Not the drinking...come on, I was in college in that picture!
Freshman year of college
I had always been a straight-A student, always on the dean's list. I had always been able to measure my progress by my grades, and I always knew where I stood among others. After college, in the working world I felt lost. I no longer had cheerleading, gymnastics, music, or anything to really set my mind toward or measure my progress by.
No more Halloween parties for me to make the best costumes....
Yes that is a Samsung flip phone in my bra.
But my body? That was something I could "improve", track, control...
I was on my own in a new city, I was vulnerable to the body-obsessed, billion-dollar weight loss industry disguised within every magazine I read and the television I watched. So I set my mind to making my body "perfect", I knew I could do anything if I worked hard enough.
But as I lost weight, I slowly lost my mind. I was sad and anxious. I lost my confidence, my ability to focus on any thing or anyone other than myself, my spirit, my laugh, my love for life.
A year ago today I was far lower than any goal weight I had, and way smaller than my body was ever meant to be. Sometimes I was so proud of how much I'd lost, and I felt so thin and svelte. But inside, I was in a dark place. Getting anxiety over every calorie I consumed, and constantly striving for any extra time to workout is exhausting. As my body shrunk, it felt like everything else was going with it.
It was a year ago that I decided I needed to change. I missed the old carefree Lindsay who didn't count every calorie and obsess over every bite of food and minute at the gym. Who didn't ignore her hunger and wasn't so temperamental that she would break down over spilled milk. Who loved chocolate ice cream and slept in on the weekends. Who knew balance and trusted her body to just be. Not to mention this all seriously conflicted with my love of dining out, wine, and cooking elaborate new recipes at home.
The one who would actually eat that sandwich without guilt
I broke up with the scale a few months after that first realization as a small step toward escaping the obsession. I was tired of relying on an inanimate object to tell me how I was "measuring up in the world."
Then I found a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and body image. After one session she told me that I meet the criteria for the diagnosis of Eating Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified), which isn't necessarily anorexia, but means that you have an f***ed up relationship with food and exercise and your body - which was all true, though I wasn't ready to admit it. A lot of people count calories, diet, weigh themselves, and exercise every day to have a good figure.
I still meet with her regularly and still have a hard time admitting that I warrant an official diagnosis, but sometimes I can now say that I am in recovery without cringing. Only because I can see how much stronger and happier I have become, and how different I am since that day in December when I walked meekly into her office and cried my eyes out about how much I hated myself.
I was the straight-A student, never got into trouble, never had anything negative happen to throw me off course. How did I end up here? Is what I kept asking myself.
Anyway, for what it's worth, I got there. I had to stop comparing myself to others who think its okay to live their entire lives like this in order to look the way society tells them to. That just isn't me and that is not a life I want to live.
Same dress, more curves
Slowly, with her help and then the help of a dietitian, I learned to trust my body. I learned to let go. To enjoy food, life, friends. To use exersice to feel healthy and strong. To not beat myself up for having a margarita instead of a vodka soda. To listen to my cravings and nourish my body.
As I fueled myself and rested my legs, I felt my heart grow, and my spirit start to fill me back up. My skin began to glow again, my moods stabilized, my face became fuller and happy.
Mom and me after shopping for new clothes.
Today I weighed myself for the first time in about 8 months. I don't know what I expected to see and I don't know what I thought I would gain (other than some lbs - ha), and I still don't know how I feel about the number I saw. It is actually just about what I expected, but it was weird seeing it and hard and confusing. If I had known I would be the weight I am now when I first decided to turn things around, that meek girl who walked into therapy would have ran the other way. But that girl was so blinded by her obsession. My perception was way off about what healthy means.
This girl today would never go back.
Though I am still working on a lot, I have come a long way and I am proud of myself. But I will be putting the scale away for a while again now. I have to stay focused on what is important, which is how I feel.
So for anyone who is wondering if it can get better, it can. You don't have to look a certain way or be super thin to have a problem. When something isn't right, you kind of know, even if it is hard to admit. Life shouldn't be that hard, food doesn't have to be the enemy, and exercise doesn't have to make you hurt. I recommend reading the book Almost Anorexic if you think you or someone you love may have disordered thoughts or behaviors around food and/or exercise.
It isn't easy, but learning to love yourself is a long journey, and sometimes you just have to take one step in the right direction each day. What's the worst that can happen?