" In nine months, I’ve learned a lot of stuff about myself, and even more about how I neglected myself."
A bipolar, body-positive bread enthusiast with a fucked-up ankle and a history of disordered eating chronicles health, weight-loss, and gardening. No diets allowed.
Well what do you know, blink, and it’s been nine months since I started this column.
It’s like I had a baby, only I actually just gave birth to a new me.
On June 14, 2016, I went to the lab and gave them seven vials of my blood. Challenged by my psychiatrist (okay, instructed, whatever), I gave the blood, had the ankle MRI, started physical therapy, and stopped treating myself like I was the least important person on my list.
In nine months, I’ve learned a lot of stuff about myself, and even more about how I neglected myself. I’m going to share it with you, bullet point style:
This is not overrated and cannot be overstated. Drinking ⅔ my body weight in ounces of water has made the most significant impact in my life imaginable. I was chronically dehydrated and happy to be so — only not really.
Once I gave my body the liquid it needed, I began to immediately notice when I hadn’t had enough water. Water 4ever. Amen. If you do nothing else for yourself ever, do this.
Full disclosure: I do not like water. I do not enjoy a leisurely glass with lemon or cucumber slices or some other bullshit hipster-ass fruit infusion. I chug it because it’s necessary, like taxes and changing the oil in your car. It’s not a party; it’s a responsibility.
Another underrated thing. Sleep mostly strikes me as a waste of time. But it makes a real very tangible difference. Your body needs it and depriving it only makes your waking hours less productive. Sleep. Your body wants seven to nine hours a night. Give it what it wants, and it will reward you. Deprive it, and you’ll die early.
3. Food as fuel.
Did you know that a giant Costco muffin contains 48 grams of sugar? Also, eating three Costco muffins in two days will make me feel yucky. Like really, incredibly yucky.
Recognize food for what it is: fuel. When I put a lot of sugar in my body, I feel like garbage. Once I began to key into this basic physiological fact DUH, sugar really lost its appeal.
Also, I need a lot less food than I put in my body.
I’m a fast eater with a tendency to just stuff myself with whatever I love at the rate of Kirby. I didn’t realize I was overfilling my belly. My heartburn and reflux have diminished significantly. Same with dessert. Eating it with mindfulness makes it more enjoyable, and I end up eating less. Some people find that they need to eat more, and some might find they feel good with how they eat as is. Intuitive eating is different for everyone and finding out the difference between restriction and just plain old listening to my body tell me when its full has been empowering, especially as someone in ED recovery.
Full disclosure: I did double fist the fuck out of some Costco cake the other day. I felt like shit afterward, though. Payback.
4. Med compliance.
Finding out my thyroid was out of whack was a surprising discovery. Medicating my thyroid raised my energy level and a host of other things. Get lab work done. Don’t avoid it because you’re afraid of what they might find. What they might find could change everything.
Also, taking psych meds regularly — and always — is important. Skipping a dose or being even a few hours late impacts my mood and my overall well being.
No more missing meds. No. It doesn’t matter that I hate them. I need to take them, and I need to do it right — for myself and everyone around me who deserves a sane and kind human who is not losing her shit over some dirt on the floor.
Once I took away the “exercise as a necessity” thing and only engaged in things I LIKED, exercise became something I look forward too. The whole thing about the endorphins is true. DAMMIT, SCIENCE.
It’s real. It works. Do it. The end. Here’s one I like for sleep.
7. Giving up diet soda is not a fix-all. And it kind of sucks.
I’ve been without soda for a year this week. I wish I could say I feel 100% Amazing/ YES Quitting Soda Changed My Life, but I don’t. I do know that it’s making a difference in ways I can’t see, though, so that’s good enough.
I don’t miss it anymore, but oh my lord I sure did those first few months. The first week I hid behind a trash can like some kind of crazed soda junkie to drink a diet Pepsi. The addiction is real.
8. Massage and chiropractic visits are awesome.
A full-body massage is about the best gift you can give yourself. We have a school locally. It’s $35 for an hour-long student massage. You think students suck? WRONG. Students are trying SO hard to be good. They are often better than the pros. Best $35 ever spent.
Regular chiro adjustments have helped with my back and neck pain immensely.
9. Breaks are important.
I have a tendency to sit at my desk for HOURS without so much as a bathroom break. Getting up every half hour for even just five minutes makes a huge difference in my focus and comfort. I mean, I absolutely suck at doing this, but it’s true.
Also important: to do lists that are doable and rewards for doing them. Give yourself a break already. You’re just one person. Some days all you can do is breathe in and out. That’s fine.
10. Weight loss has helped my joints.
I am a lot less achy. Some of this is due to activity, I’m sure, but my ankle pain is almost completely gone and I know that’s in large part due to pounds lost. A year ago a mile walk was agonizing, now it’s a breeze. Chasing my kids left me breathless and exhausted, now it leaves me energized and happy.
11. The scale is whatever.
This one was the hardest, but taking away the power of the scale has given me peace. I still weigh myself periodically, but the number is information and stepping on the scale is mostly just a compulsion.
12. Body positivity and a desire to change aren’t mutually exclusive.
I know this is true because I’ve lived it. I haven’t done anything drastic or harmful to my body. I have fed it well, given it fluids and rest. I have listened to it tell me when I’ve had enough food (especially sugar). I have not lapsed into an eating disorder.
13. I may not always love my body, and that’s fine.
I won’t always look at my body with the pure love it probably deserves. That’s okay. Beautiful is last on the list of things I care to be.
14. I am not done.
Remembering to drink a literal ass-ton of water everyday is not now, and will probably never be easy. I will probably always feel like sleep is a waste of time. I will probably always at least partly resent my psych meds. I will probably periodically eat three Costco muffins in two days. I will always regret that choice.
Also, toilet paper is cheapest in bulk from Costco. Reusable cloth wipes are even better if you’re cool with washing. I pee like 17 times a day.