My Body: She is a Warrior
Updated: Jan 25, 2019
My relationship with my body has been an absolute roller coaster for as long as I can remember.
At different points of my life…
I have loved my body and trusted her.
I have hated my body and invalidated her.
I have praised my body for the wonderful functions she carries out on a daily basis.
I have cursed my body and wished she were different.
I have depended on my body for my livelihood as an athlete.
I have blamed my body for past traumas and lack of self-confidence.
Lately, I have been thanking my body for her ability to heal. For her ability to rebuild, after my eating disorder has attempted (and still attempts) to tear her apart.
Eating disorders are so deadly and dangerous because the physical destruction to the body cannot be seen from the outside.
Restriction of proper nutrition causes a multitude of problems beyond obvious muscle loss and fat loss:
The heartbeat slows and the heart muscle atrophies.
The linings of the digestive system shrink and become inefficient.
The brain suffers – synapses and neuronal pathways slow down, and even become re-wired, causing someone with an eating disorder to fear and become distressed by food rather than enjoy it.
Bone density decreases.
In women, a menstrual cycle becomes irregular or nonexistent.
My body has experienced all of these things. And it breaks my heart to know that all of this happened as a result of my own restriction. To a person with an eating disorder, these complications are often intangible and undetectable until something drastic or catastrophic happens. We think we are completely fine - our bodies adapt to patterns of restriction and over-exercise by slowing down internal processes to keep us alive. These repeating patterns of destructive behavior are hard to stop when they are reinforced by compliments about weight-loss, increase in athletic performance, and attention from friends, acquaintances, coaches, loved ones, and potential partners. I had no awareness of the damage I was doing until it got too severe for me to ignore. My eating disorder convinced me I was normal, and even thriving, because most of the time… I felt completely functional.
My body has been through hell and back because of my eating disorder… and she has survived.
She is a warrior.
Body-image is one of the most difficult aspects of overcoming an eating disorder.
My body is the most tangible part of my being. I can see my body, I can feel my body. If I want to, I have the control to change my body. The same doesn’t go for my soul, or my emotions, or my thoughts. Those things aren’t so controllable. Those things can’t be so easily or tangibly changed.
It’s easy to blame our bodies when something in our lives go wrong, or to praise our physical appearance when something in our lives go right.
A guy ghosted me for a skinnier girl – it must be that he didn’t like the shape of my body.
I didn’t get the job – they might have given the position to someone who physically presented themselves better.
I didn’t play well and got too tired on the volleyball court today – it must be because I’m too overweight.
I’m getting more attention from guys now – it must be because I’m thinner.
My performance on the volleyball court is increasing – it must be because of my weight-loss.
I’m making more friends now and getting more compliments – it’s because my looks have changed.
There are so many other factors that could contribute to any of the aforementioned life events. But my eating disorder convinced me otherwise.
In order to be loved, accepted, and valued, my ED convinced me that my body was the factor that needed to change. In reality, my body was fighting to keep me alive and healthy all along. By changing and shrinking my body, I was given a false sense of tangible improvement and success. I thought I was living up to societal expectations of fitness and beauty by restricting myself, but I couldn’t fathom the damage that was physically and mentally being done.
Now, it’s time to thank my body for healing, and never giving up on me.
With proper nutrition, miraculous things have happened:
My heart now beats normally and consistently, at a healthy rate and blood pressure.
My digestive system is efficient again, and my hunger and fullness cues are returning.
My cognitive functioning has drastically improved, and GOD BLESS the fact that I can enjoy foods that I love again. Food is good, and meant to nourish our bodies.
I’ve been able to exercise – swim, walk, ski, (lift soon) and even play beach volleyball again - without fear that I am putting my life in danger.
I’m able to be present with the people I love, rather than ruminating on my anxiety or food intake. I can be a better human. My brain is changing for the better.
My body is a living, breathing miracle.
I’d be lying if I said there isn’t more healing to do. It takes time - lots of time - for healing to solidify, especially given the fact that I’ve been living with an eating disorder for 3 years. I’d be lying if I said I no longer have terrible thoughts towards my body. There are many more challenges left for me to face. I have more mountains to climb, I have more hurdles to jump, I have more demons to conquer. But for the first time in my life… I truly believe that I can. And I will.
I still intensely fear judgment from the outside world about weight gain. I still fear that everyone will think I looked “better”, or was a more successful athlete, or was “healthier”, when I was thinner. The truth is, after 20+ pounds of weight gain, I am healthier now than I have been in years. And I still have to accept that my body may need even a little more weight gain, in order to fully trust me, to fully function at 100% again.
Looking back, I have come so far. It’s taken me a while, but I realize now just how incredible the human body is. My body is smart. She tells me when I am hungry, she tells me when I am full. She tells me when I need activity, and when I need rest. She signals when I am stressed, and when I am relaxed. My body is soft and strong at the same time. My body has survived the torment of an eating disorder.
And when I look at my body in the mirror and automatically have negative judgments about what I see, I try to remind myself of this: How could I hate and ridicule something that has so valiantly fought and adapted to keep me alive?
This is my body. This is the only body I will ever have. This body is changing and healing, and will continue to change for the rest of my life. She is not meant to be controlled – instead she is meant to be trusted. This body is my companion for life. I’d better learn to love her and take care of her as much as she has taken care of me.
My body is far more than what she looks like – she is the vessel for my soul.
“So, God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:27
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." -Psalm 139:14
Thank you for reading!!!
Much love to you all – happy 2019