As a yoga teacher, personal trainer and biologist, you may think that I know all about the science of the human body, the art and beauty of self-love and how to adore myself at any size.
Well, I know the facts and figures, but I’m still working on it.
I meditate, I read, I research nutrition and physiology, yet since becoming anorexic and subsequently recovering within the last 10 years, I still can’t come to grips with my own feeling and fear towards my body.
But I hope, with time and the ability to feel and breathe, I will get to the place of self-love step-by-step.
The scariest part of anorexia, for me, was not the fear of death or permanent damage to my organs and bones at a very low weight. The scariest part is exactly where I am, right now, and struggling to embrace.
At a low weight, I was at risk for liver and kidney failure, permanent bone damage, heart abnormalities, heart attack, injury, illness, infertility, etc. The list goes on. Many of my blood and bone tests did show the progression of these diseases as my body began to break down. I could feel the arrhythmia in my heart when I spent at least an hour a day doing cardio at an absurdly low weight.
I was often injured in my knees, hips, ankles and feet from the repetitive stress. Basically, facing the obvious impacts of choosing to hold my body at too low of a weight, I eventually decided to get better. But just a little.
Weight gain was one of my biggest fears. I have anxiety, OCD, depression, and am now on the physically safe side of anorexia recovery. I had to face weight gain to get there—the only way out of danger was through my biggest, scariest barrier, gaining the necessary weight and learning to love my body.
So, quite a bit of weight gain later (I am leaving out specific numbers because it can be very triggering to those suffering from an eating disorder to see such numbers), here I sit.
My blood tests are good, my body is slowly reshaping and replenishing my organs and bones. I can think better, I no longer have a host of the everyday issues (freezing all the time, bladder control, GI issues, joint pain, cramping, tension headaches, exhaustion, inability to travel or take risks or eat anything I didn’t measure—yes, it was bad).
But, although now I look “healthy” and “normal,” I am scared to death. I am more afraid now than what I have ever been in the past.
Now, my weight is no longer something that I can easily tweak depending on calories and my mood. Now, my pants are often too small. I have donated brand-new clothes because I cannot face the tightness. I feel deathly afraid that I will continue to gain weight until I am “the blob,” despite all the logic and love I can muster.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some positive impacts of a larger, more shapely body. I do like a lot of things about being healthy and looking “normal.” For example, I no longer look like I am deathly ill. I now have “curves.” Buying flattering jeans that don’t just hang over my bones is a little easier, though the new sizes are much larger than what I am used to. It isn’t all bad.
Plus the physiological stuff—I don’t have that racing heartbeat, my liver isn’t failing, my face and skin don’t look gaunt and lifeless, my bones aren’t breaking. Now, I eat if I am hungry (it still frightens me, though). My body doesn’t have that starvation-induced belly bloat (finally! And yes, people asked me if I was pregnant for a long time due to the recovery-related bloating. Talk about a huge trigger!).
I’m also more in tune with what I actually want in life, not just what shape I “should” fit in (hence, leave of absence from my latest grad school in order to pursue my other, more important
But, still, I am afraid. And it’s the number on the scale, the changing shape of my body, my feeling that I am no longer in control. So, when will recovery “end”? When will I be through this? When will I love myself? I am a yoga teacher, for goodness sake!
I’m hoping that by keeping on this path, reading and talking to more people who have great advice, and learning how to feel and love my body—I’m hoping that these things really do help. So far, I think I see a shift. But it’s so hard to see growth from inside of it all.
Being able to share an article about something that has embarrassed and hurt me for many years, that alone is a step. Next week I turn 24 years old. It is time to share this with the world so that I can put it down. It no longer serves me. It is time to love myself like I love my students, my friends, my family, nature, and the earth.
Breathing, feeling, and not turning away—that is the path out of this darkness.
Author: Kaitlin Morris
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own
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