I thought long and hard about what to put in this post. For a while, I thought that, because it’s such a personal topic, I should make an outline and make sure I’m covering everything I think I should. Then, I decided, nope. I’m going to write this from the heart, freely. So here goes.
I talk a lot about accepting who we are in the moment, who we are meant to be without trying to make ourselves into someone or something else. AKA: not loving yourself until ______. Fill in the blank with whatever suits you (thin, pretty, toned, X number of pounds…) “THEN I’ll be whole, THEN I’ll be happy.” Is what you think. But it’s so far from the truth, from reality. Healing and learning to love yourself is a long process. It means letting go of exercising to get thinner or toned. It means letting go of the diet mentality-even the notion of “clean eating” or eliminating all processed foods or whatever other rules you have about eating. It also means honoring your hunger and your fullness. It means making peace with food (all food). It means forgiving your past self. It means respecting your body right now, not later. It also involves healing on various levels: physically healing, mentally healing, emotionally healing, and healing enough to create and uphold your own boundaries.
This is the process of moving toward living whole and intuitively eating. Depending on your own personal background, this process could take months to years. And I really think for most people, it’s closer to years. For those who have a long history of dieting, it’s going to be a long process. For those who have a long history of eating disorders, it’s going to be an even longer process. There’s no way to put a time limit on it, but I would say, don’t expect to be eating intuitively by next year. It may take several years and many stages of progress. Everyone is different, which is what intuitive eating and living whole is really all about! That’s what makes it so great! There is no one way to get there.
I speak from personal experience. After a 13-year battle with an eating disorder, my process of learning to eat intuitively and live whole has been ongoing for the past 8 years (since I was 23 years old). My 13-year battle included various eating disorder diagnoses, many ups and downs, multiple treatment centers and hospitals, and several re-feeding attempts, the last of which included tube feeds to reduce the risk of GI complications and re-feeding syndrome.
The first step is to physically heal, and this is not an easy step at all. I had to allow my body to go through many phases-oh so many phases, many of which were not comfortable. I had to heal from various physical problems, such as gastroparesis and other GI disturbances, hormonal imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and obviously, malnutrition itself. Just because you regain weight or become a healthy weight does not mean that you have physically healed. It takes much longer to heal on the inside than it does to have that scale number go back up to a healthy range. Depending on the length and extremity of your dieting/ eating disorder history, the healing process could take many years. This is the truth. Long after I was “physically” stable, I was still not well. My hormones remained a mess for many years, and most doctors just couldn’t figure out how to help me. Most dietitians thought my weight was “high enough.” My GI track was still a mess and no matter how many specialists I saw, they couldn’t help me except to say that I had long-lasting effects, which they thought may never fully heal. All they could do was prescribe another pill. And it’s not to say that sometimes these steps aren’t necessary-the pills, the doctor visits, the ongoing treatment and process. But I knew I wasn’t healed. My journey was continuing.
Because healing was and is possible for me. I will tell you that it is doable and recovery/ healing is very real, even for you. I promise you this. It takes time, effort, and a whole lot of patience.
During my own healing process, I have met with many people who tried to help me-some of whom absolutely did, and others, well, who did not really want to help me in the way I needed it. And that’s okay, too. Because everyone is so different, we can’t expect every doctor or dietitian to click with us individually. My process has been guided by physicians (primary and specialty), nurses, therapists, naturopathic physicians, dietitians, yoga teachers, art therapists, friends, and so many others. Everyone’s story is very different, which is just one reason why I rarely ever talk about my personal struggle. Comparing your struggle to mine is irrelevant. And me sharing my story is also somewhat irrelevant. But I also what you to know that I’ve been there, too. And living whole again (or for the first time) is very possible. There is hope.
Eating cake for breakfast without guilt is possible. Having some jiggle and being a healthy weight without fighting against it is possible. Allowing your body to get to its own natural weight is possible. Living without a scale is possible (or without using a gym scale or a scale anywhere else). Throwing out clothes that are way too small without feeling bad or sad about it is possible. Wearing XX size pants without freaking out is possible. Having arm jiggle and thigh flab without needing it to be gone is possible. Eating whatever you want today without planning for restriction tomorrow is possible. Eating whatever you want without planning for exercise is possible. Listening to your own body’s needs and boundaries is possible.
We are all uniquely different, myself included. Your process is going to be unique and it will look different from anyone else’s. That you can be sure of. Please have hope and keep fighting for yourself. You can live this life whole, you can and you will. ❤