There.

Throughout the last few years of recovery, my top priority was getting to a place where I felt comfortable in my body. No matter what shape it was in, what the scale said about it, or how it looked in any piece of clothing. I longed to feel at home.

You see, once I dove head first into learning everything I could about anorexia, I came to realize how long the seed had been germinating. It didn’t begin when I was working out six to seven days a week. It wasn’t caused by a certain situation I’d gone through or as a result of any break up. Society’s idea of beauty had absolutely no part in it whatsoever.

In reality it had begun long ago out of a desire to feel seen and accepted by my family. The symptoms would ebb and flow depending on what my current situation looked like, and I eventually spiraled out of control when I couldn’t seem to effectively handle everything going on in my life. At that point I wanted to shrink and disappear, matching how invisible I felt to everyone around me anyway.

I’ve written before about bits and pieces of my recovery journey. This time of year tends to bring it to the forefront because it was this season years ago that I was slowly wasting away. Once I’d decided to choose life, I made it my mission to find some way – any way – to feel at peace in my body.

Here I am, now nearly six years into recovery, and finally living what felt impossible for so long.

Looking back I can see the ways in which my eating disorder was still very much present in my recovery. From the desire to lose weight to calorie counting to hurting my body and using negative internal dialogue. It’s been a bumpy road for sure, and realistically I know that little voice will always be lingering. But I know I am much stronger now and capable of loving myself just as I am, just as I always wanted to.

So often getting to this moment seemed like a pipe dream. I thought I would forever be in the chase but never arriving. I would have fleeting moments of total acceptance followed by a big trip and sometimes a hard fall. It made me feel like I would never really ‘win’ against my eating disorder, and at times I felt like giving up.

Intuitively I knew better though. I knew this story in my life had a purpose beyond myself. I had some beautiful people who stuck by and believed in me and now have these two little girls who need me to be more than this. Resigning myself to suffering isn’t an option.

Over the last few months I’ve been doing some deep soul searching. My mind, body, and spirit have been opened to acknowledging, feeling, forgiving, accepting, and healing. As I sit here with the cool November air skimming across my thick bare thighs, I feel good. As simple as that.

I’m no longer concerned with how my body, my vessel, looks. I’m not afraid to take up space or be loud or weird. I do yoga, meditate, light candles, use crystals, go to spiritual cleansings, breathe deeply, eat intuitively, laugh a lot, curse, sing badly, connect with others mindfully, and I have never felt better.

I’ve learned and accepted that I am not meant to play by anyone else’s rules. No one else gets to set the bar for me or tell me who I should be or how to live my life. Only I get to determine what is best for me, what is going to light me up, and in what direction I move.

I’ve prayed. I’ve cried. I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words. I didn’t think I would see the day. But I kept at it anyway. This is who I wanted to become for so long, and I’m here living it and it’s beautiful. All of it. The ups and downs, the waves of calmness and madness. Every little detail.

This journey doesn’t have an ending. There is no stopping point or finish line. I will forever be a student of my own life, consciously walking this path, bringing everything into alignment, and doing my best to live wholly.

I’m grateful for my struggles. Honestly and truly. They may have taken me the long way but without them I’m not sure I would have made it to this point. This gloriously messy and fulfilling point.

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Better Together.

The other day I definitely had a moment of ‘mommy comparison’ when I saw a comment on a friend’s photo. She’d said she rarely ever gives her child sugar, and I thought to myself, “Damn, that is the type of parent I want to be.”

I consider myself to be pretty health conscious, and lord knows I am forever telling Reilly she has to eat a¬†vegetable with her dinner every single night (yet falling back on it). I try to model healthy eating around her as much as I can. I talk about the effects of food on the body, how the right foods can make us big and strong and smart while the unhealthy ‘fun’ foods can make us feel all sorts of gross.

I allow her to have certain fun foods more often than I would like to admit. And sometimes it’s purely out of desperation to get calories into her because she is just so darn picky! Other times it’s simply because it’s a little treat for her, something we do together once a week or so because she’s a kid and she likes that stuff. I don’t allow her to consume nothing but unhealthy foods. This is our way of creating balance, even though I think our scale is a little tipped. ūüėČ

Part of it, I think, is that I have battled body image issues for so long, and I absolutely refuse to put those ideas into her head. I never ever ever talk negatively about my body or anyone else’s. When she has taken up issue with her own body (sadly, when she was only 6!) I did my very best to squash it in the most positive way I could.

I am so conscious about my words regarding food, health and the body. We talk about it in terms of being strong, being able, and feeling good – never about how our bodies look or what is considered ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’. I have explained a few times that all bodies look different like all faces do, and our body sizes do not determine how ‘good’ we are, if we are capable of being well liked, or how capable we are of accomplishing anything.

I do believe I must be doing something right when Reilly tells other people she wants to grow up to be big and strong like me. She writes about it every chance she gets, like in her introductory project this year she took a picture from Oxygen magazine to show exercises we do together. Cute, right?

I know I can do more though. I can do a whole lot more modeling than talking. And that is something we discussed the other day as she walked two miles on the treadmill. (Who else’s 7 year old does this??)

