anorexia · body image · guest post · mental health · writings

Guest Post : Self Love & Recovery

Hey hey hey!

In an ironic twist of fate I have ANOTHER Genevieve guest posting today. I guess we Genevieves of the world have a lot to say! As many of my readers know, I have struggled on and off with anorexia since 1996 so eating disorders and body positivity are topics near and dear to my heart. I am trying to share more of these topics on the blog instead of occasionally sharing so I thought that Genevieve’s story about her search to find self love and recovery is one that will resonate many people.

Hey ya’ll, just a bit about me before we dive into this! My name is Genevieve I run a blog/youtube channel called PrettyinPowerlifting where I talk about all sorts of exercise, nutrition, and woman-specific topics. But today I’d like to discuss self-love, specifically during the life-long recovery process associated with having an eating disorder.

I began calorie restricting when I was in middle school innocently enough by opting for a salad for lunch in school. It was what my mother always ate when she wanted to lose or control her weight. From there it gathered speed until the summer after my Freshman year of college when I began severely restrict while running 4-5 days a week. Within four months I had fractured part of my hip complex, specifically the neck of my femur just before the ball that locks into that ball-and-socket hip joint. From there on out I couldn’t exercise to the same extreme, and they had me working with a nutritionist to make sure I was getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that would ensure my 19 year old body didn’t continue to break.

I’m not sure exactly when my “recovery” began officially, but I can say that it hasn’t been a linear progression the past four years.

Along the way I’ve developed some habits that help me get through the tough times and the hard days, the days or weeks that I can’t seem to find enough love for myself or my body. That I can’t appreciate my emotional or mental growth for fear of being physically inadequate.

For starters, I found it extremely beneficial to do away with all sorts of measurements when I first started my recovery.

This I did mostly by accident at first, but it is a skill that I try to keep up with even now as much as possible. For me, there was always a stigma and pressure surrounding a scale. For a long time I just didn’t weigh myself, I didn’t take any measurements of my waist or hips or bust.

Even now I find myself emotionally entangled in a scale that displays a number in pounds, but I can emotionally detach from that number in kilos. I didn’t do any calculations of the food I was eating or the calories I was or wasn’t burning.

I ate when I was hungry and then when I got used to eating an adequate amount I started to think about the nutritional composition of my food.

I removed “good” and “bad” from my food vocabulary.

A cookie isn’t a “bad” food, it’s just a food with sugar and fats in it. Plain chicken and rice isn’t a “good” food, it’s just protein and complex carbohydrates.

Looking at things objectively and taking the measurements and evaluations out of my life made it easier for me to give my body the nutrition it craved without sending my mind down the rabbit hole.

I also found other avenues for growth that I could explore.

I started reading more non-fiction, books about how people turned their lives around, changed their outlook on the world, started businesses, made six figures, etc.

I learned more and more about eating disorders, ways to change your perception of things, meditation, and nutrition.

I poured my heart and soul into music and art, I do have a background in music so this was an easy outlet for me, but I also ordered an adult coloring book off of Amazon. It’s something simple to release stress and let me turn off my mind for a few minutes to a few hours. When I can’t seem to escape my mind and I’m feeling out of control and lost in myself, this reprieve can keep me going through the day.

When I can’t focus on a book I’ll listen to a podcast. Take a drive or sit in a park and listen to a good podcast, recently I’ve been going through Erin Brown and Neghar Fonooni’s Nasty Women podcast. Most of it is very raw, very feminist, and rather taboo. But I love how confidently these two women discuss difficult topics and how the approach concepts that society tries to cover up or shame.

And sometimes, I escape through television.

Find a new show on Netflix and binge watch. I try to avoid this method unless I have already accomplished everything in a day, because once I start I know I’ll want to keep going and I’ll lose whatever productivity I might’ve mustered.

Which leads me to my next strategy of coping with relapses.

Honor what you need.

When I have a rough episode, as I’ve come to call them, I need to be honest with myself about what I can handle. I’m exceptionally Type A, over-achiever, all or nothing. But when I’m having a hard time with nutrition, whether that be restricting or bingeing, it’s difficult for me to stay on board with the rest of my life as well. When that happens, I try to table anything that isn’t a 100% priority.

For me, those are work, training, and laundry.

Everything else is optional. If my room gets messy, okay I’ll clean it in a few days when I feel better. If I put off some blog articles or social events, people will understand. If possible, I rearrange any socializing that can’t be rescheduled.

For instance, this past week was incredibly tough on me. I have always experienced restrictive eating, but rarely was I ever tempted to binge. The guilt and disgust I felt with myself post-binge this week was unreal.

I was terrified to be left alone with food.

My boyfriend stayed over most nights, and we rescheduled him meeting my college roommate from a dinner out to an afternoon in the park. Things like that make it a little less tempting to binge or starve yourself if you don’t put yourself in the scenario to be at risk for those behaviors.

I also needed to honor the emotions I was feeling.

I was angry with myself when I felt the urge to binge or when I gave in to that urge. I was embarrassed about how much trouble I was having. I felt out of control with my mind and body. And mostly, I was terrified and hurting 24/7. All I wanted to do was curl up and cry, and as much as I tried to fight that feeling at some point I knew it had to catch me. It always does. And when it did, when I spent what felt like hours crying about everything from that week. All of a sudden that weight started to dissipate.

I woke up the next day feeling slightly more myself. Have I fallen off again? Yes. I’ve had a few moments, hours, that were difficult. That I was exceptionally hard on myself and wanted to restrict. Or that I felt like nothing mattered and wanted to binge.

But I’ve also had moments of clarity.

Where I value and love myself and my body. I know I’ll continue to struggle as I move forward, but that’s the beauty of a journey. And I’m honoring that, knowing that if I can honor it even when it hurts I’ll always come out the other side better for it.

My final words: You have fought through this before. You will fight through it again. And again. And maybe again.

Do what you have to do to get through it. Honor yourself. Find ways to distract your mind whether it be art, music, reading, podcasts, writing, or TV. Honor your emotions. Cry if you need to, yell if you need to, be whatever you can or whatever you need to be. Don’t let society or other people pressure you into doing more than you’re up for. The world will understand. Don’t let yourself pressure you into keeping up the same standards, you’ll do better work if you put it off for a few days or a week until you can tackle it with a clear head. It isn’t like nobody has ever extended a deadline before.

Take yourself out of the situation as much as you can mentally. It’s a bad day, not a bad life. And this is something happening to you.

It doesn’t have to define you.

About the author:

 Genevieve Cohen has struggled with body image and disordered eating since her early teens, and has been in recovery for the past 3-4 years. A stress fracture in her hip joint served as a major wake up call to change her habits, and forced her to change her gym routine. Through this she began lifting weights and got into powerlifting. In the years to follow she has excelled as a lifter, started to share her journey, and become a certified personal trainer and nutritionist so as to help ensure the health of others. She can be found on various social media platforms sharing the ups and downs of her journey and any knowledge she gains along the way.
 Instagram: gennamichelle93

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