My Road To Health: Part VIII

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[For my entire Road To Health Series see: My Road To Health: Part 1, My Road To Health: Part II, My Road To Health: Part III, My Road To Health: Part IV, My Road To Health: Part V, My Road To Health: Part Vb, My Road To Health: Part VI, My Road To Health: Part VII]

IMG 7463 thumb1   My Road To Health: Part VIII

When you are struggling, the hardest part is always admitting to yourself that you deserve happiness. It is much easier to just believe that you don’t deserve happiness and remain stagnant in your life. Once you look yourself in the eye and admit that you deserve to be happy, you now must do something about it.

Doing something about it is the hard part, but it sure beats the alternative.

That was one of my concluding thoughts in my last Road To Health post.

In this part, I would like to talk about how I took those initial steps toward happiness.

1. I had to admit to myself that I deserve happiness.

I realized that I must be at a place where I was ready to do something about my unhappiness. For years, I was perfectly content to stay exactly where I was, miserable and unchanging. Sure, I wanted to be happy, but for a long time it was easier to stay where I was rather than force myself to change negative patterns. It is hard work and is why so many of us remain unhappy for years before finally doing something about it.

We stay in unfulfilling jobs, relationships, dogmatic exercise regimes, and commitments because it is just easier then doing something about it.

2. Talk openly about my struggles

For years, I didn’t talk about my eating disorder or negative body image. I didn’t talk about having low self-esteem or anxiety problems.

It was a mixture of shame and denial, equally.

I was also scared that my eating disorder ‘secret’ would be taken away from me. As much as I hated that I suffered with it each day, it also brought me a lot of comfort. I didn’t have to grow up or face real life issues.

I saw a therapist for a while during my time as an undergraduate at university. I remember feeling embarrassed to call and make the appointment, to sit in the waiting room with other students hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew, and to tell a complete stranger about my struggles. I discovered that there was comfort in talking and there was also the potential to be impacted in a positive way.

3. Write

I also started Oh She Glows as a way to talk openly about my struggles and connect with others and I always say that the blog was a huge help in my recovery and determination to be happy in all areas of my life.

There is power in numbers and in women joining together with common goals.

No matter what emotion I am feeling, I know that I can always come to my keyboard and get my thoughts out. Some posts I don’t end up publishing, but most I do. Writing has always been one of my great loves in life and a great way to work things through.

4. Focus on the big picture, not the numbers.

Eating disorders often revolve around numbers, even though to this day I still think the focus on numbers is simply a distraction from other problems. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t know how much I weighed that morning or how many calories I consumed at breakfast.

I used to be able to recite the calorie count of virtually any food, whether I ate it or not. I was always prepared. I also knew my size in all of my favourite stores as well as what size I was last year and what size I wanted to fit into. I would keep a tally of the day’s calories on a piece of paper each day, just in case my memory failed me (which it rarely did).

There was no room for me to explore the big picture because my mind was merely a calculator doing busy work, crunching numbers. I didn’t know what my hobbies or my passions were.

When I decided that I deserved happiness, one of the first things I did was decide that I was going to live a life without numbers.

But in the beginning, I was convinced that I could recover while still counting calories. I would simply allow myself more calories for the day and that would be fine and dandy.

I would give myself a healthy calorie count to strive for and I thought that I could recover as long as I achieved this ‘healthy’ number.

I was wrong.

The obsession continued.

Despite eating more, I still suffered with guilt, anxiety over food, and constant rumination.

I still weighed myself.

After months and months of this ‘I can have it both ways’ approach, I took a hard look at my habits.

Would my continued focus on numbers (even if they were healthier numbers) prevent me from getting to where I wanted to be?

I knew my answer, although it was hard to put into action.

To be continued…

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat November 26, 2010

Great post, Ange. I definitely understand where you’re coming from with the whole obsessiveness over numbers, because I’ve been there too. I love that the blog community provides so much support for things like this, and hopefully it helps other girls (and boys) who read posts like this to realize that life isn’t all about numbers. Thanks for another inspiring start to my day! :)

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maria @ Chasing the Now November 26, 2010

I totally understand the last part of this post. I struggled (and still do at times) to eat intuitively VS. count calories. I always feel happier and less stressed when I let the numbers go. Then I will convince myself I can still do both… and as soon as I pick up calorie counting again the disorder thinking begins right where I left it.

