To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”: A Poem

An ode to summer…

 

To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”

 

The water glistens and ripples

Pool blue and inviting

I see your body and immediately feel shame

On a deep level I know it is nothing about you

But about me and my body-mind game

 

That it will never be good enough

That I will never be good enough

I sit and dwell

And stew

 

The way I perceive my body

If you only knew

Do I need to change me

To be more like you?

 

Losing focus on why I am there

The love I have of swimming and treading and kicking

That I feel free when I do so

My muscles tensing and retracting

My legs pushing me from one end to the other

 

For the moments that I focus on you

And what I project

I lose sight of all of that

Of what really matters

 

You have no idea the power you hold

Or that we have placed on you

All of us with bodies that we deem “flawed”

(and maybe that’s you…too?

I really have no idea what you’re going through)

Or that society says are askew

 

The pain of countless souls

A communal weeping

I place all of this onto you

 

You don’t deserve that

I don’t deserve that

No one, No body deserves that

The messages that we receive are the villains

And try to be the thief of joy

 

Comparison is the thief of joy

 

And yet all of us can relate

To that thought that says

I must change

There’s something wrong with me

Lose weight

But only in the “right” areas

Then you will truly love yourself

 

Thin is “in”

Fat is “out”

Where do you fall?

Try to catch the moving needle

Of body image ideals

It will never stop

You will never win

 

Now I look at you

I look at all of us at the pool

Men women kids babies

Laughing

Splashing

 

And I feel anger

Anger at the power of body shame

And judgmental standards

 

Power

Rises up in my throat

Like a ravenous flame

A fight to change the dialogue

All bodies are good bodies

We all deserve the same

 

And I dive into the cool refreshing pool

Holding my breath

 

 

-name withheld

 

#healthateverysize #bodyacceptance #selfacceptance

#bodyimage  #recovery #advocacy

#eatingdisorderrecovery

#enjoythedamnpool

 


Recovering my Period, my Body, and my Life: A Story of Recovery from Orthorexia

Today I am honored to feature a guest voice on my blog!  Ritta Shikwana is a Holistic Health Coach who helps people going through something she herself has recovered from — orthorexia.

Have you heard of orthorexia before?  While not officially included in the DSM-V, it is a condition that is running rampant in our society today and has serious health effects.  It is described as “an unhealthy obsession with healthy or ‘pure’ foods” that begins to get out of control, and takes over one’s life.  Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.

Read on to hear about Ritta’s desire to get pregnant and have a family, and what she has learned about the way eating disorders can threaten the things we value the most.

 

Recovering my Period, my Body and my Life: A Story of Recovery from Orthorexia

Have you lost your period? Do you want to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy? Not long ago I used to desperately search the internet on how to get my period back. I had lost my period due to excessive exercise and struggling with orthorexia (click here to take a self test to see if you might have some of these behaviors too).

Not feeling womanly, not having a period and not being able to get pregnant caused me to have so much more stress than I needed.

Focusing on numbers like calories, macros, body fat percentage, BMI, what time of day I was allowed to eat etc, was driving me crazy. I quickly realized that my addiction to exercise and being orthorexic came from me not feeling like I was in control over my life. I realized it was really never about food, but mostly about control.

I thought that by controlling those numbers, I’d feel in control of my life. But it was really just an illusion. You never have control over your life when you’re controlling the food you’re eating. You’re actually letting exercise and food control and run your life instead. It’s a false sense of control that you gain from doing this.

Perfectionism and Control

At that time I was trying to be a perfectionist and also had a lot of masculine energy in me. It’s very IMPORTANT to have masculine energy, but when you’re trying to get your period back, do you see how important it is to have a feminine approach to it?

Consider asking yourself the following questions:

-Where in your life do you have an unhealthy or unbalanced relationship with control?

-In what area(s) can you allow yourself to begin letting go of control? Maybe it’s going to a restaurant without studying the menu a million times before you go? Maybe it’s by going for a nice walk instead of going to the gym? Or maybe it’s as simple as getting on your knees and praying to God?

