Disclaimer: This post discusses disordered eating. If you are healing from an eating disorder, know that there is support for you, but you may want to skip today’s post.
I am so excited for today’s Motivational Monday post! Although I have yet to meet Melissa in person, she has been a huge inspiration to me and I’ve really enjoyed reading about her life and adventures through her blog Trying to Heal for years. I’ve always appreciated her ability to be honest with herself and others concerning her health and wellness journey, and think that her approach to wellness is incredibly admirable. Melissa lives a healthy, balanced life and is incredibly sweet! Because she has so much to share, I asked if she would do a guest MM post for us all regarding the healthy living tools she has found helpful.
There is nothing like the sound of birds to help me relax. Then there is also the feel of wind on my face, the drops of rain on my hair and the crack and rustle of leaves under my feet. Nature for me, has been an essential part of my recovery from an eating disorder that has been plaguing me for almost ten years.
I developed anorexia my freshman year of college in 2003 and started my recovery soon after. I never thought I would make it to where I am today. I remember wishing with all my heart that it would magically just disappear because the mental and physical anguish was sometimes unbearable, but that just isn’t what happens when you have this kind of disease.
Fast forward to the Spring of 2006 and I was sitting on a plane to northeast Queensland, Australia to study the rainforest by living in it for over three months. I was scared to death not just because I would be so far away from home, but because I would be out of control of activities and food that was still feeding my eating disorder. I had no idea how I would react, but knew the experience would be more rewarding than to continue to suffer.
Well, it was an amazing experience to say the least. I got to see so many birds and animals I never thought I would have the opportunities to see, and it helped me focus less on what I wanted to do to my body, and instead what I should do with it. By that I mean by the time I got home and started my senior year of college, I started training for the San Diego marathon to help raise money for a rainforest conservation group I worked with called TREAT. I fundraised as much I could between my training and last semester of classes to raise over 600 Australian dollars for the organization. It was such a great feeling to be able to give back and made me realize that I could do great things if I had a healthy body.
Now, even though this was a life changing event in my recovery, it was not the last one. I went through so many more smaller moments where recovery became a little easier with each step including seeing a counselor for almost two years and of course writing on my blog through my side notes feature to document my struggles. It wasn’t until this summer that things really took the turn towards recovery that I was looking for.
Just a few months ago I returned from three months in the jungles of Peru where never before have my boundaries been tested so harshly. I knew this experience was worth going for, as finding a job focused soley on hummingbirds is extremely hard to come by (I absolutely love hummingbirds, fyi. Haha). I knew it was going to be similar to my experience in Australia with the loss of control of my eating disorder, and was willing to not that hold me back.
That summer was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. No joke, I have never felt more excited yet miserable all at the same time. I used the experience to further my birding skills and species list, along with traveling to magnificent places like Machu Piccu and Cusco. But I also got something I never thought I would get out: the chance to truly recover from my eating disorder.
Living in the jungle and working with a group of ten others means a lot of things have to go on the way side, including formal exercise, cooking for myself and when to eat. I had to give up my healthy diet of salads and vegan proteins to a life of potatoes, oil, rice, bread and vegetables when they were available. I was able to eat three times a day and snacks weren’t easy to come by when you are only given a certain amount of food a day. Now you would think that this kind of diet would cause someone to lose weight with all the hiking I was doing, but I took advantage of some serious cookie consumption and desserts when they were available. I also indulged as much as possible in all the local Peruvian cuisine that I could eat.
I knew my body was changing while I was out in the field and quite upset about it at time but knew that until I got home there was going to be nothing I could do about the weight I knew I had gained. I realized that this extra weight wasn’t keeping me from doing what I wanted and making the friends that I met along the way, so what was there to be afraid of by it being there?
When I got home at the beginning of October it was not an easy month. I came home to the realization that I had gained ten pounds, the highest I had been since I developed my eating disorder. I wanted to jump into every eating disorder behavior I could grab but knew deep in my heart it was not going to make me feel any better about myself. I confided in the support of my friends and family for the help I needed and vowed to allow my body to recover from the Peruvian experience (I got horribly sick twice when I was there due to some nasty parasites/viruses unknown to me). I decided that believing I wanted the weight to be gone as fast as possible was irrational and should instead focus on making my body healthier and stronger again, as it was before I left and was finishing up the Insanity program.
I realized that acting upon my eating disorder thoughts wasn’t going to get me to where I wanted to be without suffering along the way, so why not take the high road out? I focused on incorporating more organic and green foods into my diet again, along with lots of green tea and water, and returned to my normal fitness regime. I knew by doing it this way the weight would come off, not as fast I would like, but it would in due time and I would just have to work hard for it.
I’ve been home three months and have lost five pounds thanks to my focus on eating vegan and exercising in moderation (I was an over exerciser in the past along with my anorexia). Although I am still not 100% confident in how my body looks I can still see it getting better but even better, getting stronger. I am more proud of the crazy moving pushups that I can do during my Insanity workouts than of the five pounds I have lost! Now that, is something I never thought I would feel!
So, even though it has taken me almost ten years to get to this point, it was there and I just had to get to it. I always knew it was there, that I had the strength inside of me to overcome this disease and I’m happy to say I think I have. I have overcome my anorexia, my compulsion to over exercise, and ability to feel guilty about eating anything I like or think might hinder my weight loss. Recovery is there, we just have to have the patience to let it happen when it’s handed to us.
Mahalo nui for sharing, Melissa! I know that your ability to be open and honest has made a huge impact in my own healing, and it feels really special to also be able to share it with my readers.
Motivational Mondays are meant to offer you tips and tools to help you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. What would you like to see for Motivational Mondays? Would you like to be a contributor? Comment or email me at greenplatedinners[at]gmail.com!
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