Physical fullness vs. spiritual fullness

Ok, time to get a little vulnerable.  This is a long post, but it’s important. Last week I weighed for the first time in maybe a month. I stepped on the scale thinking I’d see some weight loss because I’ve been running a little bit more…but much to my dismay, they number staring back at me was higher than I’ve seen in a LONG time.  In fact, it’s 2 lbs away from when I weighed my heaviest.  As any girl would, I had a mini freak out and those thoughts of self hate came creeping in: “You have no self control. You’ve really let yourself go.  Caleb’s not going to think you’re attractive. You’re disgusting.” I hate that these are still automatic thoughts that pop up so quickly.  But one of the biggest thing I learned through all the therapy I’ve been to was actually from one of my Christian counselors – Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  I know that these thoughts of self hate are not from God.  To him I am fearfully and wonderfully made, designed with intention and on purpose.  So I prayed that the Lord would help me see myself as He sees me – and then move on and focus on what’s really important in life.

But sometimes that voice of self hate and insecurity is so strong that I need some more support.  This was the case last week, so I reach out to my sister, Lauren.  I asked her to pray for me because I was really struggling with my weight and body image.  I explained that I couldn’t even be mad about the weight gain because I haven’t been dieting, I’ve been eating junk food pretty much every day, and definitely over what my body needs.  I was frustrated because I don’t know why I keep eating food that makes me feel like crap instead of eating food that would energize and make me feel good. She helped me come up with a plan that would create more balance around food and said she’d pray for me.  I put my phone down and picked up the book I’m reading, “Uninvited.” I was about to have one of those moments where you know God is speaking to you & I wasn’t even expecting it.

The author was talking about how Satan uses three things to try to tempt us and lure us into sinning and the first one was this:

Crave: I feel empty.
Whenever I feel lonely or less than, I think I can fill my emptiness with temporary physical pleasures.  The things that I consume soon consume my thoughts.  What started as a little thing has become something of which I can’t ever quite get enough of.”

This is EXACTLY how I felt about food – The things that I consume [too much food] soon consume my thoughts [and I start having negative body image as a result].  What started as a little thing [overindulging] has become something of which I can’t ever quite get enough of. As if that wasn’t a God speaking moment already, I saw I had a missed text from Lauren and this is the gist of what she said.

Why are you constantly choosing to eat crap when you know it makes you feel horrible both physically and emotionally? Most of the time, it’s because I’m feeling unsatisfied in some other area or areas of life and looking to wine or ice cream to numb that or satisfy.  Be really conscious about asking The Lord to help seek true satisfaction in Him and Him alone

Um, WHAT?! Was she reading that book over my shoulder.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that what she said lined up perfectly with what I had just read.  So, I read on:

When I go without the nourishment of truth, I will crave filling my spiritual hunger with temporary physical pleasures, thinking they will somehow treat the loneliness inside.  These physical pleasures can’t fill me, but they can numb me.  Numb souls are never growing souls.

And that’s when it really clicked with me.  At this point in my life, I don’t feel less than or lonely in the same way that I used to.  In the past, I felt like everyone was better than me, I wasn’t worth loving, and I didn’t have any authentic relationships.  Now, I feel overall confident in who I am, I’m secure in the way that my husband loves me, and I have deep, meaningful friendships.  So I don’t think I’ve been turning to food because of that.  I think it’s because I have been going without the nourishment of Truth.  I haven’t been spending as much time reading the Bible or in prayer.  I haven’t been to church because I’ve been working or out of town.  I think I was spiritually hungry but I didn’t realize that and therefore didn’t turn to the Lord for satisfaction.  I was turning to candy and burgers (which are all fine in moderation, but I was overdoing it), I was filling my belly instead of filling my soul.

Today, I’m working on satisfying my soul hunger instead of looking to physical fullness to satisfy me.  I’m spending time doing things that stir my affections for the Lord and bring fullness and joy in my life.  So instead of just trying to go on another diet or cleanse – ask yourself the hard questions & get to the root of why you may be overeating.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support in this process.  Sometimes people can spot things in our lives better than we can because we’re so close to the situation.

 

One Year

The end of May marked one year with no eating disorder behaviors.  Even though I’ve been in recovery since 2014, I have never had a solid year of no binging, no purging, and no skipping meals.  I’d still have a bad week or month, get back on track, then have another slip up. Until the end of May 2016…