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Amy at TheSceneFromMe November 26, 2010

I love your thoughts. Very insightful. :) May the power be with you!

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Amy at TheSceneFromMe November 26, 2010

I love your thoughts. Very insightful. :) May the power be with you!

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Freya November 26, 2010

This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you SO much Angela!

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Camille November 26, 2010

For a long time, I was the same way. I considered myself “recovered” because I would eat, but the amount of guilt I would feel was overwhelming. I finally ditched that attitude and now I do consider myself recovered :)

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kell November 26, 2010

wow, what a timely post. i am currently struggling with an eating disorder and still trapped in this very phase of ‘wanting it both ways’ or ‘maybe’ saying yes to recovery but not truely commited. it feels like im dipping my big toe in the pool of recovery to test out the waters – but i see what you are saying, maybe our toes are not reliable sources, maybethere is no way my toe is capable of ever feeling the sensations my whole body has the potential to feel, i am desperate to find the courage to just dive in and once over that initial shock, realize it’s glorious. thank you for the motivation!

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Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine November 26, 2010

Thank you for your honesty. It’s so true that talking about it helps- my blog and this community has been such a positive outlet for me. Though I don’t count calories anymore, already knowing the calorie count of everything makes it so difficult not to unintentionally tally calories for a meal…it’s a tough habit to break. Your words are truly inspiring!

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Julie @SavvyEats November 26, 2010

I LOVE this series, and am so glad to see another edition of it. I counted calories for about a year, and got to the point where I was just miserable, constantly obsessing over how many calories I had “left,” how many grams of protein v carbs v fats I was getting. Though I did lose weight, it all came back when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, despite my eating “right” and working out. Now, I am still struggling to lose that weight I gained before getting my thyroid back in order, but refuse to calorie count because it makes me so unhappy. Now, I am attempting to eat a little less (without counting) and move more…and focusing on what my body CAN do, like have the strength to bike through Italy.

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Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans November 26, 2010

I really appreciate that you share this with all of us. If it encourages even one person to seek help and find happiness that you have accomplished a marvelous thing! I think there are a few things that ring true for me here and it has definitely given me something to think about.

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Erin (Travel, Eat, Repeat) November 26, 2010

Thank you for being so open and honest. I still struggle with #4 and just letting go of the numbers game but it’s helpful to know that there are many people out there working on the same issues.

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Lauren November 26, 2010

Great post! I understand where you felt still obsessed with numbers but were trying to be healthier – when I gave up on counting calories or eating only low calorie foods, I became so much happier and healthier. I could feel the difference immediately, but it still is a struggle sometimes because I was used to counting every single thing that went into my mouth and how many calories I burned during exercise.

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Embodying Freedom November 26, 2010

I love your Road to Health posts. One day I’d love to document my own from start to finish, but for now I just talk about it in the pieces I can organize. Keep up the good work!

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grocery goddess jen November 26, 2010

Oooh, a cliff hanger! I love this series, and I really enjoyed reading this. I think there is such a pull to keep weighing and keep counting because we think we’re going to get healthy by doing that. Some people can find success that way, but for so many people it just makes things worse and worse and worse and we end up feeling even more terrible about ourselves. So glad you’re out here telling your story!

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Natalia - a side of simple November 26, 2010

I really, truly enjoy reading these posts, Angela. They’re so thoughtful and honest. It’s nice to hear someone’s story that isn’t edited to sound picture perfect like those found in magazines or talk shows. You show the struggles and the decisions you made/make in such an insightful way. Thank you :)

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Marta November 26, 2010

GIRL POWER! I totally agree Angela; I’m sure there are exceptions but if there’s one thing us chickas are good at it’s sharing with and supporting each other.
I try to live my life as openly as possible, if people want to pass judgement that’s their issue, not mine. I struggled with depression for 13 years (!) and when I see someone I think is struggling or it comes up in conversation, I share my experiences. There is so much power in owning and accepting ourselves, our successes & failures, our past, present & future. I think when people see that and can relate in some way, it can have such an impact. I am sure you are helping someone who’s struggling to take a look inside and see what they can do to improve their situation right now. Thank you!