I wanted to share this part with you because I never found this kind of information when I was trying to get my period back. Every article out there gave me general information, such as eat more, exercise less.

But I needed something deeper.

Something that told me that my eating disorder, my exercise addiction and my amenorrhea (loss of period) really had nothing to do with food, but with not being nourished in other areas of my life. It wasn’t until I understood this and put it into practice that I actually got my period back.

At the time I was trying to get my period back, it wasn’t because I wanted to get pregnant. But the idea of not being able to have kids sure stressed me out because I did want kids one day! Once I got my first period back I did everything I could to maintain it, but NOT in a controlling way.

I will say that I’m actually happy that I went through this. I’m glad I lost my period, because firstly it showed me how smart my body is (it wasn’t trusting me to feed it, so it shut off my reproductive system) and I would’ve never learned so much about myself and my body otherwise. Sometimes we have to go through rough and tough times, get a kind slap in the face in order to wake up and get out of our heads.

Once I regained my period I knew that it also meant that my body was starting to trust me again. It was trusting me to even get pregnant which I am today!

Along the way, I had to make some physical and mental gains. I had to work a lot on eating more, exercising less, managing stress, meditating, eliminating caffeine, sleeping more, gaining weight, and accepting my new and natural body size. I knew that having a six pack wasn’t going to help me get pregnant, so letting my belly grow and gain some extra fat was important in order for a healthy baby to grow in there.

Improving my Sleep Hygiene

Sleeping more has made a huge difference in my health. I went from 5-6 hours of poor quality sleep every night to about 7 hours of quality sleep. It wasn’t an easy process. Having a very low body fat percentage, an eating disorder and exercise addiction affected my sleep.

Gaining weight has helped me greatly in getting better sleep. But I also put other things into practice to help me sleep better. I created a sleep sheet that contains my favorite teas for relaxation, favorite bed time yoga routine and a couple of affirmations. You can download that here if sleep is something you struggle with. You can also watch this video where I share the best tips on how to get better sleep. 

 

Feeding Ourselves Outside of the Plate

In order for us to regain our health to get pregnant, we can’t just focus on eating healthy.

We need to focus on feeding ourselves outside the plate. You can eat all the kale and broccoli in the world, but if you’re dissatisfied in other areas of your life you’ll find yourself relapsing and never feeling fulfilled. Mental health is just as important if not more important to work on than physical health.

One of the most important things I can tell you in order to regain your health is that no one in the world is smarter than your own body. You are your own best doctor. No one can tell you exactly what to eat, not eat, or how much you should work out.

Your body is the smartest bio computer, it knows exactly what it needs in order to feel its best. If you choose to listen to it, it’ll be the best thing you could do for your health. Just because a specific diet, a specific workout routine and a specific lifestyle works perfectly for someone else, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.

Listen to your body, make mistakes and through trial and error, and you’ll learn better lessons than any doctor/specialist can give you.

