I chose this...

Like most people in my generation, I grew up in a family fully immersed in diet culture.  My parents were always trying the latest fad diet.  Skipping meals was a celebration of willpower.  To be thin was to be happy and healthy.  It was a tough place to be for a chubby kid who became an even chubbier teenager and young adult.  I felt like no one was happy with the way I looked – especially not myself.

Much like the rest of my family, I am also a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise that in my 20s when I decided to lose the weight and I went ALL IN.  I obsessively counted every calorie.  I started exercising to burn more calories.  I joyfully celebrated every pound I lost.  Friends and family praised my progress.  And when my cravings for “bad” foods got too great, I had the perfect solution.   I simply binged and purged.

My eating disorder continued into my 30s and 40s, even through marriage and two beautiful children.  As a stay at home mom wanting a second, part-time career, I joined the fitness industry.  It was perfect - I could get paid to feed my obsession with being thin!  I was teaching 8-10 fitness classes a week, eating no more than 1200 calories on a “good” day, and purging on my bad days.  Every morning the scale determined my happiness for the day.  I thrived on the admiration from others.  Outwardly I was the picture of health, but inside I was the least healthy both physically and mentally than I had ever been in my life.  It was my dirty little secret, and I was a total fraud.

Then someone very close to me was diagnosed with an eating disorder, and my world came crashing down around me.  How could I support this person in their recovery when I was unwilling to face my own demons?  How could I celebrate their strength and yet not admit my own weaknesses?  How could I set a good example if I continued to live the life of a hypocrite?  The choice was clear.

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Recovery is not a linear journey.  It is a winding road of ups and downs.  I am learning to love this new body I am in, and take joy in teaching others to love themselves as well.  And when I am feeling particularly down on myself, or feeling judged by a society that still believes you have to be thin to be healthy, I remind myself that I chose this.  I chose health over sickness.  I chose a nourished body over an “ideal” body.  I chose to have ice cream with my kids.  I chose happiness over obsessiveness. I chose recovery.  

And it was the best choice I ever made.