I was choking back tears for the hundredth time in a Gatlinburg, Tennessee buffet. Staring at a plate of green beans smothered in butter, I was ruining yet another family vacation. “I’d have to add extra crunches in the morning to make up for that butter,” I thought. I was making myself, and everyone else, miserable. I’d come to dread vacations, holidays, and celebrations because they interrupted my routines. At home I knew every ingredient in everything I ate. I could be at the gym by 5am every morning to burn at least X number of calories in an hour. I could stick to my meal plans flawlessly with no cheat days.
Vacations left too many unknowns. What kind of food would be available? How would it be cooked? Would there be enough space in the cabin to workout? Would I wake everyone in the morning jumping rope and doing mountain climbers? I wasn’t in control. I was upset again over a buffet filled with what I deemed “unhealthy” foods. I could either starve or put that in my body and be forced to listen to the negative, angry ramblings of that voice in my head that said I was too big and overweight.
This was my first awakening. I remember it well. I felt my usual guilt for acting like a child after leaving the restaurant and started researching what in the world could be wrong with me. (I don’t see it like that anymore, but at the time that is how I felt. Broken.) I read about anorexia and orthorexia and thought, “No, I can’t have an eating disorder. I’m not THAT broken.” Yet everything matched. I fell somewhere in between. I talked to my parents about it right then. We would look into some counseling when we returned home. The next day I rode a ski lift for the first time. The scenery of the beautiful Appalachian landscape was breathtaking. But, most of all, I remember that I was starving. Not just hungry – I was used to that – but starving, like a small gust of wind could come and knock me right down the mountain.
Unfortunately, upon returning home life went back to “normal.” We didn’t talk about my food issues again for a while. Where I live counseling is still somewhat of a taboo. And to be honest, I didn’t want to go to counseling. The idea made me nervous, and I had enough on my plate to deal with at the time.
I went on hiding for another two years before getting into counseling and finding other resources like Body Love Tribe to help me heal. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was what I wanted from my routines and eating habits. I wanted an excuse to hide, and I wanted to feel in control. I hid from family – skipping weddings and celebrations. I hid from friends because going out would mean food and late nights. I couldn’t do either of those with my schedule. I hid from coworker, busying myself during lunch meetings so no one would notice I wasn’t eating the sub sandwiches they had ordered. Most deceptively of all, I hid from myself.
During this period of hiding I could only hear one voice in my head. It told me I was not good enough. Not thin enough. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. It convinced me that the safest thing to do was stay inside. “Maybe in the future you will be good enough, then you can go out,” It would say. I was so deeply entangled with this voice that no one could change my beliefs. This voice became my truth.
That voice – she feeds on my fears, shame, and regrets. She limits me by spreading lies, and she controls me by keeping perfection just out of reach. When I start to become slightly bold, she reminds me of all my past failures and highlights the pain associated with them, so that I can never forget. This voice was in the driver seat through my years of hating my body, restricting foods, and working out like a madwoman. (I would work 12 hour, overnight shifts and still be at the gym as soon as I clocked out.) She brainwashed me, and I believed she knew best.
Several years recovering and she is still with me. She always will be. But, she isn’t the loudest voice in my head anymore. I’ve learned through counseling, meditation, emotional supports, and yoga that my view of myself was drastically skewed. I lived only to eat as little as possible and workout as much as possible. I have love for my body now because of everything it can do, not because it looks a certain way. I can celebrate that now because I never would have imagined that I’d be where I am today. My life is drastically different and 100% better than it was when I isolated myself.
During those years, I worked towards become a constant. A constant weight, size, look. But, I’m not a constant. Things around me are always changing-including myself. (Thank goodness!) Looking at pictures from that Tennessee vacation readily depict this in my appearance, especially in my eyes. Those moments in time will always bring up tears – Tears for the time lost and tears for the pain I can still close my eyes and feel. My weakest point.
I wasn’t expecting that trip to be my first steps toward healing. If you haven’t found your healing yet, keep your eyes open. That spark can be lit anywhere, anytime. Just as it starts, so must the work to regain balance begin. Slow and steady. A little here and a little there. Each time quieting that negative voice a bit more. She didn’t take over all at once, and neither can she be hushed with the sweep of a magic wand. That was just my beginning to finding me again. To living life more fully and enjoying the pleasures of a changing world. A changing body. And a changing heart.
I’d be so interested to read how your healing journey began. Sharing these stories are therapeutic for both the writer and reader, and help us feel more connected. Please leave a comment below to share a bit about your story with me and our Body Love Tribe!
Editor’s Note – If you are interested in sharing your body love story on the Body Love Tribe Blog just like Sam has done, you can do so here. We LOVE hearing from you!
During her most difficult body image struggles, Samantha found great comfort in reading about women who had faced similar challenges. She believes that sharing our thoughts and feelings with one other is the most powerful tool we have to put body shame to rest. Samantha worked with Tribe founder, Brandy Oswald, in 2015 when she was ready to put aside food restricting and extreme workouts to focus on self-acceptance and loving her body—unconditionally. It wasn’t an easy shift. But Samantha was moved by Brandy’s compassion and understanding. The tools she learned during their one-on-one sessions helped to reshape how Samantha viewed her relationship to her body and food. She continues to use these tools to this day!
Samantha is a nature lover and spends much time outside growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. She lives off-grid with her fiancé, their three dogs, and a flock of backyard chickens on the outskirts of a small Missouri town. You can read more about her and what she is up to at her blog www.wholeheartedhomestead.com.