Hello Friend 🙂
Your body is an amazing machine. It is designed to keep you alive. It is wired for your survival. It will do whatever it needs to do - down regulate hormones, upshift metabolism, change the rhythm of your heartbeat - whatever is called for in the moment to keep you trucking along.
Now, I think on some level you most likely believe this about your body. You know somewhere inside of you that your body is on your side, and that everything it does is with the intention of keeping you healthy and functioning.
But is there also a part of you that resents your body?
That feels like every time it gains weight, every time it gets sick, every time it has digestive troubles, every time it is fatigued or worn down, every time it does not enable you to feel how you want to feel, or look how you want to look, that your body is an enemy that must be taken down by whatever means necessary?
If your answer was yes, I hear you friend. Loud and clear.
My Body, The Battle Ground:
I used to feel exactly like this about my body.
I spent years - basically a decade - of my life in this mindset.
My body used to be the most confusing and frustrating thing in my life.
I used to get stomach aches at least twice a week that would leave me doubled over in pain lying on the couch just counting down the seconds hoping the pain would stop. There was nothing that could distract me from it, pain killers never did anything for me, and there never seemed to be any real medical 'cause' for them - so I was left to just writhe in pain.
I used to have a crazy, what felt like an out of control appetite. I would try SO HARD to eat healthy, to eat 'clean' to eat what I thought would give me the skinny body I had alway dreamed of that was pain free - but it felt like my body would always crave the foods that would sabotage my efforts - and I felt powerless against those cravings.
My body could and would gain upwards of 10 pound overnight 'seemingly' without reason. I would get puffy and bloated and literally look totally different from one day to the next. This happened on a frequent enough basis that even my sister who was and is the most level headed and practical person in my life could not deny the wild fluctuations.
My joints and muscles would become inflamed on a regular basis, causing pain and stiffness. Once I thought I had some sort of life threatening lung infection because my chest hurt so badly. When I finally went to the doctor it was deduced that I actually just had inflammation in the joints that connected my ribs to my sternum. Go figure.
Anorexia, The Reprieve:
Now if you know my story at all, you know that I went through a pretty rough period of anorexia. These wild body swings and reactions were taking place for me both pre and post disease. They were a part of what drove me to such extremes with my diet.
These symptoms were a major clouding factor in my anorexia journey, because I was not simply 'thinking' my body was out of control when it really wasn't. My body actually reacted and responded to life in a way that made no sense to me or anyone else.
These crazy symptoms had driven me so crazy, had taken over my life to such an extreme degree and it was the desperate attempt at managing them that was a major factor in my decent into eating disorder.
I was willing to do whatever it took to get rid of these debilitating hinderances to my well being. I had been on countless diets, done every exercise regiment under the sun, had been to see every natrupoath, every holistic healer, every regular doctor in my area before anorexia finally took hold. I truly felt that if I did not take the reigns, if I did not commit myself to controlling this body of mine, that it would sabotage me for the rest of my life. Obviously there were several other factors that lead to my eating disorder, but the desire to finally rid myself of all these symptoms was a major one.
During my illness, the battle with my body was most certainly at its worst, but I was also able to tame most of the symptoms I have mentioned above. But that is the thing. It took being in the absolute thick of an eating disorder to quell my body from reacting so strongly to life.
A part of the reason my body 'stabilized,' so to speak, while I was sick was because I felt so much like I was in control, for the first time in my life. Like I was dominating my body. Due to the fact that I was convinced that what I was doing was working, it did work.
The other reason I believe the symptoms of digestive issues, weight fluctuations, and out of control appetite stopped bothering me in the thick of my illness is because I was so detached from their cause - which I will get to later on in this post. My disease was a way for me to suppress my symptoms - but clearly it was not a 'solution' - as soon as I stopped starving, all of my symptoms came back stronger than they had ever been.
The Rabbit Hole:
So, post recovery, all of my symptoms are back, and I am back on the 'figure this shit out' rampage.
