I’ve been bartering with my body a lot this week. Maybe for the past few weeks. Basically, I’ve been starving myself. Slowly. Gradually. At first it wasn’t really conscious, although even claiming that might be far from the truth. It was weeks and weeks of transition, questions, snarky comments and me having to think about how I could find safe food while being away. These things tapped away at any confidence I’d built around food. Now, I’ve started a very new routine. I forgot to ensure I was taking in enough calories, especially considering the upped workouts this new routine allows for. Then I realized I hadn’t been eating properly. I realized how few calories I was consuming and how “clean” all those calories were. I was likely feeling weak and tired because I wasn’t eating enough.
I’ve been here before, but I’m living a way more attentive life than I ever have before, filled with plenty of pockets for reflection, inward thinking, and, most importantly at times like this, intuitive eating. I live a life of constraint within freedom. My body tells me what it wants or needs and I oblige, within a set of parameters. This has been working tremendously at keeping me healthy when I let it.
Being attentive and constantly looking inwards can also be a bad thing: I’ve been down this week. My routine changed, as I mentioned; changes to my daily routine can be detrimental to me at times. I’ve had some emotional stuff going on in my head because people suck. I’m in a time of transition. All this means I have a lot of time to think and a lot of things I don’t want to be thinking about.
My go-to when all these forces are working against me is to either reach for the closest junk food item around… or push every piece of food around me out of my reach. Food becomes an easy obsession. The weigh-scale is so handy. So are all the mirrors. And I become my own worst critic, entering into a crazy cycle involving food, deprivation and self-criticism.
In the last year, this go-to has mutated. It’s not a choice of grabbing for food or pushing it away… it just isn’t there. I don’t let it be. I am terrified of letting myself go back to cyclical binge/deprive/starve/binge/etc… so I just don’t eat.
I don’t want to be there. It was sometime earlier this week that I came to the realization that… food is important to my body. I cannot keep depriving my body of the nutrients it needs if I want my body to continue to perform at the level that it is, especially as an athlete.
I am an athlete, but I am working on becoming a pretty high performing athlete. That is what I want. It’s a goal. And sometimes to do this, we have to push our bodies. Sometimes it is just a subtle push and sometimes we have to push them hard.
How is it fair to drive my body to that point without filling up the gas tank? Food is fuel (especially the right kind of food, which is what I eat 98% of the time) – and we need to keep our bodies full if we want them to respect our demands.
Earlier this week when I realized my body was weak and wouldn’t let me push it any harder than I was through a difficult workout, I felt a bit betrayed. I’ve felt the sting of betrayal from my body before in other different contexts and had to come to terms with the fact that… our bodies aren’t out to get us… they’re scientific. Its reactions and reflexes are scientific… they aren’t malicious. If everything is working correctly and you hit your knee properly with a reflex hammer, it is going to react. If I starve my body and then try to force it to do something it cannot possibly do, it won’t be able to do it. It’s not personal. It’s not a betrayal. What else can it do?
Thus, the bartering began. I questioned my body, expecting an answer that it is never going to give. “If I give you this much food, will you get me through this yoga class without the dizzy feeling?” Trial and error. No. Okay. “How about if I give you this much food?” Trial and error. Yes. Okay. Then that’s all I need. That is enough.
But that’s not enough. It’s not enough. Because after yoga. Or the run. Or the hike. Or the AMRAP. Or the burpees. Or the weights. After that… there’s the rest of the day. There’s the rest of my life. That is NOT enough. And eventually, the rest of my life will be so depleted that that won’t be enough for the workouts either.
And now it’s Thanksgiving. Enter the most craziness. I don’t know a single person with past food struggles who makes it through Thanksgiving flawlessly. It is a huge trigger for everyone with an eating disorder who I’ve ever met. It’s toxic. I can smell the turkey cooking as I’ve retreated away from the questions and comments and quiet tolerance and madness of this family holiday. There is no such thing as “safe foods” at this table spread.
So I find myself bartering with myself again.
I really don’t want food to be my hang-up. I don’t want to be obsessed with food or be crazy around food. And I want to be happy in my own skin. I want to eat when I need to eat, stop when I need to stop, and feed myself healthy, nourishing food. If I have the willpower to starve myself than I definitely have the willpower to not starve myself. And I have way more incentive to do the latter.