I started seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and postpartum stuff. It’s a good combo because I have things to address with both issues.
I gave her a brief rundown of my history and then we started talking about my weight loss journey and keeping the weight off for over 10 years and then feeling frustrated and down on myself for the last 6 years for not “bouncing back” and losing all the baby weight.
I told her about how my thinking turned obsessive and not healthy (keto) and she remarked that my journey to get healthy and lose weight was a good one, it WAS healthy and then it wasn’t. Basically my disordered eating didn’t start that way. It didn’t start with disordered thoughts and behaviors.
It’s hard not to think of my journey to get healthy and wonder, “Did I do it all wrong?”
I don’t think so. Before, I didn’t know about portion control or serving sizes or calories. It was a good thing that I became aware. I was losing weight “the right way” i.e. it wasn’t a crash diet. I just modified my habits and tracked my calories and started an exercise program. It was slow going, it took me like 16 months to lose 110 pounds.
There was one time during my weight loss journey where it DID become unhealthy. After losing about 65/70 pounds, I hit a plateau that was lasting FOREVER. Nothing I was doing was nudging the scale. This is when I started to exercise in an unhealthy way. “Punishing” myself by doing an hour or more on the elliptical until I was drenched in sweat. I was exercising every single day. This was when I realized I need to have rest days and I made it a “rule” to take 2 days off a week.
That became my routine for the next 10+ years.
So when did things become not healthy?
It’s hard to tell. At the time, I thought I was doing it “right” and healthy. I worked out 5 days a week, I counted every calorie. I told myself it was in moderation, but it took a REALLY long time to realize what I was doing was the beginning of disordered eating.
This was me. This was one of the big disordered things I did. I would PANIC if I couldn’t do my 5 days a week. I remember MANY times being injured (from overuse, from over-exercising) and I’d find ways to work around it.
*I injured my achilles tendon so I kept swimming I just used the wedge for my legs so I was exercising my upper body only.
*There was a huge snowstorm (when Michael and I were newly dating) and I was stranded at his house for a week. I was so upset about not being able to get to the gym I trudged down the street in my boots to the nearby school and ran up and down the stadium stairs.
*We went on a weekend getaway to this adorable boutique beach hotel that didn’t have a pool or gym and it was kinda rainy–I did exercises in our small room because I couldn’t skip a workout (crunches, squats, pushups, jumping jacks).
*We ALWAYS exercise on vacation. While I have great memories of this–like running along the beach in Maui, running with my dad in Tucson, snowshoeing in Bend–I never told myself it WAS OK TO REST ON VACATION.
*I injured my knee or ankle (I can’t remember now) and was in a huge boot for 2 weeks. I still went to the gym, I just took the elevator instead of the stairs and compulsively worked out by doing upper body weights.
*We visited Michael’s family in Dallas and I went for a run when it was 100+ degrees out. I really didn’t need to! It definitely wasn’t the safest thing!
*Every time I went to Vegas I’d still run or pay extra to use the casino gym. Even though I did SO MUCH WALKING I really did not need to work out at all.
*At my family reunion camping, I’d get up early and go for a run to “earn” my food later.
The thing is, I didn’t see it at the time. Now, looking back, it’s like a neon sign and I keep thinking HOW DID I NOT KNOW. And, I have a million other examples like the ones above.
The year before I got pregnant with Zoey, I was really doing the work to find a balance and heal my relationship with exercise. I was realizing (slowly) that working out should feel good and do my body good, and not leave me depleted and sore and cranky and unhappy.
Exercise doesn’t have to be PUNISHING.
I still have a long way to go but having such a hard pregnancy with Zoey, not being able to walk for 6 weeks postpartum, having reoccurring injuries, I am realizing I need to LISTEN to my body. Rest when it needs it. Maybe it’s ok to just go for a walk because it’s a nice day and not to burn calories. Maybe it’s ok to take a week off because my body feels sore or I feel like I’m getting sick. Maybe it’s ok to just do 30 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes of weight lifting because that’s when I can fit it in throughout the day with a new baby. 🙂
What about you? How has your relationship with exercise evolved? Or maybe it hasn’t?