 

~~~

Ritta is a certified Holistic Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her mission is to help women develop a healthy relationship with food, their body and exercise. Because she overcame Orthorexia, Depression, Exercise Addiction and Amenorrhea, she now coaches women who are going through similar struggles. You can connect with Ritta on here website rawritta.com. And also connect on social media at YouTubeInstagramFacebook


When Weeds Suffocate Your Seedlings: The Secret to Harvesting What Really Matters

Everything in life I’ve learned from my garden.

Here in Colorado, we have had torrential downpours, golf ball-sized hail, flash floods, and even some snow almost every day since early May. That’s right – in the month of May there were only three days without some kind of moisture from the sky, which is quite abnormal for our typically arid spring climate.

While many of us were lamenting for the sun, turning our faces upwards in hopes of catching a glimpse of a ray, seeds began to wiggle beneath the surface.

But what kind of seeds? And what will they produce?

As an experimental and somewhat overly impassioned gardener, I gazed out with a grain of exasperation at my garden and wondered: What will sprout? Will the seeds and seedlings I planted amidst the rain sprout roots or will they be washed away in a newly imprinted “river”? Will there be “volunteer” seeds that sprout into something I didn’t intend for?

I did not know. But, I had hope. I also had a very clear understanding that Mother Nature is much more powerful and enormous than I or any other gardener is, and we are at the mercy of her force.

So I sat and waited.

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny 85 degree day, I peered over the picket fence guarding my garden (“guarding” feels like a facetious term, as nothing seems to protect my sprouts from the ravenous and assertive squirrels. . . but that is another post for another time).

What did I see?

Lots of green! Yay!

But….which were weeds and which were seedlings I tenderly planted to grow eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, or other goodies??

A few green sprouts were pretty easy to discern which was which. . . and after an hour of pulling the weeds out, I decided I would never win that battle.

There were dozens (and dozens) of other sprouts of which I could not clearly and certainly define their nature. I would just have to wait and see until they grew bigger. (Patience is a virtue, right? Agh!)

As I pried myself away from the soil and sat contemplating this conundrum, I was reminded of another couple of blog posts I wrote last year in a similar fashion as Mother Nature again reminded me of the necessity of letting go (read them here: Mindful Gardening: Six Seeds to Sow to Nourish a Thriving Recovery and Disorderly Mindfulness: When it Hails on Your Freshly Planted Garden).

Gardens are metaphors for life. For recovery. For healing. For ACCEPTANCE.

Weeds will always come back no matter how much time and energy we spend pulling them out. Just like intrusive or negative thoughts, we will never be able to truly eradicate them from our minds, our lives.

We can spend time noticing them, trying to identify them, and bringing mindful awareness to their presence and impact on our emotional well-being.

However, if you will not be able to fully weed them out. . . . are there more fruitful and fertile places to focus your energy and awareness?

Weeds in my garden will grow exponentially bigger and faster than my seedlings, encroaching upon my plants and stealing their nutrients. This parallels the experience of painful events, thoughts, and beliefs about ourselves or others sucking away our positive and nurturing energy and leaving us little room to grow.

Breathe.

Pull out the weeds that you can identify: the thoughts, experiences, or people, who drain your life energy instead of energize it. Do as much of this as you have time and space for.

Overall, acceptance of our entire experience releases us from becoming entangled in our weeds and allowing them to spread over our inner garden.

Weeds are just as natural as the tomato plant I have cautiously and maybe somewhat obsessively tried to protect from the recent downpours.

Can you appreciate your inner weeds?

The secret to harvesting what really matters isn’t about pulling out the weeds from the pepper plant. What really matters is noticing the inner struggle and suffering that we so often find ourselves in. . . and asking: how can I let go? How can I slow down? How can I find acceptance?

So….I am going to let the weeds in my garden grow a little bit longer. Full disclosure here: this will not be a simple or anxiety-free task.

However, if I observe them, try to learn from them and, if possible, understand what they are, I will more accurately and peacefully be able to pull them out when I am ready. That way, I am more apt to pull out their entire roots instead of just their surface leaves.

Or I’ll get some of them, anyway.   I realize that tirelessly trying to weed out ALL of the intrusive buggers is akin to believing that I will be able to save my Cinderella pumpkins from the squirrel family that lives in the neighboring Elm.

 

But hey, choose our battles, right?

 

So what about you?

Where are your weeds?

How can you learn from them and find some way of accepting them?

Which will you pull out and which will you let stay?

How would that shift your inner dialogue. … your inner struggle?

