- Sara Mann
Counting The Little Things.
As I’ve shared in recent blogs, the past year, and even the past few months have been especially challenging to say the least. Moving, renovating, my husband traveling most of the week, finding a new team, dealing with a healing body, feeling isolated in the burbs....you know! It’s very very easy to get down in the dumps and feel hopeless when I have non-stop panic attacks, and I am still recovering. I never thought it would take this long (even though I was told it would), and I never thought my body would recover like this, (even though I was told it would), I never thought it would be this hard (even though I was told it was)!
I learned a long time ago that in order to stay on track, maintain hope and not relapse it is very important for me to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins/changes/met goals along the way. At times this can feel invalidating to the pain of recovering. Like I’m just trying to grasp at straws to find something to make recovery ok and worth it. The truth is, if I don’t celebrate these things then ya, its easy to get down and defeated!
SO, todays blog I’m going to share a list of little things that I have noticed that have changed over the past few months. I’m sharing them because THEY COUNT! Am I back to my normal weight yet? Nope. Do I go entire months without restricting? Not yet! But I’m getting there and counting the small things makes me realize things ARE getting better, even if they are at a glacial pace. I also want to share them to bring some hope to the people recovering who read this. If my body can recover from how bad my anorexia was, then so can yours!
Here it goes!
1. I went to the fair recently. I ate all of the things, and I still ate my dinner and evening snack after it. You might read this and say, is that too much food? Were you even hungry? Why is that a big deal? Isn't that bad? Well, in the past, before I would go to the fair, I would have to ran, restricted all morning, ate maaaaybe one thing at the fair or taken “bites” of everyone else’s, and then say I was full when I got home to punish myself for the bites of funnel cake I had or needed to burn off the exact calories in which I ate at the fair. This time, I ate a normal amount of food, allowed myself to freely eat fun foods that I enjoy, (because lets be real, when else in the next 11 months will I be having a funnel cake?!)and when I got home after walking for hours at the fair I was hungry for dinner, so I ate! The body is allowed to be hungry again after a funnel cake! I was proud of myself for honoring that hunger even though my eating disorder wanted me to restrict!
2. Another fair one! I ate food at the fair that I was excited to eat and I also didn’t eat food I wasn’t excited to eat! Again, this is a big deal. I no longer categorize food as good and bad. There is no moral behind food. It is either nutrient dense or not. Sometimes we eat nutrient dense foods and sometimes we don’t. It’s not a big deal and I’m not good or bad for it. At the fair I shared a funnel cake with my husband because they are bomb, and I didn’t get a milkshake because they make my body feel like death. I shared a gyro because...YUM.... but I didn’t eat a corndog because it wasn’t screaming my name. I got cotton candy to go because it reminds me of when I was young and why not, I don’t eat any of this stuff every day, every week or even every month for that matter. It’s all good! I ate, it tasted amazing and I enjoyed it. I moved on!
3. I can't remember what I eat! I keep a food log so my dietician can keep track of what I’m eating. I struggle to eat enough and this keeps me accountable. There have been a few days where I forget to log, and when I went back to put it in, I had actually forgotten what I ate for dinner the night before! Now this might not sound like a big deal to you, but when I was anorexic I could have told you what I ate three weeks ago because it was chiseled into my brain as punishment and counting. The fact that I couldn’t remember what I ate 12 hours ago, I honestly can’t believe it! I’m finally starting to let go and eat each meal as it comes and be done with it when I’m done.
4. I saw a video of myself playing piano and it didn’t bother me. This is huge. I went from having panic attacks to a place of acceptance and even peace about being on stage in my recovering body. Progress!
5. I can’t tell you the last time I counted calories. Truly. I have no idea when the last time it was that I added up what I ate and what I burned. Have I looked at the calories of some foods, ya. Have I saw calories on a menu and chosen differently out of fear, sadly yes, but I haven't counted them up and obsessed over them so I say that’s a win!
6. My body is slowly going back down to it’s normal weight. I was hesitant to write this one because I don’t want to trigger anyone else who is in recovery, and to be honest, I'm not certain I believe it. I don't feel or see the loss yet, but my dietician says it's happening. (Remember I do blind weigh-ins) However, my story is my own and we all know I’ve overshot my normal set point by a substantial amount. The goal has always been for my body to return to it’s normal weight, but it needs to do it when its ready, without restriction, crash dieting or over exercise. I currently am eating more then I’ve ever eaten in the past ten years and my body is slowly starting to let go of the overshoot. (take that all you diet industry people trying to get me to restrict food groups and calories!) I hope to be back to normal by next summer! I will write a blog on my meal plan and how this is happening soon, but let this be proof that what they say is right in anorexia recovery, eat, eat a lot and keep eating, the body will heal.