I remember May had been a particularly crappy month for my recovery.  It seemed more often than not I would eat a normal meal & couldn’t handle the anxiety from it so would purge.  I remember I purged during the week & then that weekend, my little sister ended up in the hospital.  My parents were in town to be with her & my dad asked if I wanted to go to breakfast with him at Breadwinners.  Now, I LOVE Breadwinners but it is definitely one of the places I have a hard time with – the Bananas Foster Waffle is seriously to die for but it’s also probably all the calories I really need for a full day.  Going into breakfast that morning I could have done a couple things: 1. I could order something healthy that I’d feel comfortable with. 2. I could order the waffle and eat only part of it. 3. I could order the waffle and eat all of it (knowing this would trigger the temptation to purge).  Well for some completely unwise reason, I chose 3. I wanted to eat the whole thing and I knew I’d feel ok once I threw it up after.   So sad to look back on and know that I considered that a valid option….  Anyway, I went to breakfast with my dad, ordered the waffle, and over the course of breakfast, my dad was so kind and so encouraging to me.  I remember him telling me he was proud of what I accomplished with work and recovery so far. And I remember thinking “Why would I purge after this? It would literally be a terrible decision.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  The people who love me are proud of me and trust me & getting rid of this waffle isn’t worth risking losing that.” I ended up still eating the whole waffle but didn’t let myself purge – I sat with the uncomfortable fullness of the Caramel, bananas, waffle, syrup, whipped cream, and all the syrup and butter.  And you know what, I was full, I felt bloated and guilty but in several hours, those feelings passed.  And I haven’t considered purging an option since then.

I don’t think it was anything magical my dad said that morning – it’s nothing he hadn’t said to me before (he’s a very encouraging guy!) I think after 2 years of being in the trenches of recovery, I was finally climbing out. So a couple of thoughts I had from thinking back on all this:

  • Your words are powerful.  Had I sat at breakfast with my dad and he lectured me about not having enough money in savings or not seeing family enough or anything else really – I would have not been in as strong a position to say no to the eating disorder voice.  Yes, it still would have been my choice if I purged and nothing anyone says has the power to MAKE you do that.  But what you say really does have the power to support and strengthen or to tear down and make weak.  Choose your words wisely.

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  • Fall 7 times, stand up 8 (or whatever that saying is). Therapists always say recovery isn’t all or nothing – it isn’t a quick fix.  But no matter how many times I heard that, it’s what I wanted.  I didn’t want to be constantly battling that voice in my head telling me not to eat.  I didn’t want to purge and then have to go eat the next meal in my meal plan. That sounded exhausting and terrifying and just plain hard. But that’s what I had to do to get to the other side.  Don’t be afraid of struggle, don’t be afraid of messing up….just know that the fall does not have to be the end of your story. Do the next right thing, eat that next meal, call your friend for accountability…you got this.

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I’ve now had a solid year in recovery that honestly hasn’t even been hard. But that was after 2 years of struggling through recovery.  All that I’m saying is – if you’re trying to recover right now, if you are in the middle and feel like you’re lacking motivation or that the “hard” parts will never get easier – they do get easier.  Every choice you make for your recovery is bringing you one step closer to your full and satisfying life that you long for.  Every meal you eat, every time you keep it down….you’re laying the foundation for a life that you’ll live in recovery.  Don’t give up – there’s freedom on the other side.

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The Power of Community

I’m so excited about today’s post.  My friend Tess just launched her own blog about eating disorder recovery, fitness, nutrition, and all things in between.  She was so kind as to be willing to do a guest post for me.  I love her authenticity about where she’s at and her willingness to keep things real. Read on to hear about Tess’s story and check out her blog to learn more! I’ll link it at the bottom of this post! Now for Tess –

Hi all! My name is Tess, I’m a mental health therapist by day and (learning) how to be a blogger by night. I’ve struggled with Anorexia and Bulimia for longer than I sometimes like to admit and now, in my mid-twenties I’ve finally experienced a little more recovery than relapse. When Jill graciously asked me to write a guest post for her Recovering Fit series I was thrilled. Perhaps this post sounds a lot like me rambling but I hope more than anything that some portion of it resonates with you.

The truth is, exercising in a “non-disordered” way is still incredibly challenging. I’m both obsessive and competitive and I have to check myself every single time I work out. Just because I graduated from eating disorder treatment (3 times) does not mean the thoughts have disappeared. On any given morning at 6AM I am greeted by a crowd of friendly faces and a slew of my own unwelcomed thoughts. “My pants are so tight”, “Why did I eat so much trail mix last night”, “I hope I feel totally exhausted after this workout”. What the hell is my problem? Exercise has the potential to be a really wonderful thing not only in my life but other people’s lives as well, but when I let these thoughts go unchecked, they destroy me. Thankfully most days I feel strong enough to combat them, and the days I don’t? That’s why I got married. But really. When I find myself complaining about how I wish we would do more burpees and running my husband kindly reminds me that I am in fact out of my mind. I guess what I’m getting at is that for so long in my body and in my mind exercise and punishment existed as one. The amount of time I spent on the treadmill was decided by the amount of calories I consumed that day, and then some, just in case. In the moment it felt so satisfying to see the numbers match, X calories eaten, X calories burned, check and check. I lived this vicious cycle of undereating and exercising as punishment for years, and although I worked my ass off to get out of the cycle, it is certainly still a not too distant memory in my brain. These days? I don’t work out alone. One, because it’s mind-numbing and boring but mostly because I have spent enough time self-sabotaging and I don’t trust myself. Instead, I drag my sleepy self out of bed at 6AM, my husband in tow, and I work out with a group of phenomenal people who hate burpees, because it is normal to hate burpees. I’m incredibly thankful to workout at a gym and to have found a community of people who I love and hopefully love me right back. I truly believe that life is best lived in the community of others. It is in the presence of others that we are reminded of our potential and praised for what we have already overcome. Whether you find community at a church, a job, a gym or anywhere else be grateful for that community and be intentional about the relationships that flourish because of it. Community is the reason I got off the treadmill, off the scale, and stepped out of the cycle of self-loathing. After all, we heal in community not in isolation.

