I was planning a much lighter post for today, but there’s a topic I’m very urgently faced with that I feel I should address.
I’ve done a lot of posts on body image, on appreciating your body the way it is, how it works, honoring and respecting it’s needs. But I don’t think I’ve ever really outlined how important it is to appreciate your health and the way your body runs.
Right now I’m lying on my couch with a hot water bottle on my stomach. Every movement brings excruciating waves of pain. I feel a mixture of sadness and disappointment. This is my weekend home, I want to enjoy it with my family and loved ones, and not spend it battling with pain. I feel sad – sad that I let myself get to this state, sad I didn’t appreciate the good health I once had. Sad, because I was stupid and naïve enough to think it would never happen to me.
I wasn’t always like this. I used to enjoy very good health. Actually I was the proud owner of a “strong stomach”. I could eat anything, any combination of foods (think oranges and milk) without any problems. I was strong, happy, healthy. I could spend the afternoon playing an intense game of soccer with my friends, and then come home and dance my heart away at a party the same evening. I didn’t know what calories were, and how your burned them. I lived and enjoyed each moment as it came without thinking much of tomorrow.
But then an evil obsession crept into my life – an obsession with weight loss and perfecting my body. With it came all sorts of bad habits – hours of exercise without proper fuel, limiting food intake to insanely small amounts, cutting out vital food groups. People warned me of the dangers I was doing my body, but I knew better. It wasn’t that bad I told myself, people have done much worse and come through again.
Then came an intervention and a second chance. By then I was sick of it all, sick of constantly struggling with myself, of obsessing about food and avoiding it. I wanted to be free and happy again. But old habits die hard and I slowly found myself slipping back into my old ways… only this time it was worse.
At some point my body no longer wanted me to starve, it cried out to me for food. But my mind was less willing to respond to that need. So when my resolve finnaly did break and I ate some small thing, I felt purging was the only thing that would save me from the guilt. Some days it did, others it didn’t and the fear of those evil voices in my head led me to abusive laxitives as well. This topped with extreme exercise pushed me over the brink. When those around me tried to stop me, I only turned more to my sneakier and more detrimental habits (purging my food). Then I was hospitalized.
Gone was my control over food and my body. Gone was the ability to exercise, to choose healthy foods. I was forced to struggle through large portions of low quality food (think 3 doughnuts and a sugary yogurt for breakfast) in order to gain weight. My body was in shock – pain was a constant companion of mine. They said it was normal, that it would pass – it never did. Still it subsided enough for me to function after mealtimes. But I was warned that my body wouldn’t tolerate much more abuse, that it needed to be treated with extreme care and caution if I wanted to be healthy.
I left the hospital with the best intentions. I wanted to be fit and healthy, I didn’t want my eating disorder in my life anymore. I wasn’t 100% happy with my body image, the lack of exercise had a noticeable effect – but I was sure with a bit of work I could be content again. But one day it started, that little innocent thought that I should exercise more and eat just a little bit less. If I lost just 1 kg, I would feel wonderful about my body again. And the downward spiral started up again. If I could exercise I ate a little bit more, on days I couldn’t I ate a little bit less. I knew the doctor said that I needed to be careful with how I treated my body, because it had been through so much abuse already – but nothing bad had happened so far, right? And I was only eating a little bit less after all, and exercising a little bit more. Buta little bit less turned into 2 apples, a yogurt and a salad a day. That 1 kg turned into 8 and I found myself crying in front of my emaciated reflection in a mirror – who was that shrunken,skeletal little girl with sad eyes staring back at me? Where was a girl with a spring in her step, a sparkle in her eye, and a body that turned heads? I didn’t know, but I knew that the girl in front of me wasn’t going to last much longer if she didn’t get help.
The road back was hard – physically as well as emotionally. But I now know my I am not “untouchable”. The pain I’m in almost daily is a constant reminder of that. Gone are the days I can eat whatever I like, whenever I like and feel great. Gone are the days I can play sports for hours and still feel energized. Gone are the carefree days where medical bills and doctors are not a concern. Now I am faced with complicated decisions such as “should I spend the little money I have on seeing a doctor who may/may not be able to help me?”. “Will I have the funds to follow his diagnosis and medical instructions if my constant stomach pain turns out to be something serious?”. There are questions about my future to such as “Will I ever be able to eat normally (i.e everything I want to, without pain) ever again?”, “Will I be able to have children?”. What kind of irreverable damage have I done to my body? I don’t know what the future holds for me health wise, I don’t know what kind of problems I will have in the future because of my stupidity and unwilliness to listen to the warnings of those around me
So my plea to you, my dear reader is – don’t think of yourself as untouchable – you aren’t. Don’t think the little choices you make today won’t affect tomorrow – because they do. Appreciate the health you are in, be grateful for it every moment of every day – because there are many others not as fortunate. And most of all, don’t throw it away for something as stupid as the desire of a “perfect body”, a sense of control, a momentary “high”. It’s not worth it. And those little wrong choices – to eat a little less, to exercise a little more, to push yourself a little further may not seem important today, but I promise you – they will matter tomorrow.
Take care of yourself today, because tomorrow may be too late.
And remember, it’s never to late to start making the right choices…