Losing weight after anorexia – A very long post

Today I went to the gym for the first time in seven months. I had an ok workout, and at the end of it I thought I would weigh myself, just out of curiosity since I don’t have a scale at home and I’m totally oblivious to my own heaviness.

Turns out, I put on 4kg.

My first reaction was, Well, this explains why I can’t zip up my jeans anymore – a thought shortly followed by: I better run for longer than 20 minutes next time.
I immediately felt bad. Why should gaining weight be associated to something negative? Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?

What does it mean to want to lose weight from the perspective of someone who has suffered from an eating disorder?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, so today’s episode is the perfect occasion to finally talk about it.

Disclaimer: YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR WEIGHT. The number on the scale is not representative of what you are as a person. You are beautiful and worthy regardless of your weight.
(Also, I’m not going to talk numbers as I know that it can be triggering, plus everybody is different and the same weight will not look the same on different body types. Also, it doesn’t freaking matter. All I’m going to say is that I am currently 4kg heavier than I was seven months ago.)

If you know me in real life you’ll know that I’m a very short person, and any weight I put on or lose I can feel, and you can see. Now, I’m not too concerned about what I look like so much as how I feel. When I saw that number on the scale, I realised it wasn’t much of a surprise after all: I’ve been feeling that I’d gotten a bit heavier in the past months.

My weight has fluctuated a bit in the first couple of years after recovering from anorexia.
I was at my heaviest during my Masters in London, when the majority of my diet consisted of beer and cheese. Back then, I had a nice fat roll around my stomach, a considerable bum, and a chubby round face. Interestingly, that was also the happiest I’ve ever been, as I was surrounded by mega supportive people who couldn’t care less about how big my behind was, and it was the perfect environment to be after recovering from an eating disorder. I was also at my fittest: I was playing basketball every day multiple times a day, I could do 93 push-ups in one minute and I would run like the wind.
But in spite as being happy and fit as fuck, I knew that was not my ideal body weight. Most importantly, I knew I was eating a terrible, unhealthy diet. When  moved back to Italy after graduation, I effortlessly shed all the excess weight just by eating regular meals at regular times (and drastically reducing my consumption of beer and cheese).
That was the first time I realised how important it is to eat well. I learned how to fuel my body so it can work at its best, and since then my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I never felt like I wanted to get thinner, if anything I wanted to get fitter in times when I wasn’t exercising enough, but once I reached my natural weight I stopped giving it much though.

Fast-forward to now: I am quite active, I play basketball, do yoga and I have a job that keeps me on my feet all day. However, I have also been eating crap.
This is something I’ve been whining about in months: since moving to New Zealand my diet has drastically changed, I went from eating an abundance of fruit and veggies to living off bread and sugary cereals due to the fact that food and produce are quite expensive here. I’m also not drinking enough water and sitting down a lot – which is my own fault.
So I’m pretty confident in saying that this time round my four extra kilos are unfortunately not muscles. And on top of storing the crap I’m eating as excess rolls of fat, my skin has also been breaking out pretty badly, and my mood in general has been all over the place.

So, what am I going to do about all this? I’ll be honest with you: I do want to lose weight. But the reason behind it is that it doesn’t feel good. And here is the big difference between wanting to get thinner from an eating disorder’s perspective, and wanting to feel better in your own body from a healthy perspective.
When you suffer from anorexia, you don’t see yourself as you truly are. Even if you’re reduced to a bunch of skin and bones, you still see yourself as fat. You think you are horrible, disgusting and unworthy. In fact, you don’t think like that: your eating disorder does.
When you recover, you start developing a healthier vision of yourself. You look in the mirror and you see yourself for what you really are. You are able to close your eyes and picture your body exactly how it is in reality, and not a distorted version of it. If you’re gaining or losing weight, this is no longer a matter of life or death, it’s just something that’s happening, it’s your body changing, and you are able to recognise that. You exercise in order to get fit and strong and because you enjoy it, not in order to burn calories or to punish yourself.

And this is where I am now.

Can someone who has suffered from an eating disorder still want to lose weight? Yes.
Is it dangerous? Only if done in an unhealthy way.
Am I in a safe place to say I want to lose weight? Yes.

