It’s Labor Day. I should be resting. Putting my feet up. But I am laboring.
Well, kinda laboring. It’s a mental labor, for sure.
Two-ish weeks in to full recovery. Every day I am challenging a fear or rule that has been ingrained in my head for so long.
“You cannot eat within two hours of previously eating. Meals should be spaced at least 3-4 hours apart.”
“You shouldn’t drink beverages with calories. They’re empty calories.”
“If you’re not hungry in the morning, it’s ok. You don’t have to eat breakfast.”
The rules are numerous, they are many, they are rampant and they are sinister. But the good news is this: I am recognizing those fallacies and challenging them.
But then, of course, there are those internal rules that make my stomach churn with anxiety. I hear the anorexia voice saying them, and it takes every inch of my being to push those words aside and reframe my thought patterns. Unlike times of old when I couldn’t even distinguish an eating disorder thought from a normal one (“You must run 5 miles today–not 4.9 or 4.99 miles because it’s not 5 miles”), I can now recognize these misconceptions (phew!). Any yet, these negative thought patterns are still so so so so so hard to break.
And about 99% of them revolve around exercise.
I am extremely scared to let go of exercise. My time lifting weights. My time in the gym.
But why? Why does the thought of not hefting a barbell over my head or squatting make me physically ill???
It’s the fear of what people will say when they see me NOT lifting weights. They’ll wonder, “What happened to you?”
I fear that they will think I’m lazy.
It’s the fear that my body will go to shit (sorry for the language). I already am losing the definition in my abdominals, and while I am telling myself, “Who the hell cares about having a six-pack?” the sad tale is I care. But why do I care? Is it a badge of honor?
I fear that others will think I’ve “let myself go” and am no longer strong.
It’s the fear that I will feel sluggish and gross and fat and blubbery and oozing with grossness if I don’t sweat or move.
I fear that I will be the biggest bitch to others if I don’t lift weights and get my endorphin rush.
I am filled with fear.
And that is why I cling on to exercise.
There’s a voice telling me, “Don’t workout. At all. Do nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”
And then there’s another voice telling me, “Just cut down the intensity. The volume. Do movement that is different. Rewire your brain that way. Create a schedule to hold you accountable and don’t do any more than that.”
I’m not sure which voice to follow. As of right now, I am doing the second option (holding myself accountable to a schedule), and that training plan AT LEAST includes one (or more) rest day(s) (like, a full on rest day, not an “active rest day”). I’ve found that like eating to a meal plan, I also need to train to a schedule. If left to my own devices of “I’ll just do what I feel like doing at the gym” I can easily spend hours just doing, well, random stuff. One set of back exercises will turn into three and then four…and then if I hit my upper back then of course I’ll need to go my mid-back…but then I need to balance it out with chest…and then shoulders…and then get all the little muscle groups covered as well….and then, heck, why not also do some legs…
It’s a quickly downward spiral into craziness, and I can’t afford that right now. Actually, I can’t afford that. Ever.
And then…I also entered an October weightlifting meet. I know, I know. I can already hear what you’re thinking. It is a pretty crazy idea considering I am trying to recovery from an eating disorder. On the plus side, I entered to compete in the weight class above the one I normally competed in…and am actually looking to go up another class thereafter. I will be treating this meet as a “work through” meet, and I’m going to do the best I can with no expectations and just have fun lifting. I’m not looking to set any PRs. I’m not looking to beat old totals or whatnot. But, I am also keeping this concept alive:
After the meet, I may just do nothing. No exercising. Nothing. Ab-so-lute-ly NOTHING.
I told my husband this, and he gave me a sly grin like, “Yeah. Ok.”
I know he thinks that will never happen.
And to be honest, I am not sure I can or will do nothing exercise wise after this October meet.
If I do hang up my lifting shoes, that would seriously be one of the most monumental things I’ve ever done.
Heck, even in inpatient treatment when nurses would watch over you like a hawk, I’d still find a way to do squats and crunches and leg lifts in the bathroom.
Compulsive exercise is one part of the eating disorder voice that I have not been able to 100% quiet. I would actually say it is that voice that is the crux of why I am still struggling sooo much to get fully recovered. I have been able to challenge many food fears, yet I still have an obsession to move. Sure, I no longer feel compelled to run 5 miles a day, but here’s the thing: training for a sport (like weightlifting) is different than exercising. If I were truly into training to get better at weightlifting, I’d be ok with taking days/time off. I’d be ok with not having to go all-out every training day. I’d be ok with knowing that there is an ebb and flow to strength cycles, and that the long-term result is what matters (not the “how much did I sweat today” notion connected to exercise).
But I am not ok with all of that. I weightlift, but I don’t TRAIN for it. I EXERCISE by doing weightlifting.
Whenever I go to the gym, I want to sweat. And sweat a lot. I want to feel like my muscles have been WORKED. I can’t just do three sets if prescribed that way. I’ll want to do more because “more = better” (ha ha ha ha…yeah, NO!!). Similar to how running 5 miles wasn’t enough and I’d have to increase my daily run week to week without a rest day in sight, my time lifting weights has become similar in that regard.
So maybe I really should just do NOTHING. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing.
Can you tell this concept, this idea of going all in and eating all the food and not exercising is making me incredibly anxious? It is. It is making my mind and spirit and emotions all worked up.
But that’s ok. I have to wrestle with this. Recovery is not going to be easy.
Keeping this view in mind can be quite the mental labor, especially when the distractions of an eating disorder voice are rampant. But I have to keep on working. I have to keep on laboring. If I want to see full recovery, I can’t “call in sick” to work. Every time I challenge this eating disorder voice, I become that much closer to finding true wholeness.
So WILL I rest completely? Or won’t I? Ahhhhh…..I am still battling, still fighting. But I will continue documenting my journey here and on my YouTube channel on everything that transpires. Have you made the leap to NOT exercise in recovery? How did you go about doing it?? I’d love to hear your comments!!! Please share them (and any words of encouragement are welcomed as well)!