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Claire (Low Impact Fashionista) November 26, 2010

As always thank you for your truly inspiring words. Accepting myself and pursuing happiness is something I could work on. Your road to health post always help me along my own road to health. Again, thank you so much!

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Moni'sMeals November 26, 2010

I love your honesty and how real you are. You are so refreshing and I hope you are helping so many others. You should feel so proud of yourself. :)

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Jenny B November 26, 2010

Thanks for posting this! I feel I’m heading down a dangerous path with all my calorie counting, guilt, and over exercising. So I decided that today is the day that I will stop counting calories. Then I read your post! Perfect motivation for me… Thank you! Love your blog!

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Alina @ Duty Free Foodie November 26, 2010

I really believe that focusing on numbers (for many people) is completely counter-productive. I wrote about this a while ago in my post on why I stopped counting calories. Over and over again, I have seen people attain a healthy weight with much less effort by focusing on eating real food that nourishes our bodies, instead of fake junk that has a low calorie count going for it.

Also, I’ve really enjoyed reading over the past couple of years about how your life has changed dramatically for the better by focusing on things that make you happy. It’s so important to focus on what feels right!

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Amber K November 26, 2010

I am truly amazed at your ability to open up and truly share about your struggles. I’m sure it helps you, and it really helps others as well!

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Traci November 26, 2010

Thanks for the post and your honesty. I am so happy to be a part of the blogging community. It is very therapeutic to type out your feelings and struggles and to have the support of others who are or who have been struggling with the same things. I consider myself blessed :)

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Cathy Breit November 26, 2010

just wanted to say “thank you” for your insightful, frank, discussions on these issues. We all need to hear it!
love,
cathy b. @ brightbakes

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christyn @ All Ways Nutritious November 26, 2010

beautiful post. love the quote at the beginning. focusing on the big picture, not the numbers resonated with me, not for the numbers, but with other things like obsessing and worrying about life things that i have no control over. this quote- “What then shall i do this morning? how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives . . . there is no shortage of good days. it is good lives that are hard to come by”. –Annie Dillard the first part made me realize that if i waste days worrying, then this adds up to my life and i don’t want to live a life like that. all we have is today.

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Coco November 26, 2010

Reading this makes me think about where I am right now. I do track with weight watchers. I have fitness goals of becoming a runner. I dont think I’m obsessed, I eat what I want and stop when I’m full. I often go over my points but dont feel anxiety over it or starve myself. I have had issues of binging when I was a teen. I do fear getting to a place where I will obsess because I see so many women doing it. When you’re over 200lbs, like me, I think it’s a bit more complicated because my health is not the best so I have to look at the numbers, right? I love reading how you’ve come to accept your body. My ultimate goal is to eat a balanced diet (good food and indulgences sans the guilt) & most importantly become a runner (this is one of my biggest life goals). I love your blog & you’re a beautiful person. Cheers!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun November 26, 2010

Every time you share something like this it seems so eery to me because I feel like I am reading MY story. I completely agree about letting go of all numbers. I have certainly had to do that. Even when I plan to get back in shape after this baby, I don’t plan on ever using a scale or getting worried about calorie counting.

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Ali November 26, 2010

Thanks so much for posting this series Angela. When I was recovering from an eating disorder I searched and searched for people who had successfully recovered, and couldn’t seem to find any information. At the time, it seemed like nobody ever came through to the other side of having an eating disorder, so I wondered if it was even possible. I think we need more stories, like this out there, to guide young women going through this. You are super – keep it up!

