My name is Heather and I am free from Extremes!
I have always been a perfectionist.
This was often a good quality. I excelled in school and got good grades, but there were signs that being an all or nothing person wasn’t always a good thing. School came easily to me; however, when it came to other things like sports or learning a musical instrument, I panicked when I wasn’t immediately excellent at them and the fear of being mediocre prevented me from trying to get better. I had very few hobbies or extra-curricular activities because I became so frustrated with myself I gave up.
Needless to say, this proved to be a pattern in my life, one I had to fully confront when I was in university. In high school I gained some weight and found it difficult to lose. As a test for myself, I began to see if I could go all day without eating and, if I managed this feat, I would reward myself with comfort food. This horrible cycle began my eating disorder.
I lost the weight pretty easily, but found it difficult to stop.
I became obsessed with the number on the scale. My target weight was no longer good enough. I ached to see the number lower. The euphoria losing weight gave me was only outweighed by the crushing sadness I felt if I gained a pound.
Soon, what I ate and how much I weighed consumed my every thought. I was constantly hungry and irritable and weighed myself up to 20 times a day. With this obsession taking up so much space in my brain, there was hardly any room left for school work, though I managed as best as I could.
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A social life was out of the question. Going out with friends meant eating junk food and binge drinking, which I had already been warned by the entire universe would make me gain the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. I completely isolated myself.
My turning point was when I fainted in the student center of my school.
Although not completely ready to change my ways, I was willing to try.
I met with a counselor on campus who changed my life. She introduced me to the idea of Intuitive Eating, which involves listening to our body’s cues — when it is hungry and when it is full — and using that as an indicator of when and what we should be eating.
Intuitive Eating eliminated the concept of “good” foods and “bad” foods. Labeling a certain food as “bad” only made me feel like a bad person when I ate it. This is an incredibly unhealthy thought process. I needed to learn how to separate food from my identity and self-worth.
The most important thing my counsellor taught me was balance.
My all or nothing attitude had paralyzed me for so long I didn’t even know how to be a healthy, functioning person anymore.
I would bemoan the fact I hadn’t been to the gym in ages and how awful I felt because of it. In my mind, if I couldn’t go every single day for at least two hours, what was the point of going at all? Slowly, I began to understand how crazy this way of thinking was. Going to the gym twice a week was not a failure.
I refused to lose any more time. My world, which I had made so small, slowly began to expand. I was able to allow myself the opportunity to experience everything I had denied myself for so long. I joined clubs, made amazing friends, went out to bars, and had fun just like anyone else my age would do.
The biggest thing I did was study abroad in England for a year. This forced me out of my comfort zone in a million different ways. It was the happiest time of my life. Allowing myself to truly embrace every aspect of that adventure was the best gift I ever could have given myself.
Life before I began to recover from my eating disorder and life after could not be more different.
I was in a weird state of arrested development, paralyzed with fear and unable to move on with my life. It’s as if I was living in black and white and now my world is filled with color.
The opportunities in front of me are endless. I know I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I still have my bad days and I still have to catch myself when I start to repeat old habits, but I am conscious of them now and can recognize them as irrational.
The biggest change is that I am kind to myself now.
I refuse to criticize myself anymore for not being an idealized, “perfect” version of myself. I treat myself the way I would treat any of my other friends because I know now it is what I deserve.
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