What I (Almost) Did Right
In “It’s a Long Road”, I promised to share the ups and downs of my journey to full recovery, so that you might gain some insight.. Or as the case may be, avoid making the same mistakes.
About four months ago I started working with a nutritionist. My life was starting to revolve more and more around physical activities, as a good part of each day was spent teaching yoga, advancing in my personal practice, and working out. I was demanding a lot more of my body, and watching it become increasingly athletic. But I didn’t consider myself an “athlete” and I certainly didn’t know how to eat like one.
My first appointment was truly eye-opening. My body composition was measured, telling me my percentage of fat and muscle. I was surprised to find my numbers put me in the athletic category, but my BMI was on the low side, I still needed to gain a couple of pounds. My nutritionist told me I was demanding a lot of my body, but not fueling it properly. If I continued this way, my exercise would simply burn my muscle, and I would become “skinny fat”, a term used to describe thin people whose body weight is composed of a high percentage of fat.
I was given nutritional advice, mostly to eat more and eat more carbs, and a meal plan. I realized just how much I still associated food with guilt. For whatever reason, his insistence was the permission I needed to feel good about eating.
I felt like I was really turning a corner. But in retrospect, I was losing interest in yoga as I became more and more concerned with cardio training. I became very anxious about getting my workouts in, in order to keep this new permission to eat.
A month later I went back to his office and found my fat had gone down even further and my muscle had gone up. He was thrilled with the unusually fast changes in my body. The next month the same thing happened. I discovered how easily and quickly my body wanted to put on muscle. I felt sort of genetically blessed, and on the right track.
It wasn’t that simple. Yoga itself had given me a more athletic body and increased appetite (read, higher metabolism). Now that I wanted to focus on more “intense” exercise, I was losing all the other benefits of yoga that are more important than merely physical transformation. Listening to music and zoning out made an hour on the elliptical go by pretty quickly,. And although I finished sweaty, hungry, and with a bit of those exercise endorphins, I didn’t feel anything else. There wasn’t the self-love, respect, and mental clarity I feel after a yoga practice. I was also missing that experience of being completely in the present moment, and completely in my body.
Not too shockingly, my body dissatisfaction increased and I felt more and more insecure. I believed the way to solve this was with more exercise. More toning was sure to make me feel better about myself, right? Then I became insecure about being too “bulky”, especially as the muscle gain equaled weight gain, something I’m not so good at dealing with.
My nutritionist suggested I do less cardio and more yoga. He assured me that yoga was in fact fat burning, but I felt nervous about burning enough calories.
At this point I took a trip back to the States to visit family and friends for a month. For the first two weeks I continued to work out. My last two weeks, however, were in NYC, and I didn’t have time. The break did me good. I had time to reflect, and it became clear to me that things weren’t quite working . I decided to cut the cardio down to three times a week and put the focus back on yoga.
So here I am. I’ve been back two weeks and practicing more yoga. I’m tighter than I was, but still, it feels so good.
I’m a perfectionist. I’m overly competitive and overly self-critical. All the things a yoga instructor isn’t supposed to be. Yet I am sure there isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t have these qualities to some degree. This is why we need yoga. Yoga doesn’t ask you to be anything. It only asks that you embrace yourself exactly as you are, and then release whatever is holding you back, as much as you can, in this moment.
I’m happy to be working with a nutritionist and I highly recommend it. Just be aware of your tendencies, and keep your focus. An eating disorder, at it’s heart, is a self-destructive mentality that demands perfection at all costs. Most of all, it renders your personal happiness irrelevant. Stay on alert, no matter how recovered you consider yourself to be.
It’s a sneaky bastard and it wants back in.
You have to ask yourself every day; do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be happy?
Today I choose to get on the mat, accept myself, and be happy.