Check out Tess’s blog here!

Recovering Fit: When Motivation is Lacking

Let’s be real – how many times have you set a weight loss goal, started working out, eating healthy and then quit 1 week in? Or you say “I’m going to workout 5x this week.” You do good on day 1 and 2 but by day 3 you’re sore, tired, and would rather go out for margaritas than hit the gym (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything). People always talk about how they can’t stay motivated and use that as an excuse to keep them from reaching their goals.  So let’s talk about what to do when you’re motivation is lacking.

There are tons of articles/blogs/you tube videos on how to stay motivated – go look at those because I’m not about to give you a list of 5 ways to stay motivated.  The truth is, motivation wavers.  No matter how many tips and tricks you know, there will come a time when you are simply unmotivated. You’re not feeling it.  If you’ve really been pushing yourself in the gym, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few days off and giving your body and mind a break from the daily grind.  But if after a few days off, you’re still lacking motivation – you really just have to choose to keeping fighting for your goals despite your feelings.  We do things all the time that we don’t want to do because we have to do them.  So stop waiting for motivation.  Tell yourself you can leave after 30 minutes of activity if you’re still feeling blah and don’t want to do a full 45 min-1hr.  But get yourself to the gym, keep pushing on, and eventually the motivation will strike again.

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How I Recovered From Anorexia and Bulimia

When people first found out I was in recovery from an eating disorder, the most common question I got was “how did you do it? How did you get better?” People are desperate for a one line answer, an easy fix. Because all the therapy mumbo jumbo feels too detailed to in depth, too hard for someone in the throws of an eating disorder. And families just want to be able to tell their loved one “do this and you’ll be better.” But unfortunately, I never had an easy answer, and I couldn’t really think of what specifically finally changed in me.  It was learning to be honest, it was doing my counseling homework, following a meal plan, praying, practicing mindfulness – it was a thousand different things.  But today I had somewhat of an epiphany.

I’m reading this book “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely” by Lysa TerKeurst.  (all the quotes in this post are from that book).  I’m really excited about reading it because I’ve been wrestling with some insecurity that I can boil down to my fear of being unloveable. In one of the first chapters, Lysa talks about how rejection can start to whisper lies to us about who we are and eventually we base our identity on those lies.  That’s exactly what happened to me with Anorexia & Bulimia.  Anorexia told me I was a waste of a person, that there was nothing good about me.  Bulimia told me that I was too much, too fat, too boring, too ugly.  And I started letting those lies shape my identity.  I was trapped in a cycle of self loathing for nearly a decade, and it took several treatment facilities, trips to the ER, recovery programs, broken relationships, countless sermons and prayers until I finally realized what I had to do to break free.  I had to radically redefine my identity.

“It wasn’t just a better feeling that I needed; I needed a completely new way of defining my identity.  I needed truth to inform what I believed about myself.”

I had tried for years to hold onto my identity of “never good enough” while trying to glue on top of that things that I had learned in therapy. The way I lived was “never good enough” but I’m learning to set boundaries. “Never good enough” but appreciate what your body can do. “Never good enough” but serve others and be selfless. “Never good enough” but work hard anyway. And that way of living would legit never be good enough to recover from an eating disorder.

“Old patterns of thought must be torn out, and a new way of looking at the core of who I am using God’s truth has to be put into place.  My identity must be anchored to the truth of who God is & who He is to me.  Only then can I find stability beyond what my feelings will ever allow.”

Trying to glue therapy lessons on top of a false identity wasn’t going to cut it.  I had to completely tear down my identity of “not good enough” and start basing my identity in who God is & who He says I am. A book that was extremely helpful in my recovery was “Lies That Kill” by Rob Randall.  He wrote about common lies people believe about God and about themselves and then he argued those lies with truth about who God really is and who I really am as a child of God – and he used Scripture to back it up which gave me more of a firm foundation to what I was wanting my best to believe and live out of. By taking time to really uncover what lies I was believing and talking and praying through the truth, piece by piece I was able to rebuild my identity on a solid foundation – the foundation of who I am in Christ and who He really is.

“I’m not who that guy says I am…I’m not what social media likes & comments say I am…I’m not who the scale says I am or the sum total of what my flaws say I am.  I’m going to stop flirting with the unstable things of this world so I can fall completely in love with You.  I am loved. I am held. I am Yours. I am forever Yours.”

I pray you live knowing that you are loved today.

<3,
Jill

Uninvited