However. I’m not going to make losing weight my priority. The reason why I would like to shed these four extra kilos is because I know I am heavier than my natural body weight and I know I feel at my best when I’m a bit leaner and more toned.
I’ve never been on a diet and I’m not planning on going on one, if this is what you are worrying about.
What I’m going to do is put my health on the top of my priorities. I will focus on only eating fresh, clean food that has a nutritional value (fries don’t, cookies don’t). I will be organised and pack myself a healthy lunch instead of grabbing a pie and a giant cookie at the gas station every day. I will drink more water. I will bring my ass to the gym.
All of this I’m going to do because it makes me feel good.
This way I know that even if I don’t focus on losing weight per se, I probably will by simply cutting out the junk from my diet, getting my ass moving, and concentrating on my health.

Your body changing is completely natural and ok. You should not be freaked out by putting on some extra kg. However, it’s good to also get know your body and learn what makes it happy. And if you’re reading this and you do have a past with eating disorders, I feel you and I love you and I want you to be in a safe place. You are beautiful and worthy and you deserve to be as healthy and happy as you can possibly be.

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Elaborating struggles – Part 2

The second reason why I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated recently (see previous post) is that I’ve been struggling to take care of myself.
In the past months (years?) I’ve been working really hard to become the best version of myself, and I got to a point where I know what makes me feel good. Theoretically, I could be 100% all the time. I know what my body needs, how its needs change throughout the course of every month (a lot of my body fluctuations are period-related), and how to meet said needs. I also know how my head works (well, most of the time) and how to create a safe, calm and serene mental space.

But for some reason, it seems like I can never be bothered to listen to my body and mind’s needs.
For example, I know that simply drinking a glass of water and do some stretching first thing in the morning would make a huge difference to boost my mood for the day. Yet, I hardly ever do it. Or better, I seem to only be willing to do things that make me feel good when I’m already feeling good enough to do them.
Let me explain: if one morning I wake up feeling happy, relaxed and energised, I would feel more motivated to drink my water and spend some time on the yoga mat before starting my day. On the other hand, if I wake up feeling groggy, uninspired, with troubles on my mind, all I want to do is wrap myself in a burrito blanket and spend my day on the couch binge-watching #vanlife videos on YouTube. In other words, it’s very easy for me to dwell in self pity. If I don’t feel great, I feel like there’s no point in trying to feel better. I’ll just accept that it’s a bad day and roll with it.
This ends up being a vicious cycle, because I need to feel good to take care of myself, but I need to take care of myself to feel good. Plus, in a situation like the one I’m in now, where I’ve been stressed for months, you can see why this can get dangerous.

Luckily, the other day at yoga I had one of my revelations.
I’ve been going to hot yoga for the past couple of weeks (long story), and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit I have to say. Last Friday I forced myself to go to a 7am class, spurred by the desire to clear my mind after a post-basketball vexation and the prospective of the class being taught by a super hot instructor (which is the main reason why I’ve been going in the first place). However, the hottie wasn’t there, and I was knackered after the game the night before, so I sat in Sukhasana already predicting a bad practice.
Halfway through, we were doing some weird pose that I’d never done before and that required a lot of balance (which I don’t have), and I kept on wobbling and falling and was getting really annoyed. When we shifted to downward-facing dog to recover, I told myself, Fucking. STOP. This.
Stop being annoyed. Stop focusing on what you can’t do. (This was also basketball-related). What’s the point? Instead of getting frustrated because you can’t hold a pose, think about what your body is already doing for you, acknowledge it and accept it.

And so I did. I couldn’t do all the poses and I spent more time in child’s pose than most people, but by the end of the practice I felt relaxed, tired as fuck but at peace with myself. I walked home as the sun was rising, watched people going to work, smiling at the thought that it was only 8am and I’d already accomplished so much.
At home I sat back on my yoga mat and did some more breathing exercises. I can never do yoga for more than two weeks at a time because I always end up losing interest, however this time I’d really like to keep it up. I’ve learned that yoga shifts the focus from what your body looks like to what your body can do – and that’s pretty awesome.

