Confessions of a Former Orthorexic "Plant-Powered Princess".
I am certainly not immune to overreacting about my flaws. A couple of days ago I behaved in a way which I am now quite ashamed by and I knew that if I intend to share with integrity I would need to go public. Hopefully, in doing so, and in exposing my vulnerability I can help anyone else who feels the same way.
I had a beautiful photo shoot in a collaboration with a very talented photographer when I was in Varkala. He sent me the photos and I looked over them briefly saying they were good, but when he uploaded one onto his profile my heart froze. I flashed with shame and embarrassment and then rage. The photo we had laughed about during the shoot as I flipped my hair and it stuck out in a funny way. I hated it. I felt my emotions swell and I wanted to cry, a lump appeared in my throat. I had a roll of visible belly fat poking out under my crop top as I sat on a rock and I my hair was a mess. I looked like I just had the most vigorous sneezing fit of my life. Why had he chosen this photo?
I messaged him instantly and begged him to take it down. I felt angry that he had posted it "without asking first", even though I said the 20 pictures he sent me were "awesome" the night before and that was one of them. I was cross at myself for not looking through them more carefully. My mind raced. I saw the photo already had over 60 likes, my cheeks burned as I realised so many people had seen that picture already.
I turned to my friend Hannah and asked if the photo was as awful as I thought it was and she said it was a beautiful natural photo. My inner critic screamed, "she's lying and just being nice because she doesn't want to upset you, look at that roll of flab!" My rational mind told me that everyone can feel totally differently about the same stimulus. My spiritual mind told me I was lost in an ego-based false story and to see the bigger picture. It said that I can choose to let this be a lesson I grow from if I am brave enough to face up to it.
A less self-aware me would have let that ruin my day, but less than 10 minutes after he took down the picture I was ready to go deeper. To call me out on my own BS. "What on earth was all that about?" I asked myself, ready to explore what had triggered such an intense response in my ego and subsequently my emotions.
It all has to do with the stories we tell ourselves. I use the word story, because truly I know I am far more than my physical body, I am far more than my mind. In yogic philosophy, we learn to not identify too much with these things, as they are illusions preventing us from seeing our oneness, infinite, divine nature. When I remember this, all the 'problems I have' about my physical body or my self-confidence melt away. It is impossible to lack confidence or hate your body when you are a divine soul, at one with the universe.
However, I certainly don't live my life in that frame of mind. In autopilot, more often than not my ego mind creates stories about who I am, trying to define me. In my 'ego-centric' story, I have always had a battle with my weight. This is a story I tell myself where I have had a love / hate relationship with my physical body for as long as I can remember. Where my eating habits and weight fluctuations have been a lifelong burden.
I went through a time when I created my instagram where EVERYTHING I did was centred around my physical body. Health and fitness and strict veganism and calorie counting and tracking and weighing and measuring every single morsel to pass my lips. I created an online identity where I tracked my runs, posted pics of my abs, posted photos of nearly every meal I had and hashtagged my health piousness and super slim toned body #vegan #eatclean #abchallenge . I didn't realise until later but I had developed orthorexia.
I worked really hard to stop restricting, and I gained a lot of weight in doing so, I binged and binged on anything and everything I had denied myself in my 'recovery' from my eating disorder. Sometimes, I ate KFC and cried about it, feeling so disgusting and worthless, and out of control. In my disordered thinking being 'vegan' was one way I imposed restrictions on myself so I could avoid unhealthy foods. It gave me an excuse to opt out when people offered sweets, or wanted to eat out in place with unhealthy menus.
I knew I need to let go of my control of food, as it was taking over my whole life. I desperately wanted to live without entering each meal and snack onto My Fitness Pal and not having to "balance" every calorie in with a negating amount of exercise. I decided I would let myself try intuitive eating, and initially it felt liberating but I soon began to gain weight. Gradually at first, and then my appetite became voracious, I would eat whole TRAYS of flapjack in one sitting. Eating until I felt physically sick. It was certainly no longer intuitive.
I wondered why there was something so wrong with me, and how some people managed to keep their figure the same their whole lives. Why was it such a battle for me? I decided to go deeper into my search for how to heal my relationship with my body and my eating.
Recovering from my crazy eating cycles was certainly not linear, but I started to feel more at peace in my mind with the help of my 2 8 week mindfulness courses. The other thing that really helped was voraciously reading so many incredible books on healing my relationship with food such as Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells, What are You Hungry For by Deepak Chopra, Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew and A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jan Chosen Bays.
“Get off the scale! I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.”
– Steve Maraboli
Part of being able to continue to grow is letting go of limiting beliefs and behaviours that no longer serve you. Being able to recognise that we are our own worst critics is vital in the recovery process. But just because you forgive yourself and put in the work to stop hating on your body doesn't mean you always treat her with respect. I still find myself in destructive eating patterns sometimes, and my weight is certainly not "perfect". I am not always as kind to myself as I could be, but it is a work in progress, and I am happy to be on the journey.
Sometimes I still catch myself hating on my body, eating WAY too much, thinking about going on a crazy crash diet to lose weight. But now I don't weigh myself everyday, I try to say something kind to myself every time I look in the mirror, I never count calories and I enjoy healthy foods and moving my body in ways that feel nice (not as a punishment for overeating).
Still, when that photo showed my stomach as anything less than toned, I freaked out. I overreacted and it triggered something in me that made me feel so vulnerable. I was upset because my ego told me I need to be thin to be liked, and that isn't how yoga teachers look, and all the other silly untrue things I would NEVER in a million years say to my friend in the same situation (or even someone I didn't like so much!)
If I wasn't so attached to my 'story', the illusion that I am defined by my physical body my reaction would have been quite different. But in coming to terms with the reaction I had, it let me go deeper into understanding myself, it let me strip back years of incorrect ideas and expose some limiting beliefs I needed to work through. More importantly, it let me finally feel ready to talk about it publicly, instead of hide and feel ashamed.
May I have a healthy relationship with food, and my body.
May I continue to heal, and be kind to myself.
May I use my recovery and strength to inspire others who walk the same path as I have.
ॐ Shanti x
Day 6 / 365 days of personal development