Every time I get a stomach ache, every time I swell, every time I gain weight, every time I can't control my appetite I start hating my body.
I start scrutinizing every morsel of food that has passed my lips.
Maybe it was the orange? They are acidic and maybe they caused my stomach aches?
Maybe it was the miso? It has salt, so maybe that is why I swelled?
Maybe it was the spinach, the parsley, the hummus I picked at, the dates, the dried fruits, the oxygen.
The list of foods I 'couldn't' eat was constantly increasing - and of course this mirrored and mimicked eating disorder behaviour in a lot of ways. Again, part of the reason my particular brand of eating disorder was a little on the complicated side was because there were physical symptoms that seemed to warrant being dogmatic with my food choices.
Then, if I were not scrutinizing my diet, it was my exercise that needed to change/increase.
Maybe I needed to lift weights? Maybe I needed to lift heavy weights? Maybe I needed HIIT workouts? If a little exercise helped me feel good and helped my lose weight (theoretically of course), then obviously 2-3 hours a day of working out would mean feeling AMAZING and being super fit/lean.
Along with all of this craziness, my food cravings only got worse. The more structured I attempted to be, the more out of control I would feel. Somehow the foods on my "I can't eat those" list always made there way into my mouth. Oranges, salt, dates, raw granola, raw cookies, fat, blablabla all the things I had labeled as 'bad' all of a sudden became totally irresistible.
The Crazy Making Cycle:
So I was in a crazy making cycle. Every shift or change in my body caused me to try to tighten the reigns on my behaviours, to try to eat less and work out more, which would inevitably lead to feeling like I needed to eat everything, which made me feel like I was out of control, which caused my body to shift or change. Round and round I went.
So even though I was eating what looked like a very healthy diet from the outside - I was pretty well a raw foodie at this point, and even though some may have looked at my workout routine and thought it was amazing - inside I was going nuts. And, my body was only getting sicker and more reactive. There were days when I thought I was going to end up only being able to have green juice and watermelon.
And here is the kicker. All this controlling, all this trying, all this attempt to control my weight and my symptoms NEVER WORKED.
I never lost weight. Basically after I re-gained the weight I needed to gain post anorexia, for the next 4 years my weight stayed strong up at the upper end of my healthy weight range. No matter how little I ate, no matter how much I worked out, my weight would not budge. This is part of the reason I was able to relaps so much - no one was worried about me because I was at a healthy weight.
And my symptoms all stayed very much alive and well. Swelling was a regular occurrence. Stomach aches, while less painful than they were before the raw foods diet, were still prevalent and now manifested more as constipation and general digestive upset. My inflammation was pretty well constant. The harder I tried to fix myself, the worse things would become.
Do You Feel Me?
Now, I realize this is an extreme example. But perhaps you can identify with this 'crazy making cycle' that I have mentioned above?
The feeling of not being able to control your weight, your appetite, your symptoms, the fear this ignites within you, the desperation to change SOMETHING, to fix it so that this pain and discomfort can stop - and the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you are going to fail. Because you always fail.
If you identify with this, I want to share with you how I got off the crazy making cycle, because I know that if it worked for me, it will most likely work for you. Because all of us sensy beans are all really not so different 😉
The Shift That Shifted It All:
If you are on the crazy making cycle right now, most of the changes that need to take place to help you shift your state are not going to be physical. Most of the changes are going to be internal ones. These may seem like difficult feats, but I promise once implemented they will serve you well.
Stop Speaking Negatively About Your Body: I stopped complaining about my swelling. I stopped saying I hated my body. I stopped blaming it for everything. This was much easier said than done in the beginning, but it was CRUCIAL in changing my mindset and thus my actions. And so it is for you. It is imperative that you start to speak kind words about your body, that you start to shift your mindset to truly believing that your body is on your side and this is very hard when you are busy smack talking it all day. You will notice a shift from fear and frustration to compassion and openness towards your body when you make saying nice things about it your mandate. Thumpers golden rule "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." (Know this is not a general rule for life - I fully believe in saying what you feel and mean, but when it comes to your body, saying mean, hurtful and blaming things is never going to serve you.) This shift in your attitude towards your body, will lead you into step two.
