Healthy Living | Redefinition

Join the conversation about body image and my personal commitment to engaging in a health-based dialog about how we are all awesome-shaped.

Over a year ago, I posted about my struggles with eating disorders. This prompted the following behaviors from others.

Appreciation for sharing my story
Mostly private, but a few individuals expressed they were proud of me for opening up.

“Let’s pretend that didn’t happen”
The more common reaction: ignoring it. Even I was guilty of neglecting an ongoing conversation about my own health.

This conversation:
Anonymous: X told me you posted about having an eating disorder.
Me: Yeah, I posted that.
Anonymous: But you didn’t really have an eating disorder.
Me: Yeah, I did. I went through periods where I chose not to eat when I could get away with it and people wouldn’t notice.
Anonymous: But you didn’t have an eating disorder where you got really skinny.
Me: Sure, I didn’t go to “the extreme” – but that doesn’t mean I made healthy decisions or had an appropriate relationship with food.

What happened/happens next?
And then there are the rare few that want to know how my life has been and how I’m continuing to grow.

I will say that I feel healthier than I did a year ago. I continue to make better choices, and with more consistency. I exercise more, and Scott and I joined a nice gym nearby – such a difference! I still have a bit of a portion control problem, and I could do better with snacking at/after work.

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The biggest change hasn’t been physical. I’m shifting away from weight loss and focusing more on healthy living. I weigh myself, but I stopped defining myself by the number on the scale. More accurately, I stopped associating my weight with my value. My weight does not cause or even correlate to my worth. I’m more concerned about how I feel.

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I still want to exercise. I’ve reconnected with my love of swimming. I like to challenge myself, and I go to a core class. If I lose a few pounds or inches, great – but I’m happy taking time for me and doing something I love. I bike, and I row, and I attempt to run on a treadmill, though I usually end up doing a bit of a hike. I enjoy connecting with what I can do, and having some time away from a desk and computer and cubicle. It’s fun to challenge myself, to see how I can do better, instead of associating exercise with payment for food choices.

I attribute a lot of my progress to self-reflection, support, and Season 15 of The Biggest Loser.

The Biggest Loser? One of the most widely-criticized “health” shows on television? Yep, the very same.

I used to watch TBL on Hulu. I got a little obsessed with it for a while. I watched, I think, eight seasons? It was an escape for me – a dark fantasy where I could pretend that these stories were inspirational instead of opportunistic on NBC’s part. Look at them overcoming willpower with that candy temptation!

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I started watching Season 15, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t keep up with the show, and it kind of fell by the wayside. Until the finale, when season winner Rachel destroyed the competition by losing 155 pounds and clocking in at 105 pounds and (I believe) 5 feet, 4 inches.

Before the show aired, my goal weight was 105 pounds. And I am short – 5 feet, 2 inches.

People freaked out, and I saw my goal through others’ eyes and not my own dysmorphic lenses. 105 didn’t look like what I remembered. It didn’t look skinny or healthy. It looked skeletal. It looked dangerous.

It didn’t look like the me I wanted to be.

Sure, there were theories Rachel pushed herself to secure a victory, overdid it to rake in the dough – but I’m not a contestant competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars on national TV. I’m someone trying to be healthy, and maybe the first step in that process is redefining what healthy means in my life and my future.

I stopped looking for that 105-pound version of me. I stopped trying to find her buried under curves and cellulite. I discovered someone better: a woman who is happy striving to be the best version of herself, not the smallest size in the store.

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3 thoughts on “Healthy Living | Redefinition

  1. Sarah S. Howell says:

    I hadn’t read the 2013 post until now, but I definitely remember thinking you didn’t eat enough in high school–but at that time, my understanding of eating disorders was limited to that obvious, life-threatening extreme. Looking back now, I wish we had had better resources to deal with the subtler forms of eating disorders, to name them for what they were. I can see how my relationship with food and with my body has been largely negative, even if it manifested in less obvious ways.

    I , too, have found that what the scale says is not always a measure of health or even of positive self-image. When I focus on that number, I can become obsessive in an unhealthy way. I only recently started weighing myself again, but focusing on eating well and exercising has helped make my weight an interesting footnote rather than a motivating (or, more often, shaming) force.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story! One of the most helpful things is seeing how this journey is just that–a journey and a process, something that doesn’t end even if you hit your goal weight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah S. Howell says:

    OK, I just tried to post a comment and am not sure it worked…ANYWAY…

    I hadn’t read your 2013 post until now, but I definitely remember that time in high school where you ate little to nothing for lunch. I remember that concerning me, but at the time, my definition of an eating disorder was limited to those life-threatening extremes. Looking back now, I wish we had had better resources to deal with the subtler (and way more pervasive) forms of eating disorders that were all around us, all the time, but didn’t fit the bill of what we thought counted. I can see now how my own relationship with food and my body has been fueled by shame for most of my life, and the fact that it didn’t manifest itself in more obvious ways meant that it took me longer to face it.

    I, too, have found that giving the scale less sway over my life has been important. My obsessive tendencies can come out in unhealthy ways if I focus too much on that number. It’s taken a while, and I’ve only just started weighing myself regularly again after years of simply avoiding the scale, but I’m finally at a point where (for the most part) the scale is an interesting side note and I can focus on eating well, exercising, and dressing and carrying myself in a way that gives me confidence.

    I appreciate you sharing your story and this post, because what I’m finding is that a lot of the way we talk about weight an body image doesn’t do it justice. It’s not so simple as reaching a goal weight–it really is about our relationship with ourselves and our bodies, and it’s all a journey and a process. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Justice says:

      Sarah, thanks so much for your comments (yay queue moderation!). I like what you said about relationships, because we spend so much time talking about healthy relationships with people that sometimes we forget about the healthy relationship we should form with ourselves.

      I wasn’t sure how to respond to your mention of my eating habits in high school, because they became significantly worse junior and senior year, after you moved and transferred to MPHS. It’s somewhat scary to think that those patterns were manifesting earlier than I originally thought. I never wanted to talk about it with people, even though I had opportunities. I remember finding out that a couple IB friends were bulimic. I could have approached them and we could have offered each other support; I could have even told the person who told me, but I didn’t. I still don’t know what to say or do, except to just offer support and be a “buddy” for those who talk about body image concerns. Maybe that’s all I can do, but it still doesn’t feel like enough.

      Like

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