Through this non-clinical conversation regarding intentional movement, eating disorder recovery and body image, I reflect on the multidimensional relationship between external events, shift in body image awareness, and resulting action, both through personal experience of living for 31 years in my eating disorder, and as compared to my 11 years living and practicing recovery.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a therapist, I have been to- and continue to commit to- many, many therapy sessions 🙂
Having experienced my eating disorder as a child, teen, university student, wife, mom and professional fitness instructor, my behaviors have morphed and swapped, leaving me with the ability to identify with behaviors falling within most eating disorder diagnoses. In early recovery, I would have absolutely claimed negative body image, body loathing, body shame, as the driver behind my disorders. And in reflection, that makes sense, as my body was under constant attack, both through societal conditioning and the daily abuse and blame, channeled through thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, directly to my body. My body had to be the reason, and if my body changed, then, everything would be… (relate? insert your own word here).
Within my eating disorder, I KNEW (not felt, not thought, this had become my truth) that my body was the reason, that is where my awareness about my body began. The messaging around what I “should do” about my body was discussed in all areas of my life; within my family, at school, at the doctor’s office, by turning on the TV, by going to lunch with friends. All around us, daily, we are bombarded with messaging- using fear, shame, and comparison- with false promises that, “For only $19.99, you, too, can look like X, or Y, or Z.” Not only do we have multi-BILLION-dollar industries profiting from these programs, products and prescriptions, these false promises have a 99% failure rate! BECAUSE Body X, Body Y and Body Z isn’t me! Maybe, today, my body is an A-E, and in the Spring, it naturally shifts to a M, N, O, P. Just like the unlimited potential of all of the alphabets in all of the world through all of history, my body will never- and was never supposed to- look like anyone’s, but me.
As a physical, tactile processor, driven by control, perfectionism and absence of worth, through my first 39 years, if I didn’t want to feel negative, not only about my body but about myself as a human being, then I needed to act towards change.
Negative Body Image + Compulsive Exercise = I Create Bodily Change = Freedom/Normalcy…. (Touching your experience? Enter your own word here)
What I share today did not come to be as a light bulb moment, sparked at diagnosis, or at any (and through all) level of treatment, but has emerged, stretched, been played with and practiced through, day-by-day-by-session-by-recovery partner conversation-by group-by slip, slide and snowball, today, looking something like this.
Last week, yeah, one of those weeks (anyone?). By mid-week I started to notice these uncomfortable, unwanted feelings and thoughts about my body. I noticed, and then I paused. I paused, and then I got curious. Having nurtured a relationship of trust with my body, I put those feelings and thoughts on hold, and reflected on recent experiences. And I noticed, there were some yucky experiences in those past few days that had NOTHING to do with my body. There enters my ah-ha moment, the, “It makes sense,” the way I am feeling in my body. And that moment(s) of pause, that curiosity, the ability to let those feelings be feelings, that is the process that shattered the direct correlation between my feelings and thoughts becoming “truths.”
I am still a physical, tactile processor. I learn about the world and about myself through action. And with the above awareness, I choose to prioritize and schedule an opportunity for intentional movement. The unwanted, uncomfortable feelings are familiar, the investment in time and space for movement is familiar, but what has changed is, “My why.” Movement no longer serves as a mission to change my body, movement provides the platform for connecting with my body.
A challenging week = uncomfortable feelings about my body = moment(s) of pause, curiosity, reflection + intentional movement = connection with my body.
Just as our learning styles vary from the physical, tactile, emotional, visual, auditory, etc., so do those tools in recovery that allow us space, time, and introspection. Body image education has freed me from believing and acting on UNtruths- untruths driven by society’s lies and self-serving manipulation- so that I may practice the slowness and gentleness of developing “my why,” therefore supporting and strengthening my recovery.
Togetherness, connection, relationship, caretaking. Between, and my body.
Be sure to follow us on social media @sinnergywellness. And for more conversations around body image and recovery, look for our weekly Body Talk videos, where we invite you to comment with your experience, recovery tools and questions.
Written by Dena Larsen Gazeley