7. My swelling is getting better. I’ve been writing about my swelling for over three years. It has been the single most painful thing about my recovery. It has caused me to stop working, cancel plans, lay in bed for hours to get it to go down, reject hugs because my skin hurt, not travel and be unable to wear anything but leggings for most of my recovery. But guess what? I swear it’s getting better. I walk for hours now and my feet don’t puff up. As my hormones have healed the swelling has become less and less. I find myself not needing to lay down in the middle of the day from swelling unless I’ve done something really strenuous. A year ago I literally bought a bed with hydraulics so I could lay down and put my feet up to get the swelling to go down. I can’t tell you the last time I needed to use it! Guys, my body is healing! I know it! It’s slow. Painfully slow. But it IS happening.
8. I am stronger. Am I as strong as I use to be, no. When I compare myself to how I use to be five years ago, I get real sad, but when I compare myself to how I was six months ago, I’m killin’ it! I hiked up a mountain a few weeks ago that no way I could have hiked up a year ago. I can swim without holding the noodle (don’t judge haha), and I can even jog at sloth pace, which is better then not being able to jog at all! My body feels like it is gaining it’s strength back and if is starting to feel good.
9. I allow myself to rest. While I’m not perfect at this one, it has taken me a long time to allow myself to rest and not feel guilty. Resting is what my body needs and it’s ok to do it. There are days I just don’t have the energy. I allow myself to rest and the next day I feel great and get a lot done. When I was in the depths of my anorexia this would never be allowed. I would never skip a day of exercise or allow myself to lay down just to rest. I’ve come a long way with this one.
10. When I exercise I exercise freely and listen to my body and I do not exercise for weight loss. Again, this has taken me YEARS and a lot of therapy. When I jog, or swim or zumba or lift I don’t wear a stupid watch that tracks everything. I have zero idea how many calories I’ve burned, steps I've taken or if I’ve closed a circle. I do set goals, and I try to achieve them, but I also don’t kill myself over it. The other day I wanted to do zumba for 30 minutes. At 25 I wanted to die. I'm literally not joking. I sat on my couch and sincerely believed I would not ever get back up haha. I was sore from taking down wallpaper the days before and I literally couldn’t lift my arms one more jazz hand time...so I stopped! In the past I would have forced myself to do the last five minutes and then add a few more to prove I was amazing. It’s just not worth it now. I exercise to be healthy and feel good. I don’t need it to cope with anxiety or pain or my eating disorder anymore. I have new coping skillzzzz for that! I do it for enjoyment and because it’s a positive thing to do!
11. I’m feeling a little less shame. Key word "little." I still struggle with my healing body and the fact that I was anorexic, but I’m slowly allowing myself to own it and not be ashamed of it. When I meet people I share openly about what I’m going through and that has helped a lot. I still shy away from places where I fear I might run into someone, but I am doing a smidge better...so I’ll take it!
12. I’m a LOT more accepting of my body. Some people may disagree but I know my mind and it is better. Suffering from body dysmorphia makes accepting my body near impossible because I honestly don't even see myself right, but there have been a lot of times in the past couple of months where I’ve just thrown on an outfit and went out not worrying about my weight. I have small moments where my mind takes a break from punishing me over my recovery weight and allows me to just be fully present. I truly view that as a little thing that counts.
13. I’m taking WAY less medication and supplements. As my body has continued to heal I have to take fewer and fewer medications. I’m down to only about 6! That is like less then a quarter of what I use to have to take. I can’t wait for the day I have to take zero!
14. I sleep better. While I was anorexic and even throughout recovery sleep has been struggle. Lately I’ve been sleeping a lot better and it’s been a huge relief. I’m certain it has to do with the fact that I’m eating enough and my body is healing. It’s allowing me to fully rest because it feels safe and fueled.
15. I allow myself to be in photos....kind of. My sisters will say I’m not even close to there yet, but I’m getting better. It use to be that when we were together I would want no photos of me recovering. I was ashamed of my weight, my swollen recovering face and I couldn’t stand seeing the photos because I would have panic attacks. Now, I’ll be in one. I don’t love it. I prefer to be in the back. I’m still self conscious, but capturing a moment with people and being able to look back at this time is more important. Plus, if you see a photo of me and having something rude to think or say, whatever, I’m recovering and this is just what it looks like right now!
I’m sure there are many other little things I can celebrate, but I’ll save them for another day when I need a reminder that I am in fact making progress, it's just liiiiiiittle itty bit steps that over time lead to healing :) This blog may be one that a lot of people don’t read, but it’s important for me to document this sort of thing and share it with others who are in recovery. We need to count the little things, because they matter and they add up. I have to purposefully sit down and assess what has changed because day to day it doesn’t seem like much, but over time, as I chip away at recovery, it is changing! I’m sure before I know it I will be recovered!
- Sara -