I used to have a habit of constantly attaching deeper meanings to people’s actions. These *deeper* meanings were almost always attached to either food or exercise. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- He’s only having 1/2 a pizza. It must be because he’s restricting.
- Why is she going for a walk? It must be because she’s trying to burn energy.
- He’s leaving his potatoes. It must be because he’s avoiding carbs.
- She’s having a cup of tea not a hot chocolate, she must be trying to pick something lower calorie.
- She didn’t use all of the syrup with her pancakes and she’s left a fricken berry on her plate. She must be cutting sugar.
And this was with my family members. Family members who, rationally, I knew didn’t restrict. People who wouldn’t know the calorie count of a single thing in the fridge to the nearest 50. People who never (and have never), done activity to purposely burn calories. People whose only occasion of ‘cutting carbs’ is slicing bread or cake. People who didn’t make decisions out of fear, but out of taste or preference.
Where I was making choices out of fear, obligation and with the underlying stranglehold of an eating disorder, they were not. For them, individuals with a good relationship with food, that walk after supper weren’t dangerous in terms of compulsive tendencies. Saying no to dessert wasn’t down to trying to save calories. They made a choice out of intuition and due to the fact that their mind and body was pretty much in sync.
Because mine was *so* out of sync, I couldn’t even comprehend the possibility a walk being for enjoyment or skipping a dessert out of preference. Their actions which I perceived to be as them attempting to be “healthy”, are actually possible without obsessive thought running them or ulterior motives guiding them.
I wouldn’t say I worked on this realization. It was effortless. It just happened. I stopped seeing peoples “healthy” actions as driven by a nasty, forceful compulsion.
Obviously, there are occasions when people are fighting their own battles. When other people are eating in a (socially acceptable) disordered way. There’s always people on diets or trying a new workout. You must just learn to separate yourself from this. I don’t think you can recover without doing this. As hard as it feels, what ever anybody else does has absolutely nothing to do with you. Whatever anyone else does takes nothing away from the respectful relationship that you must forge with your body. Your body. Your needs. What they’re doing might well be disordered, but it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. If they’re checking their pedometer, ask yourself if that’s the life you want to live. Ask yourself if that has brought you joy in the past.
I’ve spoken about this situation a couple of times. Picture this. Me: Terrified. Struggling with exercise addiction and restriction sitting opposite a nurse who was struggling <but trying> to relieve me of my fears of gaining weight. She said: “If you get to a point where you’re uncomfortable with what you look like, you can just cut down on what you’re eating and start up your running again. That’s what I do.”
At the time, my severely undernourished-self could not rationalize this. She did it, so maybe that’s what I should do? Maybe that’s the norm? I cried for days and days. I thought because she had said that, it was my fate to one day go back to restriction and exercise. It took me years to get over. Now, when I think about it, I’m sad because she’s probably telling so many innocent souls that too 😦 But I also laugh. What an arsehole. What an absolutely shit thing to say. Maybe it’s ‘the norm’ but it’s not the life that I want to live. Cancelling on coffee and cake with a friend because my head can’t deal with the fact that my jeans *feel* tighter today. So, Yes, Sally, (she wasn’t really called Sally), I could cut down my food intake and start exercising to lose weight again. But that would reawaken my eating disorder. So I better fucking not. I’ll leave you to it. It’s not, and can’t be my path.
Many of the messages I get are about advice doctors/ therapists/ care-givers have given you guys. The fact you’re messaging me means that it doesn’t sit right with you. This is important. You have your doubts about what they’re saying. You’ve recognised that it isn’t quite right to you and your situation. So, don’t take it lying down. Don’t take their word as gospel. You’re sick with an eating disorder. You’re not stupid.
So, for example, when your doctor says that your 10,000 step target per day is ‘healthy’, nod. Say thank you. Go home and have a hard think. Is it healthy for me? How do I respond to this?
Your reaction is within your control. You have choices. Yes, you could continue to walk compulsively every day because Dr. Shitadvice said so. But you could also gather your thoughts and think, no, I know better.
Keep in mind that doctor’s don’t see patients with compulsive movement all that often. They are told to recommend that people release some endorphins and get fresh air. For some people, getting exercise is health giving. But for a long time, for me, it wasn’t.
Blatantly, the doctor didn’t judge your situation well, but nevertheless, use your wise-brain who knows your intentions. Use your initiative. Use your responsibility for getting yourself better. Although it might be healthy for somebody else to go for a stroll, it may well not apply to you. And if you’re somebody who is recovering from an ED… it won’t be. Health is very, very relative to the individual. For a long time, a stroll wasnt just a stroll for me. It was a whatever-the-weather-compulsive-fast-paced-friggen-nightmare.
Anyway. Next time you feel yourself digging deeper into somebodies actions and comparing yourself: remember that you might be projecting your own relationship with health (exercise/food) onto that person and attaching a deeper meaning which simply is not there.
I know sometimes it can feel like the world is against you. Trust me, I do. I was doing my shopping in Aldi last week surrounded by a group of women who were scanning barcodes and saying how many Weight Watchers points (?) each item had. I overheard how friggen amazing/adaptable/diverse/tasty/multi-use cauliflower is and how pairing spinach with egg whites was a “MEGA HIGH PROTEIN, LOW -FAT LUNCH”.
It didn’t bother me one slightest bit. It didn’t influence my to buy liquid egg whites, spinach or cauli. Because time and time again I have reiterated to myself that I am on my own path. Likewise- you are on your own path. I no longer attach deeper meanings to anything and everything and shit that people do doesn’t bother me.
Walk YOUR path. Comparing your path to others is futile, boring & unhelpful. Live for you. I promise you won’t look back and think oh how I wish I conformed.