Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

This one is a long one, so hang in there.

I have been into the whole healthy lifestyle thing for many years now. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, fallen off track quite a few times and still haven’t mastered it 100% to this day, but every time I somehow made my way back on the track. Even if it took me two weeks to get back on track for only a week. Now I am neither a nutritionist nor a fitness guru nor do I look like one but I have a little story that I want to share with you today. To be more precise, I would like to share my story with you today.

Where do I start. I have never really opened up about this much in the past and still it is a topic I keep in the quiet. The reason why I am sharing this now is partly because of my younger cousin. Now I have gone through a bit of an appearance change over the past two years, in other words I lost quite a bit of weight. Personally weight was always something I was struggling with since the beginning of puberty and only recently have I lost a fair amount of it. Now I was never extremely overweight, but still quite big.

When I went back home last summer to visit my family, my younger cousin, who is very similar in terms of body shape etc. and also struggling with her weight like I did, asked me how I achieved it. I felt bad that I couldn’t really give her a proper answer because really I wasn’t sure what caused my weight loss suddenly. Now I am not saying that I just suddenly dropped 10kg overnight for whatever mystical reason, no, I worked out regularly and ate healthy about 80% of the time. The thing is, I have always been doing that. All throughout my teen years I have always worked out regularly and consumed healthy food, but I never lost weight before. I had a pretty good childhood and also my teen years weren’t awful, but because of my weight and body image issues I had a pretty bad eating disorder throughout most of my teen years. I won’t go into detail as I want to keep the focus on something else in this post, but in order to complete the story I need to mention it. So yeah I starved myself for most of my teen years. At 16 years of age, I decided it was enough. I had enough.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘I had enough sounds’ a lot like I turned around my life and suddenly it was all rainbows and sunshine. And you are right, I did turn around my life, but unlike rainbows and sunshine I slipped down a steep slope all the way to rock bottom. I thought living a life of restrictions and in a caloric deficit was bad, but it didn’t compare to what I went through after I stopped my restrictions. I am missing the words to describe what I felt like. Tiredness, sluggishness, unmotivated, sadness and emptiness don’t even come close to what I felt. I wasn’t suicidal though, maybe depressed and anxious. I think the best way to describe how I felt is comparing it to a ghost in a shell. You felt so much, it became a nothing. A sort of emptiness, a void. In a space filled with noises and laughter you feel like the decorative statue. Like a robot you function, but everything becomes automatic. You lose complete control over yourself and everything you do is an action committed by you but without any will or thought behind it. You just do it, like a ghost in a shell. I didn’t like that feeling, so I fought. I tried filling the void with something, anything really. My something became food. The thing I was so terrified of for years suddenly became my ‘medicine’. And so I started eating. I ate and ate and ate. Anything. It didn’t matter wether I enjoyed it or not, I ate it anyways. No matter how much I ate, no amount could fill the void I felt.

Coming from a restrictive background, once you start eating more again, it makes sense that you gain weight. It is part of the healing process. But if you’re coming from really bad body image and mental health issues, this is the worst possible thing you could think of happening. You are suddenly stuck in a devils circle unable to decide wether you should starve or fill that void. As you are trying decide, you just keep slipping further and further down the slope. Within half a year I gained 15kg. I had officially hit rock bottom.

I hated myself. I don’t know if people noticed it. To be quite frankly I couldn’t have cared less. I was drowning in my self-hatred toxic soup. The ugliness I felt inside, started showing on the outside. I was moody, anti-social and sometimes even cruel to everything around me. It didn’t matter how nice you were to me, I couldn’t be nice to you. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I plain up wasn’t able to be anything else but miserable. Like a flower I wilted away. My grades were dropping, my friends circle became smaller and my pant size bigger. As time went on, miserable became my normal.

I don’t exactly remember when things started getting better again, but sometime over my last summer break before graduating something changed. My family and I went camping in New Zealand for two weeks and when I came back things were different. I was doing better. Maybe a break from my current routine broke the bad rhythm I was moving in or the fresh air, who knows. Fact is I was doing better. One day as I was scrolling through my phone I came past a video, one of those inspirational speeches on the law of attraction. Now I am not going to tell you, you should listen to motivational speeches or believe in the law of attraction and it will change your life, that is completely up to you to decide, but for me personally, it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. The speeches brought me back hope and a will, a will to strive for my dreams again. When every voice in my head went ‘you can’t’, they said ‘oh but you can’. They got me hooked completely. Everyday I would listen to an hour speech and every time I became more hopeful and more motivated. And as time went on, I started seeing changes in my behaviour like I started exercising again and then eating better. I started taking care of myself without hesitation. When I was giving myself a bad time for not doing something, they either helped me find the motivation to go for what I wanted or they taught me to forgive myself. The more I listened to these speeches, the more interested I got into this topic. I started researching and came upon a whole new world of positive thinking. As I read through article after article, quote after quote, I started paying attention to smaller things, I started getting excited over the fact that the sun was peaking through my blinds, that my avocado was ripe for once and that the sunset reflected in the building opposite of my balcony. I was still struggling with what I saw in the mirror every morning, but I knew I was doing something and that all I needed to do was be patient. Patience, something I had never had before when it came to myself. I was doing so well that at some point I had to take out a piece of paper and write down how I felt in order for me to reassure myself I wasn’t dreaming. Heck I was doing so well, when school had long started again and everyone was in their ‘ah when is it Friday again’ mood, I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and leave for school. I was more excited than the preschoolers!

I could go on and on about how I was becoming better and better, but I am going to stop here now. Coming back to my weight, did you notice as I was getting better the mentioning of the word weight was barely there? This whole process started about mid July and by the time my birthday came around in January, I had lost a whooping 8-10kg. Now I did the same thing as always, I exercised and ate healthy. I even had quite a few movie nights with cookies and ice cream. But this is where things are going to become important, you see my regiment was the same as when I was restricting, exercise and healthy foods. The difference though was my mind. While I was constantly comparing myself to everyone and putting myself down in the past for any muck ups I had, this time around I didn’t. I had muck ups and plenty of them, but instead of drowning myself in a toxic pool of guilt, I said ‘ok, that wasn’t really ideal but it is okay’. I started excepting my fault, big thighs, cellulite covered bum and forgiving myself for any mistakes I made. It took some time and a lot of ‘oh just shut up brain’, but eventually I made it to where I am today. 10kg lighter and 10x more happy. You see the difference to the other trial runs and this one was, that I wasn’t just healing my body but also my mind. From the start it was my mind that needed the healing and not so much my body. My body would have eventually adapted and showed result, but it was my mind that didn’t allow my body to show these results to me. No one around me ever thought of me as fat or ugly as I did, except for myself, a common case for many of us. Most of us are so critical about themselves, the mind starts changing the image we see in the mirror and how we feel.

Health is a controversy topic, but personally, I believe we can only be as healthy as our mind is. Just because a person has a nice physic, doesn’t determine their health. I know so many people, who don’t give two fs of what they put into their bodies and still look like they could walk down a runaway tomorrow, but are drowning in their own toxic minds. On the other hand if our minds are healthy, everything becomes easier. You start doing thing that benefit yourself because you know it will make you feel good afterwards. Your focus shifts and weight becomes unimportant.

If there is anything you should take from this story than it is the following. The next time you look down on yourself, criticise the reflection you see in the mirror or think about skipping a meal to loose weight, remember you can only be as healthy as your mind is. Because when your mind is healthy and happy, your body will follow in its footsteps and not the other way.