One bite of a sandwich? Write it down. An extra piece of fruit? That’s okay, I’ll be at the gym for at least an hour later. Do these pants fit yet? No, but I’ll give myself two more weeks to get into them.
Not long ago, being ‘healthy’ was on my mind 95% of the day. I called it a hobby, or an interest, or a passion. Although, my definition of health was quite limited. Healthy meant looking a specific way (toned and skinny to be exact), fitting into a certain size of clothing, and having the superpower of self-control around food. Thoughts like these were not only considered normal, but crucial to my success. My thinking and behavior patterns didn’t strike me as odd, seeing as the world around me was cheering me on loudly.
You look great! WOW you’ve lost so much weight! You’re an inspiration!
While these comments were meant to be positive, supportive, and encouraging, they also fed into the illness that had grown deep inside my heart. I have since realized how utterly simplistic it is to judge someone’s health based on their apparent weight. I can think of several occasions when a friend or family member has lost weight from illness, depression, or anxiety. These people were suffering and yet, the messages around us say THIN = BETTER. What I heard from those around me was not, ‘You look better’, but ‘You ARE better.’
The sickness inside began small, sometime long ago when I was a little girl. I heard messages and turned them into truths about my body. I became skilled at analyzing my body parts in front of the mirror, finding images of women I would rather look like, and paying close attention to my friends’ bodies (which were all better than mine, according to me). As I grew older, the sickness remained, although I ignored it. I tried on a twisted version of ‘body positivity’.
For a stretch of time, I gave up caring what I looked like, which took a great deal of distraction. Some of the things that kept my mind busy were donuts, shots, Diet Coke, chocolate croissants, beer, and cheese. After all, I deserved all the finer things in life, so it made sense to eat them all in one day. I was not caring about my appearance, so I could buy bigger pants. I was filled with a happiness that was superficial and short lasting. Before long, I got tired of myself again. I began a new practice of accepting myself as a failure.
Perfectionism is a disease like any other. The victim suffers from pains of guilt, regret, and worthlessness. When the ‘perfect body’ once again became my goal, I was my own worst enemy. I lived in a constant state of fear. I feared going out with friends, knowing that I would face trays of food and tempting beverages. I feared entering a restaurant, filled with uncertainty about which menu items fit into my self-appointed rules. I feared looking in the mirror and the voice inside that would verbally shame every part that jiggled. I stood frozen in fear for many years, drowning my spirit in meal plans, exercise routines, and fitness goals. Unfortunately, I needed to hit my lowest low in order to inspire change.
When I don’t listen to my body, it speaks loudly. When I continue to ignore it, it shouts. One stressful day, during an awful summer years ago, my body unleashed on me. It stomped its feet with anger, fell to the ground with desperation, and grasped for breath. I literally couldn’t breathe, my chest tight and painful. My condition continued for months, and after several hospital visits, various medical screens and exams, and every holistic health approach I could find, I was left with barely a diagnosis. My mind wanted a clearer answer. My heart knew that medicine wouldn’t heal me.
I began the process of healing slowly and stubbornly. I wanted change without having to…well, change. Luckily, the universe provided me with the right opportunity at the right time. I found a program designed for helping women overcome eating disorders by addressing their inner emotional wounds. Finally, I found others suffering from my sickness I couldn’t name. I met other women who wrote down everything they ate as a way to shame ourselves into motivation. I heard stories like mine of women who ate according to how much time they had spent in the gym. Although I thought, ‘An eating disorder? I’m not convinced I have one of those,’ I signed up.
The lessons I learned throughout my transformation are part of a life-long process. The simplicity of many of them strike me as strange, but then I realize how deeply profound they can be. For example, I learned how to act with love, instead of fear. I’ve come to find out how capable I am of facing pain and discomfort. I no longer hide behind food. Through practice, I grew back trust with myself. I don’t need to set rules and restrictions around food, because my body knows exactly what it needs. I just needed to listen. More importantly, I realized that I get to be the person who loves myself the most.
The challenging part of this lesson was the process of learning every part of me: past, present, broken, unwise. Ten-year-old Kimber who wanted boobs and a flatter tummy? She needed my love and comfort. Bisexual Kimber who had crushes on boys and girls? She needed my love and honesty. Anxiety-ridden Kimber who couldn’t breathe? She needed my love and patience. ‘Chubby’ Kimber from my ‘Before’ pictures? She needed my love and acceptance. Every part is me, and hating any part is no longer an option. I deserve to feel at peace and in full alignment with myself.
I know now that I am worth being loved fully and unconditionally as I am, exactly in this moment.