Monday, 14 April 2014

Eating Disorder Not A Life Sentence

I really ummed and ahhhed over this one. I think it's important to be honest and to kick a few myths and misunderstandings to the curb.
From the age of 17, I've struggled with eating disorders - for many years I managed to maintain an acceptable-looking weight so doctors assured me there was nothing serious to worry about. Close to four years ago, I was admitted to a public hospital in Melbourne with anorexia nervosa. My weight was dangerously low and I wasn't able to hold a job or enjoy a social life or relationships or really, anything much! I had completed my university degree and worked in several enviously hard-to-get positions in media and multimedia, but my preoccupation with my weight and body made it difficult to take any joy or fulfillment in my jobs.

My weight is now in the healthy range, and I no longer look ill, but like many women, I struggle with my expectations of appearance and I have to be vigilant about looking after myself. That means not exercising as a chore and a punishment. That means recognising when my self-talk is driven by fear and anger and anxiety and coming to my own defense! It also means recognising when a person, or people, around you are not part of your healthy life. Then you have to make some choices about who you spend your time with, what you spend your time doing and what matters.

I can't change my past, and believe it or not, I'm really grateful for having had to recognise that my body is vulnerable and I can either drive it into an early grave or make it super-strong and (hopefully) motivate and inspire other people to find joy in being active and nourishing themselves. So when I teach, it is with the knowledge that what I'm sharing is about grace and balance and strength. I'm not perfect, I'm still battling, and I think it's ok to admit that.

What I'd like to get across, to the girls who are struggling too, is that everyone and their dog has an opinion and in the fitness industry, they are especially keen to share their opinion on your body. But it actually doesn't matter - it's an opinion and they're totally free. A bit like the crap that comes in Happy Meals. You can just toss it out and carry on - sometimes it's easier. Some days it's not.

A girl I was in hospital with all those years ago is now a participant in one of my classes, and while it is confronting sometimes, it's also a reminder that we're not defined by our weaknesses or our past. What I know about my body and how much I LOVE being strong and flexible is largely the result of knowing how completely miserable it is to have no energy and protruding bones. While to this girl, I look "big!", I know that actually, I'm just not sick-looking anymore and I'm glad. I hope that as a teacher, I'm able to inspire the women and men who come to my classes to really enjoy and appreciate their bodies - whatever size and shape they are.

I choose to teach because I really, really love it. How I spend my time, and who I spend it with has become 100% more vital to me. I hope you think about whether your job gives you meaning and joy - it's never too late to change and explore until you find it.

If you do nothing else - please don't comment on other peoples' weight. Whether they can hear you or not. It's not your business and it can do way more harm than good. Surely you can find some other quality that is much more worthy of your opinion?

Butterfly Foundation
Eating Disorders Victoria



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