Conclusions:

  1. Think about what you can do rather than what you can’t, and try to understand why you can’t do what you can’t do.
  2. It’s ok to feel crap sometimes, as long as you don’t let the crappiness ruin your day. Just embrace it as something you’re going through, but do something to change it.
  3. Remind yourself what makes you feel good and fucking do it. You are worth of feeling awesome every day.

 

Elaborating struggles – Part 1

Dear readers,
I’d like for apologize for the inconsistency of my posting, and for the fact that recently I’ve been whining and complaining about personal stuff rather than posting constructive content. The truth is, a lot has been going on in my mind in the past month or so.
I haven’t really been stressed, but I’ve definitely been experience a certain level of frustration due to a couple of factors: my job situation, and my relationship with myself (which will be explored in a separate post).

I think I’ve mentioned that I have a job walking dogs which I love (when I tell people what I do, the most common response is, Wow, it must be your dream job – and it sure is). However most days when I get back home after work I feel like I’m 13 years old and I’m making pocket money by walking the neighbour’s dog after school. My employer has a long-term plan that sees me becoming a part of the business, being assigned my own area of the city, finding my own clients and making this a full-time occupation. This sounds good, however she made it very clear that it will take years before it happens, and in the meantime I’m making $100 a week that I have to decide if I want to spend on grocery or to pay our electricity bill.

Now, it’s not really about the money (although I do miss being financially independent), what I miss the most is stability.
I know what you’re thinking: What? Stability? You? The crazy head who moves to a different country every other year? The one whose ultimate dream is to live in a van?
Well, yes. I still want to live in every country in the world, but once I am in a country I do need stability. It stresses me out a lot not knowing when and where I’m going to work next, what hours I’m going to do, how much I’m going to get paid and when. As much as I love petting dogs, I don’t like having to call my employer every Sunday night to ask her for my schedule for the week. I never know what days I’m off, sometimes I plan my day and dogs get cancelled or added at the last minute, and on top of all this I don’t have a steady income.
I never thought I would say this, but I long for a routine. I’ve been carefree long enough. Now all I want is a fixed schedule, at least 30 hours of work a week, and decent money in my bank account.

Bottom line: I’M NEVER HAPPY. I know. And this would lead me to my second point – how I’m dealing with my messy self – but again this post would be too long. In the meantime I just wanted to throw some questions out there, which I’ve been mulling over for a while now, and I still haven’t found an answer to.

How the fuck do you deal with being constantly dissatisfied? Should you keep on hunting for more, or simply settle for what you have and accept that you don’t always get what you want in life? Is it ok to always feel like you could do better? I always thought that not feeling 100% fulfilled was a great prompt to push myself to look for more, but what if it means that I’m actually… Never happy?
Does any of this make any sense?

If anybody out there knows how to deal with all this, I’d very much appreciate some help. And thanks for bearing with me.

If you’re not happy, make a change

Today I had one of the best conversations of my life. (I love keeping track of them. Remember this?)

This afternoon I met up with a friend who’s been away in Europe for the past six weeks or so, so we had a lot of catching up to do. In spite of being someone I met randomly through basketball not even that long ago, she’s one of the few people that I immediately felt 100% relaxed and confident to open up to. I feel a strong connection to her even though I realise I only know her on a superficial level – or better, I know one part of her very well, but I don’t really know much about other aspects of her life or her past before New Zealand.
Anyway. She’s been going through some tough times recently, and this is what we talk about the most. Since I’m also not having the best of times, it’s great to have someone who totally gets me to share my troubles with. Although the origin of our distress is not the same, we can still relate to each other in terms of stress, frustration, and how we deal with them.

What I love about my friend is how she processes things. I also constantly overanalyse myself, but she does it in a more methodical, structured way. When she’s dealing with a problem that seems overwhelming at first, she deconstructs it in smaller parts and copes with each of them individually, overcoming them one by one. (For the records, I have no idea if this is actually how her mind works, this is just what I get from our conversations.) But this is super helpful for me as well, as I’m learning to apply the same strategy to my own problems, which now seem so much more manageable and less insurmountable.
Every time I’m with her, I’m learning something new about myself. Also, she’s made me a much better listener.
I hope I’m somehow helping her too.