Can you re-seed your inner garden?

Leave a note below to share!


The Self-Care Myth

I am very excited today to share a guest post by Stephanie Small, a Licensed Social Worker and holistic nutritionist who is one of my favorite and most inspiring local helpers in the field of healing from disordered eating!  I met Stephanie several months ago for coffee and we had an invigorating chat about what causes binge eating, what does the process of recovery really look like, and so much more.  Stephanie and I have both recovered from eating disorders and share a similar philosophy in helping our clients find their own path to healing and we decided to “guest write” on each other’s blogs (check out my post on her blog “The Surprising Reason You Don’t Feel Confident in Your Body“)  Please read on to explore her musings on “The Self-Care Myth”:

 

~          ~          ~

 

Hands up if you’ve heard repeatedly about the importance of self-care for healing!

Hands up if the thought of fitting in “bubble bath”, “journaling” and “calling a friend” x number of times per week totally stresses you out, and feels like just one more thing to add into an already overwhelmingly busy life!

You’re not alone. And by the way, that’s not what self-care is about. Let me explain:

Last spring, I raised the topic of self-care to a Women’s Emotional Eating group. Instantly, I felt resistance. Members started to shift around in their seats and make reluctant faces.

“What’s the deal?” I asked.

“I think we all know about self-care already,” offered one of the group members.

“….And it feels like just one more thing to do?” I asked.

“YES!” said several of the members. Others nodded vigorously.

“Let me bust a GIANT myth for you,” I said. “Self-care is NOT about taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, indulging in a pedicure, breathing deeply, practicing your piano, or anything else off some list. Well, let me re-phrase that. It CAN be any of those things. Here’s what self-care actually IS, though – It’s giving yourself whatever you need IN THAT MOMENT.”

Some women looked quizzical. Others looked relieved.

“So in other words, it’s not doing thirty minutes of some activity that sounds nice. It doesn’t really have anything to do with that. It has to do with tuning in, sensing what you need, and giving that to yourself. Do you see what I mean?”

Some women started to nod.

“Here’s the thing with this – and this is really important – self-care IS self-care BECAUSE it’s about giving yourself what you need,” I explained. “Say you’re upset. And what you really, really need to do is cry. Or scream! But you’re not used to tuning in to your body and sensing your needs that way. Or maybe you know that you need to cry or scream, but you don’t give yourself permission to do it. So instead, you take a bubble bath. Well, how effective do you think that bubble bath is going to be in helping you to feel better?”

“Not very,” said one woman.

“Right,” I said. “That is why it’s crucial to learn how to listen to your internal experience. If you’re journaling when you really need to be kickboxing and imagining your boss’s face, or if you’re getting a pedicure when your body is just crying out for the relaxation of a bath, it’s not really self-care.”

“That feels so much more manageable, rather than just ticking off items from a list,” another woman said.

“Yeah,” I said, “and the other piece about that is time. If you’re really tuning in and giving yourself what you need, yes, you may need to spend a half an hour or more, or you may find that a few moments of compassionate attention to your insides can be enough to feel relief.”

That particular Women’s Emotional Eating Group lasted for eight weeks. During the last session, each participant spent time talking about what they would take away from the group. And most mentioned this exchange.

Learning to identify your needs, by the way, is not an intellectual process. It comes from developing a relationship with your body’s signals and cues, and then honoring what it has to say.

Here’s a very simple way to start to explore this process:

The next time you’re feeling off – agitated, sad, worried, angry – find somewhere quiet to sit, close your eyes, and take a few slow, deep breaths. Then pose the question “what do I need right now?” Imagine saying it to yourself, rather than thinking about it. If you give it some time (or it may occur very quickly!) an image may arise, or you may feel suddenly drawn to a particular activity. In this case, you’ll know you’re on the right track as long as it’s not a compulsive activity that medicates feelings. If nothing in particular arises, try offering yourself some options, and sense into how your body feels when you imagine each one. If, upon imagining one or more, you get a sense of relaxation or “rightness” or satisfaction, you’ve got a good place to start.

 

~       ~       ~

 

Stephanie Small is a psychotherapist and holistic nutritionist (and recovering sugar addict) who helps her clients boost their mood and transform their relationship with food. She also offers online programs, writes, blogs and speaks at live events. She received her BA from Yale University, her MSW from Smith College for Social Work, and her Holistic Nutrition Educator Certificate from Bauman College. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Colorado, and has a private practice in Boulder, CO and via Skype. Her website is www.stephaniesmallhealth.com.