I’m planning on pulling the trigger on some big changes. I’m setting aside the fact that I’m currently depressed. Yes, it will make things more challenging but I’m never fully not depressed anymore, anyhow so waiting for that day is pointless. It’s always possible a change might push my mood up to a more elevated level and since it’s unlikely to make it worse, there’s no downside to giving it a go.
I’ve read a few (hundred) books about making positive changes. Recent perusals include ones on quitting smoking, increasing longevity via diet and exercise, and improving wellness with day-to-day activities like music therapy. I’m chock-a-block full of information. So, I decided to put together a plan implementing the bits and pieces of advice, based on changes I want to make to things I do on a daily basis.
I plan to: quit smoking, quit drinking diet pop, get back to twice daily meditation, get back to a daily infrared sauna, get outside more, start doing yoga again, get back to playing piano, and improve my eating habits. Yes, it’s a fair number of things. Radical discontinuity is the order of the day.
I’ve got it all written out on a single sheet of paper I plan to post in my room where I can see it regularly as an inspirational reminder and game plan. It has colour highlights and multiple sets of bullet points. Bullet points always make things seem more official. I remembered to make the goals SMART too – specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time bound. Extra points for me because I didn’t have to look that up.
The most important bit, however, was the writing it down. I read something once upon a time: If you don’t write it down, you don’t have a plan, you have a wish. I’ve spent too much time wishing.
I want to get to the me I want to be, I suppose. I’ve been there in bits and pieces at various times but I’ve never tried the all-at-once approach. The list seems a bit overwhelming due to my current mental status but it’s not as bad as my hesitation suggests. It’s more manageable when you slot things into a daily planner, and I live and die by the planner. Both for things I plan to do and things I’ve done. Writing out your accomplishments and checking them off is a nice bit of self-love.
Some of the actions are two-for-one; I do the evening meditation in the sauna, for example. Some are very easy. “Get outside more” requires me to walk the two blocks to the mail box three times of week. Some of them require literally no action for success. To cut down on the diet Pepsi, all I have to do is not buy it and not drink it. Seems simple enough. Except for the part where I’m trying to break a longstanding and somewhat compulsive habit.
But I digress.
I’ve encountered a stumbling block, a kind of philosophical problem.
Hidden within “improve my eating habits” is a desire to lose about ten pounds. That’s a guestimate based on my clothes; I don’t have a scale. The problem is that I’m working on recovery from my eating disorder and thus issues around body shape and size and food consumption are fraught.
I’m not fat. I can say this out loud now. I even believe it about sixty percent of the time. Despite that, I’m not happy with my body. I’m not happy with the extra weight on my hips, stomach, and thighs. Why I can’t simply gain the weight in my chest is a mystery and also a cheap joke. The truth is, I’m still a little uncomfortable with excess weight anywhere.
But, can I lose just a little, so that I’m not distressed by my body? Would that be a relapse? People who don’t have eating disorders are sometimes unhappy with their bodies; they make efforts to change and it’s not a bad thing. Ten pounds wouldn’t bring me close to emaciated. I think. I’m sure. But, can I lose weight in recovery if I’m not really overweight or is this something I should learn to adapt to?
Is this all just spin and justification by an eating disorder that isn’t quite down for the count?
My body is not perfect; there’s room for improvement. I’m not talking about eating disorder perfection, either. I have a more realistic view now, I think. Some of the time. It’s getting better. Truthfully, the problem isn’t really about comparing myself to an unrealistic ideal. Much. You don’t lose all of those thoughts for quite some time, it seems.
The problem is more along the lines of, “I’ve been depressed, and I haven’t been moving my body much, and life isn’t nearly as forgiving of that when you hit fifty.” Things are starting to feel uncomfortably loose. I don’t want to risk a resurgence of my eating disorder and I still have problematic thoughts at times but on the flip side, I don’t like my body where it’s at. But I wonder: is it a valid dislike or an eating disorder thing?
Am I allowed to have valid dislikes of my body when I’ve had an eating disorder?
Further confounding the issue is the fact that a friend who’s been under stress has lost weight recently. It’s significant. She’s actually too thin and a part of me, I admit, is jealous. The voice in my head making comparisons when we’re together is all eating disorder; it’s trying to push the narrative that it’s my size that makes me acceptable in our group. When you’ve had an eating disorder it become difficult to believe you are more than your body.
But I’ve been stable for some time. I’ve been working on recovery for a while and I’m more than my body quite often now. And I truly don’t like the extra flesh and floppiness that recently showed up. So, is a plan to lose a little bit of weight an acceptable one for me to make? Can I do it without succumbing to a lifelong pattern?
I don’t think I want to be emaciated anymore. I mean, part of me really, really does. But most of me, the parts of me that want to recover from my eating disorder, don’t. I do want a little less weight on my frame. Am I allowed to want that in recovery or am I required to accept my body in whatever state it is in without attempting to make changes because of my history? And for how long?
I want to be allowed to not like aspects of my body. I don’t think this necessarily means I’m backsliding though I do need to stay aware. Not everything, however, has to be about my neuroses. I want to eat better, exercise more, get fitter, and have a slightly smaller shape because I want to be happy with myself and my routines as I head into the next five decades. I want to not have jiggly muscles.
Or perhaps that’s just eating disorder spin. It can be challenging figuring out who’s thinking. I want it to be me. I think it’s me. I just have to remember to be on guard re my depression as I navigate making big changes, and on guard re my eating disorder as I navigate losing a relatively small amount of weight.
Because things like eating disorders can be slippery slopes and you often don’t notice you’re sliding down until getting back up becomes difficult.