Today I told her about my unstable work situation and how stressed I’ve been feeling. In return, she shared some of her recent development on getting over a breakup (by the way, I’m SO proud of her for being so strong and getting to where she is now).
Over our flat whites, we came to the conclusion that life is always going to be crappy. There is always going to be something wrong with it, something we don’t like, something we want to fix – and we are always going to look at other people’s lives and think, I wish I had that. But guess what? They are probably thinking the same about our life. Nobody’s life is perfect, and shit is always going to happen. What we can do is find a way to be ok with it no matter what.

My life hasn’t exactly been a stroll in the park since moving here. Sure, I’ve been enjoying the crap out of it for the most part, but there have been times of discomfort and frustration (especially lately). Not having a stable job is being really difficult for me to handle. Before leaving for New Zealand, Giac and I both knew that it would have been easier for him to find a job than for me, but one thing is to know it, another is to experience it. I’m not gonna lie, I’m struggling with this worse than I’d expected. And because of how I am, the moment something goes slightly wrong, I immediately enlarge it to the extreme, until everything is wrong and I hate my life.

And my automatic reaction has been to blame it on New Zealand (see: my latest post. Lesson learned: never publish a blog post when you’re grumpy). But this has nothing to do with New Zealand. I had problems in London too. I had problems in Italy, in Edinburgh – I had different problems, but I still had them in every single place I’ve lived.
So I’m taking my friend’s piece of advice and detach my problems from this place, and delve into my own self instead. I’m focusing on the positives, on all the good things I have, on what I’ve achieved rather than on what I’m lacking.
I freaking love this country for so many reasons, which outweigh the reasons why I dislike it by far, and the last thing I want is to start associating New Zealand to bad, negative memories, to the point where I will start counting the days until I can leave. I know I will one day move somewhere else, but I want it to be because I’ve got to a point where I’m satisfied with my experience here, and not beacuse I am bloody miserable.
And as Giac says, we are in a position where the moment we are not happy we can leave, like, tomorrow. That’s quite a privilege. We can’t really complain about anything. (In fact, this post is becoming the epitome of what I hate: First World white girls whining about First World white girls’ problems). So I’ll cut it short and conclude by saying that I’m working on finding a safe space within myself where I can be ok no matter what.

(Also, I’m glad I got to write something to push my latest post further down the timeline as I’m applying for writing jobs and I can’t link my blog for reference if the first thing my potential employers are gonna see is a post where I say the world fuck fourteen times.)

It’s not all puppies and sunshine

I’m sick as a result of walking dogs in the storm for two days, so you can imagine my level of grumpiness. I hate this weather like I hardly hate anything else, so I thought I’d break it to you: there are also a bunch of things I don’t like about New Zealand.

  • The weather
    Well, this relates to Wellington in particular. Wellington is a lovely city, but like most of the lovely cities I’ve visited/lived in (I’m talking to you, Edinburgh), the reason so it is so lovely is that it has to make up for the shitty weather. I can’t even begin to describe how strong the wind is here. Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, you wouldn’t understand how it feels to try and maintain an erect posture while walking against the wind. Northerly, Southerly, the fuck you know where it comes from, this fucking wind makes it hard to breathe (literally). You can’t either open your car door, or prevent it from swinging wide open right against the car parked next to yours. Sometimes blasts are so strong that the whole house shakes.
    Now, add rain to the wind and you have a fucking storm. This makes it impossible to start walking from point A and reach point B not looking like a psycho-schizo who just stuck their fingers in an electrical socket. I mean all this is great if you are in the windmill business, BUT I JUST NEED TO BE IN A WARM SUNNY PLACE FOR A WHILE OK.