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Because I know from doing plenty of reading, doing things together when it comes to health related goals is better than doing it alone. I suggested to Reilly that from now on we do better together with our eating and exercise habits. We stick to upping our intake of healthy foods, eating dinner together every single night (been working so hard on this one), and we move together as much as we can.

So I started brainstorming, trying to figure out what can we do¬†to be better together. And¬†I’ve put together a little list:

  • Play. Board games, card games, video games, math games, made up games, play school, play house, play dolls. We go through phases with how we play together but what’s important is that we do. It’s time we get to spend together doing something fun and drowning out the rest of the world.
  • Movement. Reilly loves exercising with me. To make it kid friendly, we wrote exercises on Popsicle sticks and then we will pull them one at a time and do that exercise either for a certain amount of time or reps. We mix it up as we go. It’s not only a way to be active but it’s fun because you never know what’s coming next. Sometimes Reilly likes to do exercise videos with me (to her capabilities) like 21 Day Fix. It’s hysterical and sometimes distracting but always a good time.
  • Cooking. While my girl may be a picky eater she is not a picky cook. She is nearing the end of a two month cooking class at the local YMCA, but long before that she was always asking to help out in the kitchen. I even surprised her with her own kid friendly cook book like this one. It’s a true test of my patience, to be honest, but it’s something she really enjoys doing.¬†And it’s a way for me to introduce her to new foods, maybe get her to try a few, and to make food fun.
  • Stillness. Reilly is so perplexed by my desire to sometimes sit in silence. No television. No talking. Just together, doing whatever it is we are each doing. Taking a ‘pause’ and simply existing together for a few moments in time is a great way to maintain connection. However, sometimes that does include popcorn and a movie or sitting together on the couch reading books or watching weird YouTube videos.
  • Conversation. One of the top things I have missed since¬†Reilly switched schools this year is that we don’t get to have our morning conversations in the car. We still find plenty of time to talk, about a whole host of topics, but the mornings were especially important to me. We got things off our chest or laughed or she asked me a billion questions. It set the tone for the day, and how could things be bad after something as awesome as that? I love how inquisitive Reilly is. I love how receptive she is. Even when trying to teach her or help her understand emotions or the world around her, I try to make it fun and relatable for her. Everything is, of course, age appropriate or made to be age appropriate. I think this might be my favorite thing we do together. Not only is she learning from me but I am learning a hell of a lot from her as well.

I want to instill great and healthy habits in her while she’s young, before the world tells her who they think she should be or how they think she should act. I want her to be confident in herself, comfortable in her skin. I want her to know she is taking the very best care of herself both inside and out, and to stay rooted there.

In addition to all of that I want her to always feel as though she has a strong support system behind her. I want her to know no matter what she does in life, what she looks like, whatever choices she makes, however she feels, she will always have at least one person standing up behind her.

There have been plenty of times over the past few years that I’ve assured her I am forever going to be with her no matter what. I often refer to us as a Team. Because we are. We love each other unconditionally and want to continue to have fun while we go on this little adventure that is our lives, together.

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That is why it is so important to me that we are well taken care of – body, mind and soul. Having dealt with depression, an eating disorder and the residual hurdles during recovery, I am well aware of the importance of overall good health. If I want her to practice healthy habits and feel good about herself, I have to live that myself. After all, talk is cheap!

I’m going to keep Reilly at the forefront of my mind as I move to keep my own well being in check. After all, what is parenting/care giving if not setting a good example and being a positive role model?

I want for us to have a long and full life together. And that starts with good health.

What are some ways you stay healthy with your kids? How do you set a good example? And how do you squash comparing yourself to other parents who seem to be doing it “better”?

 

An Open Apology to My Body.

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To my body, I am eternally sorry for all the ways in which I have mistreated you. I have bruised, battered, bloodied, abused, starved, and nearly destroyed you. I starved you in an effort to be pure again. I pushed you far beyond your limits. I broke you down.I took you for granted in the worst way.

I am sorry.

There was a time when I didn’t think I would be able to walk again. A time I believed my body would never function right again. I thought the damage was irreparable. When I could no longer lift your head I thought, “This is it. Do or die.”

And so, I did.

The last four years we have maintained a friendship running so hot and so cold. At times I believed in us. I nurtured you, fed you, touched you, softened to the idea of you. And then some days you were my worst enemy, defying every order I placed on you, not confirming to my idealistic beliefs of what a body should look like. You rebelled. I went crazy.

But the truth is I cannot walk through this life without you. I cannot do and I cannot be and I cannot rise without you. You are the only body I have been given, blessed with. We are together for life, the long or the short of it. We are a team we cannot escape.

And so dear body, I bow down to you. I raise my white flag and I choose now to honor you. Every curve, every lump, every freckle, every pound of you.

I choose to do right by you, to love you in times of darkness, to be your best friend, to encourage you to be your best and to live a life so full your heart can do no less than swell and explode.

Dear body, I have come home to you. You are mine to keep, to walk this earth with, to love with, to eat with, to laugh with, to experience all the pleasures and sorrows of life with.

I accept you. I belong to you. I love you.