Remember very recently when I started off a post with the exact words “I am not a dancer”?
Guess what? I changed my mind.
Lately, I’ve been starting to work my way back to a normal exercise regimen. I swim twice a week, have begun strength training (I lift at the gym – eeee!), and do a lot of yoga. Like, a lot of yoga. Probably more yoga than a human being should do. I just love the feeling of being all stretched out and pretzel-y.
The thing is, maintaining a healthy relationship with food is only part of recovering from an eating disorder like mine. That comes first, of course, but a healthy relationship with exercise is also important. After all, there’s a reason doctors recommend 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week – it’s healthy. And ultimately, recovering from my eating disorder means having a lifestyle that is balanced and healthy in every way.
So, with the blessing of both of my wonderful doctors, who are finally happy with my vital signs (HALLELUJAH), here I am.
When I was sick, I had a terrible relationship with exercise. I ran miles and miles every day before I would allow myself to eat anything at all. I was brutalizing my body, expecting it to continue performing at extremely high levels without stretching, resting, or fueling. Every time I laced up my running shoes, it was about the calories I was going to burn. Nothing more.
This time I’m being really careful. I’m taking everything I do slowly and deliberately and paying attention to its effects on my body. I stop when I’m tired, regardless of how much I feel like I “should” be able to do. I eat more when I’m hungry and shaky after a long swim. And I’m not going to pretend like I can lift anything more than a ten-pound dumbbell. Have you seen the sticks that are attached to my upper body? I’m lucky I even can lift my math textbooks.
Oh, and I’m not running. For now. Until I can be positive that it won’t be a trigger, I’m just steering clear. I think that’s probably for the best.
But most importantly, I’m not measuring the quality of my physical activity by any aspect of my appearance. I don’t weigh myself anymore. I don’t body check my stomach or my thighs in the mirror whenever I have a spare moment. I don’t get that gleeful feeling of satisfaction when I have to punch a new hole in my belt, or that horrible self-loathing when my clothes fit slightly tighter.
Instead, I’m taking the time to appreciate all the awesome things my body can already do, like swim a technically perfect crawl stroke and sit comfortably in a Turkish Twist. And when I find myself pushing during a workout, it’s not because I want to burn more calories or lose more weight. It’s because I’m consistently amazed by the tricks this seemingly inadequate body can pull out of nowhere.
I mean, I started doing yoga to relieve stress. Gentle yoga. Like, stretching. And I had a really hard time with it. I couldn’t touch my toes or sit up straight with my legs extended, which was pretty embarrassing because all the 60+-year-old women in the class definitely could. But just by going to class twice a week, I am now able to say with great pride that not only can I touch my toes (standing or sitting) but I can also put my foot behind my head. Which is pretty freakin’ cool.
On a whim, two days ago, I enrolled in a beginner adult ballet class. It’s been in the back of my mind as “something cool to try one day” since high school, but then it hit me – why not now? So I registered, ordered myself a leotard and a pair of ballet slippers, and asked my roommate to help me figure out how to get my super-short hair into a bun (I expect a struggle is coming).
It’s something new. It’s something I’ve never done before, unless you count the ballet/tap/jazz class I took when I was five, which I don’t. It’s something that I know I’m not very good at, and I’m doing it by myself, which is pretty terrifying. But it’s also another way to learn to appreciate and strengthen my body, and I’m lucky to be given the opportunity to do that.
So I may not be a dancer. But I’m going to dance my way through recovery whether ED likes it or not.