BED & the Gym
I think I’m going to throw up from nerves.
I’m sweaty and anxious, self-conscious and my inner dialog couldn’t possibly be more negative, and yet, I’m here voluntarily.
This is an intersection of old coping habits, new information, hypocrisy, courage, shame, fear and the old family stand-by, “just walk it off”. I know I need to listen closely, do my research, get support and massage all the self compassion out of my soul that I can because if I don’t, I’m not going to be open to the possibilities. I won’t be ‘mindful’, but rather I’ll be in crisis.
The crisis isn’t just the idea that I’ll slip back into my ED; the frenzied feelings of not being good enough, not making “progress” fast enough, not being thin enough, young enough, have good enough form. No, not limited to the familiar, comfortable demons that skate increasingly faster circles in my head, where the blades scraping off the ice of my mind ring phrases like “if you do X every day and reduce Y for the next 3 months, you could be a size Z by the holidays”. The crisis for me is more complex. It has to do with the fact that I’m self-conscious about the agility I’ve lost because I no longer know my body well enough to work in harmony with it and I don’t really know or trust my internal cues to tell me if I’m uncomfortable because I’m diving into movement too quickly, or that I’m actually succumbing to my exercise resistant introvert. (Yes, there are parts of me that are intensely private and protective – shy is a feeling I’m in touch with though many may not know that about me).
But I’m here and I’m willing to try.
I’ve done the things that I think are helpful. I’ve met with a trainer who gave me a free assessment and who introduced me to the instructor for this class. She made certain that he would show modifications for the exercises and encouraged me by discussing my strengths and where I need to protect my body as I begin strength training.
The next hurdle in the gym environment was a little easier because I have the language to use due to my advocacy – I’m not interested in a diet. When I explained that diets are counter productive to ED recovery I could see that she didn’t quite understand, but that’s ok. It’s my job to protect myself, not necessarily make sure that everyone I encounter can get an A on the ‘how to support people with eating disorders’ test. She was gracious when I declined her offer for diet advice and that’s all I need. I like her but I know for certain that she’s not trained to work with people who begin exercising from a HAES® perspective rather than a desire for weight loss and this will most likely be the case with anyone I meet here.
So, that brings me here, to my first cardio/strength training class. A room surrounded in mirrors that only amplify the raging storm of commentary in my head telling me to leave, that I won’t be able to make it through the class, that it’ll be uncomfortable, that I’m too far gone, that movement was something I used to be good at before I became good at other things, and so on. But here I stand as people filter in and I see that I am not alone.
Size diversity exists in gym classes too.
Though I know it intellectually, the part of me still in recovery and based in shame had completely discounted the fact that even at the gym, people come in a full spectrum of body types. That media does not use bodies representative of all people – colors, shapes, ages, sizes, and ability. Clearly I’m still vulnerable to the bullshit we’re served about value, worth, expectations and privilege.
So here comes the music, the motivational instructor and the realization that we’re all about to engage in activities where nobody could possibly be paying attention to what I’m doing (or not doing) or how new and awkward I am. Every person is there to be self-involved and interested in their own experience, not mine.
I have a lot of feelings I need to unpack, but I addressed one item today. I showed up and I stayed.