Happy Tuesday! In honor of the vibe I’m trying to cultivate during the time at home, I took the Memorial Day holiday off yesterday. Instead of writing, working, or whatever else I could have done to get ahead in my projects, Eric and I went for a long bike ride, got home and enjoyed a cold sub from Jimmy Johns and watched some movies. It was magical! And now it is Tuesday and I’m coming back with some relevant insight on intuition. Specifically, when it comes to eating and exercise.
The reason I want to talk about this is because body image is something that came up on the phone with a friend this evening as something we both struggle with. We share the experience of obsessing over what we eat and how much/often we exercise, sometimes to the point of it being detrimental to our mental health. This is something I have been grateful to have the mental space and energy to attempt to improve during this quarantine, but admittedly, I have been slipping a little bit in the past week. Even after biking 60 miles yesterday, I still struggled to give myself grace to treat myself to more food/calories than normal – despite needing it to refuel. I don’t want to use this space to psychoanalyze why or how these thoughts arise. I don’t even want to use it to talk about strategies to overcome these thoughts because I am not at all an expert and still struggle more than I would like to admit that I do. That being said, from what I have seen, there are amazing resources when it comes to overcoming body image insecurities and the eating/exercise habits that come from that. What I want to do is simply share my story – specifically, where my thoughts go when it comes to this topic.
I think a good way to share is to walk you through a day in my life pre-COVID quarantine so you can get an idea of just how obsessive my thoughts got.
In the morning, one of the first things I would do after brushing my teeth and letting the dog out was spend much longer than I needed to getting dressed because I was taking time checking my body. For me, this was mostly checking the side view of my stomach to make sure that it was still at a flatness level that was to my liking. Most days, I would also get the tape measurer out and take my measurements to make sure they weren’t outside of a range that I deemed ‘acceptable’. If they were, it would likely lead to negative thoughts most of the day. After all that, I would eat my breakfast – the same thing every day with the same portions. Some days I would find myself still hungry after eating, but refused to allow myself to eat more because that would mess up the perfect 500 calories that my breakfast was calculated to be. I would pack snacks and lunch based again on calorie calculations – ensuring that I didn’t go over a certain number of calories. Then it would be my walk to work (as a personal trainer at the local gym) with the same route each time to ensure it was the same distance so that my ‘calories burned’ calculation was consistent. Often times during this walk, I spent an embarrassingly long time thinking about and fixating on how I was going to get as much exercise in as I could that day – focusing on how many calories I would burn that day – and the specific foods I would eat to ensure that I was staying in the range I deemed ‘acceptable’. During my work day, it was mostly training and during my breaks, I would either be working out at the gym or walking home again to walk the dog. On occasion, I would allow myself to sit in the break room and have coffee and/or eat my lunch. Then, I would transition into babysitting in the evening and would spend a good chunk of my mental energy thinking about what I would eat for dinner and/or how much time I would have to eat before heading back to the gym for my evening training sessions. This is honestly tough for me to admit because it forces me to realize that the sweet children I was watching were not getting my full self/energy/attention because my mind was focused on obsessing over this and if their parents would get home earlier enough so I would have enough time to eat and walk to the gym for my next session or if I would have to drive (which meant fewer calories burned). After my evening sessions and maybe eating dinner, maybe not (I would usually prioritize walking to the gym over eating dinner because that meant fewer calories eaten AND more burned from walking), I would be mentally exhausted. I would usually get home and go straight into my bedtime routine – not even stopping to greet/pet the cat and dog. This is another hard confession because it means I was not giving affection to my beautiful animals. At the end of the day, I would crawl into bed physically and emotionally drained, but my mind would still be thinking. And the things it was thinking about? How I did that day – re-calculating and assessing calories burned, hours spent exercising, calories eaten, servings of carbs eaten, etc… And when I was done obsessing about that, I would move on to think about tomorrow – what will I eat, when and how will I exercise (and will it be enough)? So the cycle continued.
Hopefully you can grasp the extremeness of it all because I know that I am able to when I sit down and reflect on it. It took having my schedule/routine uprooted from this quarantine for me to stop and force myself out of this negative cycle. Like I said earlier, I am in no way perfect – in fact, just last night after our bike ride I struggled to fully enjoy our indulgence and scolded myself more than I’d like to admit about eating a serving of brown rice at 8 PM. I know, it sounds crazy to me too. I just hope by reflecting on my journey and writing it down, it will not only serve as a reminder to myself of the obsessive and harmful nature of these thoughts, but maybe reach and resonate with others who have gone through or are currently going through similar experiences. Thanks for reading!