I’m just going to put this out there, right from the outset – something that is still a mystery to me is the effect of the menstrual cycle on the body. It’s really amazing how a woman’s body can be so greatly affected by hormones just over a few days to create such major changes – or what feel like major changes, I suppose. For me, I’m still getting used to the regular periods and with that the changes in my body and mind that occur once a month.
How did I ever do this before my eating disorder? No clue. It seems like those two years of skipping periods completely rid my memory of what the monthly visitor’s impact was on the body and mood. So naturally, each month I completely forget it’s coming and wonder why my mood goes from awesome to not-so-awesome and my body starts to feel foreign. Then, I track back dates in my head and start to connect the dots…
Basically, over the five or so days I’d been feeling a growing concern about my body that I decide was rational because I’d gained weight or some irrational disordered thought. Then, I realized it was just some water weight that I always put on around my period. But it still made me feel like crap. And of course, what have I always done in the past to make myself feel better? Either restricted fat or calories.
But this time – I felt like I was at a crossroads. The weight didn’t seem like it was going anywhere anytime soon. Clothes were tight. I have to walk around in a bathing suit on a daily basis, and that certainly doesn’t help! But aside from those facts, I realized I had a choice about how to cope.
A.) Do something disordered. Perhaps feel better about my body, but feel in every single other way possible like crap.
B.) Accept that this is a normal part of a woman’s life (regardless of how much it sucks). Eat normally. Move on to more important things – like eating lunch with friends, learning organic chemistry, and throwing snowballs.
In the past when I’d felt a little out of control as far as my body was concerned, I’d grab hold to any disordered behavior I could – regardless of how I knew the behavior was pointless, how it wouldn’t change my body, and how it wasn’t healthy. I’d grab hold on to anything that would make me feel like less of a failure.
This time – I chose option B. I like to be able to eat what sounds good to me, when I want to eat. I like to be spontaneous and not have to live by any set of made-up rules. And, even though I’m getting used to some of the aspects of a healthy body I decided to keep going in the right direction. To accept that I can’t control my body – it’s going to take the nourishment I provide for it, and run with that. It’s going to do what’s best for me. Eventually, water weight gain will leave but it will also come back, and if that’s the price I pay every four weeks for health then so be it.
It just gives me a real reason to wear yoga pants to class.
I think the real difference here is acceptance. Acceptance that yes – there may be parts of my body that I don’t like, but realizing that I can love my whole body in spite of that. Because I can appreciate my body for what it does rather than what it is.
A really odd analogy is thinking about the brain/mind in this way. I love my brain for what it does – making healthy choices, making vivid memories, allowing me to really feel a plethora of emotions, and studying with a natural curiosity that makes school work worthwhile. Let’s face the facts here – brains aren’t pretty. They’re gray and have weird grooves and indentations. If I said to myself “There are features of my brain that I don’t like – like the fact that it looks like silly putty, or jiggles in the rear” and made myself feel bad about that and took measures to change my brain’s appearance, I wouldn’t be getting very far. The brain is designed to keep itself as healthy as possible, just as our bodies naturally have protective mechanisms to keep them as healthy as possible.
I know it’s weird. But kind of makes sense? 😉
After so many times picking the disordered path, I’ve finally come to a place where I can trust my body and myself and keep going on the path to health. I think it’s because now I see the differences in the paths – the health path is filled with real memories, friends, family, laughter, learning, and dreams for the future. The disordered path is empty. There is no one there – except for the disordered version of myself. There is no curiosity or dreaming, no laughter or friendship. There is loneliness and hopelessness. That path is one I hope to never let myself wander again.