                                                               Before and after

 

rain
Summer

  • Living in an igloo
    I know what you’re about to say: But surely you can just stay nice and cosy inside. NO YOU CAN’T. Because for some reason unknown to me and to probably every other human beings in their right mind, house heating is not a thing in New Zealand. DON’T EVEN ASK. This is probably the thing I hate the most. New Zealand is not the tropics. It’s a fucking cold country. Why on earth would you think that you don’t need fucking radiators? People get by with electrical heaters which are 1. expensive 2. not efficient and 3. fucking lame. I’ve been wearing my ski attire inside for the past couple of months and I still feel the chill inside my bones. I have been constantly cold for the past 12 months (as summer didn’t really happen) and will be for the next six months (as we are going home for Christmas) and I’m not happy about it.

skiMe most days

  • Basically, New Zealand is like Europe 30 years ago
    I know this is probably just me being a spoiled First World country brat, but most of the commodities I’m used to are yet to reach this side of the world. Health and safety regulations, mobile phone plans, free WiFi, people calling you rather than replying to emails…
    Not to mention that it’s SO hard to find nice, good quality gear and clothes over here. I’m big on hiking/sport equipment, and all you can get in New Zealand is lousy, cheap, non-ethical crap from the Warehouse.
    And if you’re hoping to find relief in online shopping…
  • Good luck finding a company that ships all the way over here
    Nobody gives a shit about New Zealand. Amazon NZ doesn’t exist, and its replacement is TradeMe, the lame Kiwi version where everything you want to buy is fucking expensive. Because guess what:
  • Everything is fucking expensive
    When you can’t grow/produce/build stuff on land, you have to import it, and that makes it really expensive. The worst part for me is that greens, fruits and veggies are so freaking pricy. Along with the lack of heating, this is definitely on the Top Three of things that annoy me. A vegan, plant-based diet has always been the cheapest option anywhere else I’ve lived, while here is pretty much as costly as eating meat and cheese, and as we currently live on a part-time income it breaks my heart every time I pay $5.99 for a bell pepper. But I’m trying to find a balance between living on bread and canned fruit and actually eating what makes me feel good.
    (This was also my biggest struggle when we were living in a van. I’ll talk about this in a separate post.)

    farmersmarker
    You can always go to the farmers market, but organic produce will still cost you an arm and a leg

  • We are far away from everything
    This is something I knew but didn’t fully realise until I moved here. New Zealand is fucking far away from fucking everything. Even Australia is 5 hours away on a plane. I miss my friends and family like crazy and it kills me that I can’t just jump on a plane and go home and visit them for a weekend.
  • You can’t get coffee after 4pm
    Coffee is big in New Zealand. However, the heat dies down in the early afternoon and cafes close at 4pm, and after then if you want to meet up with a friend you’ll have to find an alternative drink to chat over.
  • Everything is slow
    Although I do appreciate the Kiwi chillaxed lifestyle, it really bothers me in situations where you need to get things done. It takes forever to get email replies (I’m getting rejected for jobs that I applied for five months ago), organising get-togethers always involves people confirming and never showing up, and just in general everything takes longer than people from the Northern Hemisphere are used to. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that people are never in a rush (that’s what I found sad about London), but sometimes you just want to pay for your groceries without the cashier asking you about your life story and showing you pictures of their granddaughter.
  • Earthquakes
    The first thing I see when I walk into my house and the last thing I see when I leave it is my earthquake kit patiently waiting in the hallway. Now you can imagine how relaxing that is. Everybody knows that an earthquake is going to happen at some point in the near future, and to me this feels like living with the infamous sword of Damocles hanging above my head. It’s just a matter of hoping you’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

quakeOur livingroom after the Kaikoura earthquake

  • It’s fucking hard to get a job
    Number three of the Top Three things I hate is how hard it has been for me to find a job. I pretty much gave up on the idea of getting into Publishing (partly because of the fact that no one ever replied to my emails). I’ve worked in a couple of cafes and I’m now walking dogs which I love but I can’t help but feeling torn between being grateful that I get paid for petting puppies and the frustration of being 31 years old and not having a job that gives me benefits/holidays/sick leave etc.

 

As you can probably tell, im not having the best of days. Also, I think I’ve broken the record for the amount of times I said fuck in one single post. I apologise, but I thought it’d be just fair to make it clear that New Zealand is not this magical happy place that I’m constantly praising in my IG feed. There are things that bother me on different levels – and I’m not gonna lie, some of them I really struggle with. Overall it’s been ok down under so far, but it’s definitely not all puppies and sunshine – quite literally, in my case.