Start Tuning In To What Your Body Is Really Telling You: If your body is wildly reactive, there is a really good chance that you are simply a sensitive person in general. That you are emotionally, mentally, spiritually perceptive, and that you are ignoring the messages your sensitivity is trying to send you, and thus they are all coming out through physical symptoms. Now I know this might sound pretty esoteric, but hear me out. When I finally stopped trying to 'fix' my body with food and exercise, when I finally STOPPED and start to just ask my body what it was trying to tell me, I almost always found that I had some emotional pain that I was not processing. Or perhaps I had some pars of me that was not being expressed and thus was coming out in a negative way. Other times I had some fear or anxiety or doubt that I was running from. Sometimes I was picking up on the pain I felt in others. Basically, it was almost NEVER that I needed to stop eating tomatoes. Next time your body reacts in a way that seems out of whack, try slowing down, taking some deep breaths and practice communicating with your body. It may not send you messages in words, but if you take time to actually practice this kind of communication, you WILL learn how your body speaks and what it is trying to say. I cannot tell you exactly how this process will unfold for you, but I can tell you that if you let go of trying to fix your diet, or your exercise or your sleep, and really dedicate yourself to hearing what your body is really saying, you will get there. But you have to let go of the food and exercise thing.
Start Having Fun: This was a HUGE one for me. I am willing to bet that if you have been spending hours upon hours, days upon days, years upon years, fretting over your body, that you most likely need some fun in your life too. The thing is, so much of the time the way your body is responding to life is based on your perceived stress levels. And when you are repressing your emotions, when you are stressing over your food, when you are over exercising - you are going to be feeling totally run over the edge. Learning to relax, let loose, laugh and enjoy yourself may feel like torture at first. It may feel like there are so many other productive things you could be doing, but trust me on this - fun is healing. When you have fun, you bring your cortisol levels down. You enter 'rest and digest' - basically you create the ideal conditions for healing. You create the ideal conditions for your body to be able to relax and stop freaking out. You also create the ideal conditions for your 'stuff' to come up - and that is a good thing. Processing all the information you have gleaned from slowing down and connecting with your body will be much easier from a state of relaxed enjoyment.
Start Creating: Another huge area where my body was getting mad at me, was the area of personal expression. Again, I was so driven, so focused on self improvement, so focused on healing that I never did anything I was not already good at. Which meant I did not take the time to draw or read or colour or paint, or read poetry or partake in anything beautiful. When I finally did start to include these type of activities back into my life, my body started to relax and release its incessant need to react to life with fear and pain. Where are you not allowing beauty into your life? Where have you forgotten the simple pleasures or colour and light and words? When was the last time you consumed or created something simply for the pleasure of it?
Start Resting/Relaxing: Finally, rest. Relax. Let go. For many of the same reasons that having fun is important if you want your sensitive body not to react so harshly to life, rest and relaxation will be crucial for you. In fact, you need to make a practice out of resting even when you don't feel like it. I want you to consider that by the time you feel exhausted, you have actually already waited to long. Which is OK - but it is an opportunity to learn not to wait that long in the future. I would like to invite you to include rest and relaxation in your normal routine just like you would schedule a workout or a business meeting or a date with a friend. Start with 2-3 15-30 minute sessions a week, then see if you can work your way up to doing something for the express purpose of relaxing every day. The activity you choose is up to you - it could be reading a light book, sitting and listening to music, taking a nap, whatever feels like stepping back and getting off the production hamster wheel for you is right.
Remember, these practices are going to take time before you see any real results. Your body may not calm down for a period of time even after you are doing all these wonderful things for yourself, and that is totally OK. Give yourself the space and time you need to float into this new way of responding to your body.
You are worth it.