Anorexia Recovery: How To Find Balance In Life Again
Being told that I was not allowed to do any physical activity that would burn calories was beyond overwhelming. I LOVED the gym – or I thought I did. I took, at most, two days a week off from the gym, mostly being due to other commitments. But I never found an excuse to not go. No matter how tired I was, you would find me at the gym for a solid two hours. Starting with 30-40 minutes of cardio and ending with multiple plyometric, light weight circuits. I took very small rests between circuits, and each workout involved eight to twelve exercises. After a workout I would either eat something little, such as yogurt, or nothing at all and just go to bed – since I worked out after dinner.
I WAS ADDICTED
I was not going to the gym because I loved it. I was going to burn every last calorie I consumed that day. Watching the number of calories burned on the cardio equipment was an addiction, it was like a drug to me.
When the doctor informed me that I could no longer workout, just two years ago, I thought that this was it… how was I suppose to live without the gym?! My life revolved around the gym, it was my safe haven… but for the wrong reasons. At that moment in the doctors office, I did not see my future getting any better. I imagined, practically had it planned, that if I had to put weight on, then I would simply go back to my old habits to become thinner again. It felt to me that I was going to be stuck with my addiction to the gym and eating so little forever. Deep down though, I was tired…depressed. I really did not want to live this way forever. I was envious seeing people go out and enjoy a big plate of fries then order a bowl of ice cream after. Here I was eating a single yogurt, an apple and vegetables all day, everyday; taking a small bite of ice cream and feeling soooooo guilty for doing so.
AS MONTHS PASSED WITHOUT THE GYM…
I actually started to feel better. It was weird. My body was changing but not as drastically as I had imagined. I was falling in love with how I looked. My face was fuller, my hair was starting to thicken and I was glowing again. My emotions improved, I hung out with friends more, and I started to laugh again… I finally was smiling, making jokes… I was getting back to my old self. Deep in my anorexia I would become so angry at small things, avoid going out with friends and I never looked happy. I had no confidence.
When I was allowed to introduce the gym again, it was only once a week. I also started yoga at this time. So it was either go to yoga or go to the gym – not both in one week. But I was actually okay with that. I still had a good physique, sure I was not stick thin with a large thigh gap, but I had a body of an athlete still. It was a long mental game to reach this point, but knowing that I needed to change for the better – for my own good in the future – I HAD to recover… no matter how hard and stressful the road to recovery was.
Time passed and slowly I started to visit the gym more. But for once in my life, I was going to the gym because I enjoyed working out. Not because I wanted to burn calories, but because it gave me an adrenaline rush. This is when I got into weight training. I fell in love with the feeling of being strong. I had always feared lifting heavier weights since I fell into the trap of thoughts that lifting heavy would make me ‘bulky’. BOY WAS I WRONG. My body progressed quickly, I got stronger quick. I stuck to the same range of weights for a bit and only recently started to push myself into trying to lift heavier. My body composition was really changing and I was loving the small muscles that were starting to form.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCED ME FOR THE BETTER
During this time I began to watch fitness accounts on Youtube. I really learned a lot here about proper nutrition and exercise to compensate for calories burned. This is when I found the motivation to change my focus in school to Nutrition, instead of Business.
I had always thought the only way to look good was through endless cardio and restriction. I now know that the only way to look good is by finding balance in your lifestyle. In the long run, balance is what will pay off. Balance is sustainable… burning yourself out for short periods of time is not. You don’t need to go to the gym everyday to have a killer body or do endless amounts of cardio. I found new ways to keep active aside from weight training, such as boxing, yoga or simply going for walks around the neighbourhood or the forest. I slowly introduced ‘fear foods’ more often, and began to feel less guilty whenever I indulged in one. I also was making more time for friends and family. I could not be happier with where I am today. Looking back I NEVER saw myself doing this good.
HOW I’M LIVING WITH BALANCE NOW
By listening to my body, I became the healthiest version of myself. I now go to the gym three to four times a week for roughly an hour and focus on strength, I stay away from cardio machines unless I actually WANT to for enjoyment and I go for more walks to appreciate nature. If I’m tired or my friends ask me to go out, but I planned to go to the gym, I skip it – guilt free. Missing the gym for two weeks because of a vacation? No big deal, your body hardly changes (thanks muscle memory). I do like and prefer to eat healthy, whole foods but I won’t limit myself. I no longer fear going for ice cream, eating cake at a birthday or even ordering a pizza for dinner. It is not something you should be doing often, but by balancing the good with the bad, you can enjoy treats and missing the gym or exercise because you KNOW that you are an overall healthy individual. If I am hungry, I’ll listen to my hunger cues. If I am tired, I’ll rest. I have learned so much about nutrition through reading articles, books and following nutrition related accounts on social media, that I have an idea when my body is in a nutrient deficiency; and from that I know what actions to take.
Balance is the key to living. Balance is what allows you to progress for the long run. Balance could not get any simpler.