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Anna November 26, 2010

This is such a well-timed post; I’ve been in recovery for a few weeks now, but I’m still number-counting (in the region of 1,100 calories a day at the moment, which is a big achievement for me compared to what I used to eat (next to nothing)). Even though I’m not letting the numbers dictate what I choose to eat, or how much (I’m learning to listen to my body over that), I still can’t quite let go of them completely – I just have this need to know the figures, like I don’t quite trust myself to judge without them yet. Definitely looking forward to your next Road to Health post! xx

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Lia November 26, 2010

Good post. I really enjoy folowing this particular series, as it was what first made me aware of the dynamics and common placeness of eating disorders and seeing the steps someone else took to overcome and deal with it. On a completely different note: I used your recipe for some pumpkin pie…I’m usually the dessert person for family events, and it was such a huge success. I’ve tried to make vegan pumpkin pie before and failed at a good replica, so I tried your recipe, and my cousin, who scoffs at my veganness and all things in “culinary substitution” didn’t know it was vegan, ate it and loved it! So THANKS!!!

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Bronwyn Coyne November 26, 2010

Thanks so much for posting this Angela, you hit it on the mark again.

One of the biggest things I struggle with my history of eating disordered is the shame and guilt. I have the hardest time talking about it, and I really want to. I want to open up and share with people that this happened (not just like word vomit over them when i first meet them, but you know be able to tell close friends.). I would love to let go of the shame of once having disordered eating.

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Kace November 26, 2010

Wow…this is exactly where I’m at right now, and the exact reasons I’ve started up my own site. Thank you for posting this, it’s nice to know there’s so many other who’ve been here before!

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Heather November 26, 2010

Great post!

It is impossible to get where you want to be while focusing on numbers…because it is never enough. Getting rid of my scale was one of the best things I ever did becasue there is always a lower number, or a better number.

It is a dangerous game that takes you away from what brings real happiness, living a life filled with love!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) November 26, 2010

I am always amazed at your pure candor and honesty on your blog, Angela. Thank you for not bs’ing and beating around the bush!

I posted the other day about living with a sense of gratitude and keeping life in perspective. And one of the things I do is try not to sweat the small stuff, don’t obsess with numbers and minute details, as much as possible. I find getting too caught up in the minutia of life causes us to not be able to appreciate the bigger picture, and the beauty of life.

That said, I dont think there’s a woman alive who at some point hasn’t worried about the numbers and the “details” to some varying degree.

Bravo to you for figuring out what you needed to do to get healthy and take your life back!

:)

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Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes November 26, 2010

An amazing post. You have come so far!

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Ned November 26, 2010

This really resonated with me: ‘There was no room for me to explore the big picture because my mind was merely a calculator doing busy work, crunching numbers.’ I too have spent too much time on stupid numbers. It’s hard to achieve, have good memory and generally give back to people in your life when you are completely preoccupied!

I think you writing, particularly in ‘Road to health’ is important. Keep it up!

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stacey-healthylife November 26, 2010

Thank you so much for that. I’m going through a divorce right now and times are really hard. I try to stay positive and know that things happen for a reason and I will be better off. In the moment it’s really hard.

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CathyK November 26, 2010

wow, what a meaningful post, angela. i can’t wait for the next part – i hate cliffhangers! :)
thanks so much for sharing. your honesty and openness means so much.

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laura November 26, 2010

Your words are amazing. I completely resonate your feelings and want so badly to put an end to the numbers. With and ed, numbers are being calculated in my head all the time. It is time for change, time to start living for real.<3

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Felicia (a taste of health with balance) November 26, 2010

Love when you post your Road to Health because I can relate so well, and it is so comforting to realize I’m not the only one who has gone through these similar struggles. Looking forward to reading more :)

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melissa roby November 26, 2010

You just made me cry….I feel like most of the time I’m fighting off anxiety and depression. I have tried medication, but it just never worked for me….I love to run and my husband is soooo supportive and that has helped tremendously….for years now, my eating issues have given me a sense of control….I am really trying to unleash my bad habits and all the craziness that it brings….most of the time I feel like I am trying to run from me being crazy…..literally….it helps to blog about all the things I am thankful for…..I am so thankful that I have found your blog…:)

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