NOTE FROM NATALIE: The following is a guest post by my friend Anne Taylor of Anne The Adventurer. She is someone who I admire immensely for her vulnerability as well as her bravery and persistence in moving forward with recovery from disordered eating. Below she shares three intentions that have revolutionized her outlook on fitness and health—I hope you’ll be encouraged and inspired by it as I am. (P.S. Want more of her story? Be sure to read this in-depth post about her fitness journey!)
Two years ago, I started a journey towards recovery from a 10-year battle with an eating disorder. Every time that I’ve shared this story on my blog and in other publications (including here on Thoughts By Natalie!), I’ve received such powerful feedback from readers, mostly strangers, who say that my authenticity and honesty encouraged them to not feel so alone in their own struggles. This is truly the power of vulnerability—it helps us live our lives in community instead of isolation.
However, I still felt alone. I’m glad that others were feeling supported, but I felt like I had to keep a happy face on all the time. I felt like I needed to be “perfectly recovered.” Starting recovery was an important and healthy step, but as so many of you who have struggled with severe body image, self image, eating disorders and other anxiety disorders, once we start digging up the crap in our life, it unearths a whole lot more pain and distress you didn’t know was hiding beneath the surface. The last two years have been more challenging than any other time in my life. I’m a stronger person because of it, but I’ve had to put a lot of effort into making sure that my attempts at vulnerability and honesty with my story did not leave me more isolated under the pressures of perfectionism.
One of the biggest hurdles in this specific challenge was my feelings about fitness. Because perfectionism had a strong grip on me, I felt like I had to perfect at the gym, too. This was so far from my reality because I completely neglected physical exercise for the two years I’ve spent in the throes of recovery. I was so deconditioned, more deconditioned than I have ever been in my life. I knew I needed to take the step, but embarrassment of not being as strong as I once was held me back. Finally, I was sick of it. I gave up on the fear that was holding me back, and implemented three intentions into my life that revolutionized my whole journey with health and fitness. I pray that they will help you as much they’ve helped me!
1. Choose Love
More than anything else, fear held me back from living the life I wanted. Fear of not being perfect, of not being seen, of not being accepted, of not being loved. I made all of my choices based on my fears. Instead, I decided to live my life believing, wholeheartedly, that fear is a liar. Why should I spend every second of my existence afraid that the worst would happen? I was wasting my life doing so. Instead, I chose to live my life by love and hope. Loving myself, loving others. Going to the gym might feel embarrassing, but fear wasn’t running the show anymore so off I went. I showed up that cold day in February for my first training session because I wanted so badly to love myself. Now, six months later, I’m running 10+ miles a week and I can do 40 push-ups in a row. I love myself so much more than I did six months ago, and it’s all because I said goodbye to fear.
2. Don’t let others tell you how much you’re worth
I have this annoying habit of letting other people’s opinion of me run my feelings and choices. Can you relate? Here’s the thing though: those people don’t know your story. They can never know the depth of your journey, of who you are, of the beauty of your mind, soul, body, and spirit. You know better than anyone else that you are worthy and valuable. If people try to tell you otherwise, walk away. And even when our best supporters tell us that we are great and wonderful and awesome—we have to believe it. None of their words will do any good unless we believe it about ourselves first.
3. Take one step at a time
One of the things that tripped me up most often when getting back to a healthy place in my life was my lack of patience. I do not like to wait for things. When I thought about how I wanted to run a 10k, I wanted to be able to run a 10k right then and there. Things became tricky when I couldn’t even run for five minutes. I just wanted to give up because it seemed too hard. It’s easy to meditate on thoughts like how much we’ve messed up our lives, or how we let things get “out of control.” The thing is that the course of an individual’s life is not a straight path, but a winding one. We all make wrong turns and double back on ourselves. The best thing we can do for ourselves is not beat ourselves up but choose love, believe that we are worth it, and then just put one foot in front of the other. I started running for 3 minutes at a time, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. Three weeks ago, I completed my first 30 minute run since I started recovery. It was such a victory! And it’s all because I laced up my shoes, and stepped out the door. Set small goals, and try to work at them in small ways every day. You’ll be there before you know it!
Photos by Austyn Elizabeth Photography