did this by using the I-don’t-like-that lie as mentioned in¬†this¬†Instagram post). I still had a fear of going out to eat, and I would make sure that I looked up the menu beforehand to check the nutrition facts to know what to order based on the amount of calories and ratio of macro nutrients. I still never allowed myself a spontaneous treat. During this time I was¬†weight restored¬†and physically healthy, I was able to function much better and enjoy life a bit more fully… but part of me still was stuck in disordered ways. Though I had more room in my mind to think about LIFE, I still spent a good chunk of time thinking about my food intake, exercise and my body.
You may be thinking, ‘Eh. That’s not that bad.” And it’s true, I was living a much better life for sure. I took off in my running career, I made amazing memories with friends, I grew closer to my family, I joined the Psych Bowl team at my high school (holla¬†@ the Pink Freuds!!), and so many more great things. Yes, I was able to do these things because of recovery. But underneath it all, I still had a wavering relationship with food and my body.
And it came to bite me in the butt.
I once heard an analogy on Food Psych (can you tell I’m obsessed with this podcast yet?) that has stuck with me since hearing it. You see, recovery is like being put on antibiotics for an infection. The ‘antibiotics’ include things like going to therapy, visiting with nutritionists and doctors, practicing fighting off ED thoughts, and challenging yourself with fear foods often. However, you cannot stop taking the ‘antibiotics’ once you first begin to start looking and feeling better–¬†you need to finish the whole bottle. Even after you are weight restored and not participating in extreme behaviors, you need to continue to do the things that will¬†solidify¬†and ensure¬†recovery, or else you eating disorder may just survive deep within you, and wait for a moment to make a comeback.
For me, my eating disorder made a comeback once I began my collegiate running career. I wrote an¬†article¬†for Mental Gladiator Media regarding my experiences, but to sum it up: because I was pseudo-recovered, I thought that my body needed to make some changes in order to be a *collegiate*¬†athlete. I believed that I needed to eat more strictly (aka I started to restrict). But this time around, I fell into the restrict-binge cycle. A cycle that took me over a year and a half to break free from. While I am grateful for all the lessons that I learned from this experience, this time of hell could’ve been avoided if I would’ve ‘finished off the bottle of antibiotics’. If I would’ve followed up with a therapist, talked openly about the remnants of body image and eating issues, but most importantly, been 100% honest with myself, I would’ve reached the point of full recovery much sooner.

I believe that full recovery is possible for everyone. I also believe that full recovery is¬†necessary. Life is always going to be throwing lemons at you around every corner. You’re going to be placed in new situations, with people, places, and things that are going to challenge you by eliciting disordered thoughts. If you are pseudo-recovered, these challenging times might just convince you to start listening to the eating disorder again. But if you continue to fight through the thoughts, and fight towards full recovery, those challenging times will be overcome without the use of disordered eating behaviors to hold you back. It takes making mistakes, continual effort,¬†honesty¬†and T I M E to get there, but full recovery can be achieved.