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]

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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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Natasha December 3, 2010

I couldn’t agree more about eating disorders and their preoccupation with numbers. I have often assicated the connection with numbers and eating disorders as a form of OCD, as many people who suffer with ED’s tend to be high achieving, type A people. For years, I counted every calorie, weighed myself multiple times daily, and obsessed over time spent exercising. I had one special pair of pants that I used daily as my guide to how far/close I was to my goal. If those pants felt tight, my day was a disaster.
The very first thing I did when I began my own road to health was ditch the scale. Literally. I threw the damn thing in the garbage where it belongs. That was the most liberating moment in my life, and since that day I have been able to focus on my recovery without being preoccupied with the “numbers”.
If there was one word of advice I could give to someone who is trying to find their way out of an ED, it would be to DITCH THE SCALE!!!

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Natalie December 2, 2010

How do you stay healthy with all of your baking? Just sampling it?

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Lauren November 30, 2010

That quote is so true. I can’t believe I’ve never heard it before. It shows me what I’m actually seeing when I look back at pictures and think that I don’t look as good as I did “back then”. Thank you.

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Shayla November 30, 2010

Love this post Angela!! I feel like your whole road to health series is my story also and I see so much of myself through everything you say – it feels so good to know I’m not alone in this. I’m finally on the road to getting healthy as well and that last part strikes so close to home. I’m currently dealing with that as we speak – still calorie counting, but am justifying it with being a higher calorie allotment and a healthier goal weight. But it still drives me nuts and I still have that disordered frame of mind. So I am very excited to read part 2 because I’d love to learn how you rose above it and put it into action – and I’m ready to take that next step. Thank you for your honesty and openness about your struggles – it truly has helped me and made me a healthier and happier person. :)

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AGS November 29, 2010

I used calorie counting a certain points over the last 4 years, and found it very helpful. My weight varied some, and if it got too high (as in, my jeans got tight), I’d watch my portions/calories for awhile to get “back on track” –for me, any unhappiness I had about my weight rarely related to tracking calories/food.

Enter pregnancy this year. For the first time in my life I’m supposed to gain weight. Problem: I don’t really track my weight to begin with. I didn’t really know how much I weighed at the start. . . I had one obstetrician tell me I was gaining weight too fast a few months ago. The next visit, I was gaining weight just fine.

I started worrying about my weight for the first time. I tried weighing myself daily. No luck: my weight kind of fluctuated by several pounds a day. What an odd world we live in, when weight is so prominent in everyone’s mind, that the amount you gain/lose is such a focal point. I actually felt the one Dr. was attempting to make me feel better the one time I had gained too much – saying it was “still just fine, if a bit more (read: 2-3 pounds) than usual.” She must have thought I actually cared. Completely bizarre – this is what women’s obsession with weight has done: caused a Dr. reviewing a pregnant woman’s vitals to console her over 2-3 extra pounds. Overall, I’ve supposedly gained the “perfect” amount of pregnancy weight up to this point. But I still ask myself: what, exactly, is one’s “perfect” weight at ANY TIME?

I talked with my husband about it. We agreed that for the last few visits, to ask the nurse that takes my vitals not to mention anything to me. We’d tell the Dr. I saw, as well, to only mention weight if it was a real problem. I’ve never worried about my weight before, I’m not going to now!

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erin B. @ Laugh, sweat, love and be vegan! November 28, 2010

ohhh my goodness thank you!!! I am so thankful for you this thanksgiving!! I have been working on changing my ways this past year since finding your blog, but in the past few months I made a real turn around. I had my “aha” moment, and while I still struggle daily with good days and bad days, overall I find myself becoming a happier person. It truly is the most difficult thing in the world to fully recover from and Eating Disorder. I personally thing the absolute hardest thing to recover from is the mental battle. The physical battle with starving yourself, or purging or whatever method is much easier to recover from, but the evil voices (as I call them) are truly just that. Evil!!
It is so comforting to hear from others that their recover took a long time. Because as much as I try not to criticize myself (as it comes rather naturally to me) I find myself taking on that habit of criticizing my efforts. I have to catch myself sometimes because I guess some part of me is expecting to magically be “cured” and all of a sudden be totally changed!! So i’ve started posting inspiration boards for myself in my room of things like “love yourself” and various ads from running magazines about being strong and fuel yourself naturally etc….
*sigh* I very much look forward to the day where I can be 100% happy with who I am inside and out.

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Clare @ Fitting It All In November 27, 2010

I truly appreciate how openly and honestly you talk about ED struggles. You put into words what so many are feeling and thinking!
Also, my family LOVED your maple quinoa that I made on Thanksgiving:)

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Valerie November 27, 2010

I love that Sophia Loren quote. This entry really speaks to me — I am always using numbers and going crazy because of them. I really want to look through this a few more times because I truly think it would help me in my road to health and happiness as well! Great post… I admire your strength.

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 27, 2010

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

I love this!

Congrats to you – my sister struggled for years with an eating disorder and I know it takes a lot of inner strength to recover.

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Ally November 27, 2010

These posts are what brought me to OHSHEGLOWS,
and are what keep me here :)
Everything else is lovely too.
I bake those flax oat muffins all up and over the place.
today I got angry and stressed at some family, so I just turned into the kitchen, threw the muffins together, and felt better in 15 minutes :)
<333ally.

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Wei-Wei November 26, 2010

I’m in recovery. I could consider myself recovered… or in a relapse. There was a time where I didn’t focus on numbers and just restricted by not eating. That lead to binging… a LOT of binging. The worst one was a few days ago, when I just sort of walked around downtown alone, popping into convenience stores for more and more junk food. Then I went into a bakery and ate so much bread I can’t believe myself.

If I really want to recover, I just have to stop restricting. Man. It’s hard, though.

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Tangy @ A Taste of Tangy November 26, 2010

Great post. I really admire your honesty. I could never count calories because it would always have the opposite affect on me–I’d be so obsessed with food and what I could have and then I’d just go crazy and binge. No more counting for me, ever again. I eat better when I’m not constantly thinking and obsessing over every bite’s nutrient breakdown.

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Maddie (Healthy Maddie) November 26, 2010

Great post! I love all of your road to health posts, they are all so insightful.

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Jessica @ The Process of Healing November 26, 2010

Wow… And I agree. I was the SAME way with the numbers. Getting over calorie counting was the hardest part BUT what helped me the most.

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