Because I DON’T Have to!

I’m back!!! At least for a little while, Christmas break is going to be jammed packed of fun and life-learning experiences. And they already began. But all of those deserve their own separate attention. But I will leave you hanging with some intriguing details… Macados, twiin Christmases, Waffles, Exams, Rudolph, Fun > Studying, Snowball Camp, Atlanta, GRE, Research, Toll-Receptor 4?, The Hobbit, Les Mis… the list goes on and on!  But how fortunate that today is Tuesday and I have time for a #FreEDom post from the lovely Sloan’s campaign. It’s not going to be a long one, but a simple revelation and challenge to myself for this upcoming break and new year. I have some other thoughts on perfection for a future post but I am waiting for something. Geeze I am not being very revealing am I? Sorry, you will understand when the time comes. For now let’s find #freEDom!

Strength in Freedom

I have recounted time and time again my addiction to exercise. Over the course of the past two years I did it too often, became obsessed and sacrificed a lot of life because I was working out for a good 3 hours in the mornings on that stupid elliptical. Add in the 5-6 hours I spent preparing and eating meals and most of my day was consumed by exercise and food thoughts and it can safely and accurately be stated that the rest of the day was consumed by nonstop studying. No fun, friends, or relaxation in the mix. My therapist challenged me to stop the addiction in its tracks before my ED had the chance to come back. And to look for areas of fun in life to replace the loss I was bound to find when giving up the exercise. I fought this, and I fought this hard. But in the time since Thanksgiving and my first freEdom post something has changed within me, something is not the same…

I don’t have time to exercise every day. At least not formally strap on sneakers and workout clothing, get to the gym, and work up a sweat. School is so much more important to me. And I do a lot outside of the classroom. I study hard. We are talking massive amounts of flashcards to the point where I memorize my notes and then take that memorization and put it into application. Because it is not enough to memorize this information, I have to understand it. OK sorry for the rant but I love school and I could talk about studying all day.

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Exercise is not my passion. My passion as stated above is school. More specifically as I have discovered this year, metabolism. I could talk about enzymes and their substrates and their regulation all day long. You would be bored, but I would be on cloud nine. We all have different passions in life, but I think with the obesity epidemic and the new popularity of healthy living communities a lot of people believe that if they don’t love to wake up and exercise every day there is something wrong and that they are not living a healthy life. That just isn’t the case.

So here it is the point of this longer than expected post. I love exercise. And recently realized I don’t mind running. Short distances mind you and at a slow little turtle pace. But I don’t want to do it every day. But I sure feel like I have to. Take today, I am not really sure I want to go to the gym for that sweat session everyone says is necessary. I know I will enjoy it, but my question to myself has to be what are my motives? Burning calories, reducing stress, smiling, feeling guilt without it? Yesterday I wanted to run not for the calories or the feeling of guilt, but because I hadn’t in a few days and missed it. Healthy mindset that I am very proud of. I want that mindset every day of my life so here is my challenge to myself: Practice being OK with not wanting to work out and only work out when I am doing it for the right reasons. If I find myself lacing up those sneakers because I feel the need to burn calories in order to eat what I want or feel good about my body I am doing it for the wrong reasons and wasting valuable time that could be spent studying, reading articles, hanging out with friends, or just relaxing.


So that is the challenge. Will it be immediate? Nope. Just like with breaking the exercise addiction it will take some time and effort on my part. It will take me forcing myself to listen and respond to the reasons I am heading to the gym. Especially when there will be times over break when I have all of the time in the world and could spend it all working out, planning meals, eating meals, and then planning my next workout based on those meals. I am up for it. And I know I will have the support from my family and friends as I really work towards this mental health I never got back in my recovery.


This is a life in progress

I am linking up with Sloan’s freEDom from perfection campaign this week. The past weeks posts from amazing bloggers have touched me and cause me to reevaluate.

Strength in Freedom

Warning: I don’t know where I am going with this.

I began this blog not really knowing what I wanted it to be. I just wanted a blog, and figured I must have something to offer the world. I love foodie blogs and I love food, but I don’t know how to make delicious recipes or have the photography skills to make the meal creations I do come up with look very pretty.

My first baked pumpkin stuffed with kale, ricotta, and honey. with roasted veggies, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts on the side
Photography by Kailey Proctor (case in point- I can’t take pretty meal pics)

I exercise, but have to cut back sometime soon now. And I don’t have any cool fat burning routines for myself or anyone else. I am a gym rat and most of the time I am OK with that. I am jealous of you runners that go outside and run for the love of it. Actually I am jealous of anyone that works out for pure pleasure everyday because while yes there are days like this past Friday when I just crave some gym time, most of the time I exercise because it’s habit, I feel like I have to, or I really need to study/read for school and that is how I accomplish such a task.

But I was a dancer. Never a runner or a cycler. I started riding the stationary bike in 9th grade when the world around me started saying I should at least 3 times a week. Weight came off and my turns and balance improved. The benefits of the exercise were numerous. So were the new diet restrictions. I always hate admitting that there is a control factor in eating disorders/disordered eating, but looking back my life was pretty damn controlled.

I wouldn’t say exercise ever became a problem though until after my recovery. Sometime between freshman and sophomore year of college my views of exercise and what was enough became warped.  First it was 60 minutes one day and 30 minutes the next with 2 days off on the weekend. Pretty sane and healthy, too bad I had begun restricting again in that time. But then as exercise machines became more available, and my mornings more free I never did less than 60 and every other day I did 90 minutes on that damn arc trainer. Who was I becoming? The good thing was I stopped restricting food by then and ate food I loved and some I didn’t but told myself I should (Read: large amounts of candy and sweets). But those long workout sessions also caused my eating patterns to become quite off. (Read: Breakfast at 11am, Lunch at 3:30 and sometimes 5pm, and Dinner at 9pm or 10pm). Then came the breakdown, and the realization of weight gain despite all of the hours working out, and that my food/meal patterns were really bothering me. Good thing it was summer and I could go home and get in to see my therapist. Conclusion? I was using exercise and food as an escape or excuse not to have fun or live life. So I was assigned to take breaks, have fun, and make a real effort to break out of the shell I had build around myself. O and I was supposed to reduce my exercise and eat every 4-5 hours no matter what.

Confession: I didn’t do any of it. Summer was good to me in a lot of ways. I no longer felt like I had to workout everyday, I finally came to the realization that dance wasn’t for me anymore, and I was making time for other things besides exercise, meal planning, cooking, and cleaning. But every time I got on the bike I just couldn’t make myself get off until at least 93 minutes had past. Or as I started going to the gym again I couldn’t make myself just do 30 minutes on one machine or the other. Once I had rode the elliptical for 30 and ran for another 30 one day it became my routine and I couldn’t bring myself to change it. And I succumbed to my biggest fear food yet again. Not totally, but it appeared less and less in my daily food intake as weeks past by.

Fast forward to now. My days are jammed pack, I have overloaded my schedule, and my perfectionist nature is stronger than ever. I didn’t overload myself on purpose and all of what I am doing is good for my resume/future career and the things I choose to do I really love (Read: tutoring, anatomy TA, bible study, and spending extra time studying metabolic). I still feel the need to spend a specific time exercising and still find myself on the bike for 70-90 minutes. The fear food is still not a daily choice, and sometimes I restrict it purposefully. Honestly it has become more of a special occasion food, like when I go out to dinner, or it is a holiday, or I realize my stomach hasn’t encountered it in quite sometime. I am not proud of this and I know it needs to change. I know logically and factually from classes that the key to health and metabolic function is a balanced, well-rounded diet. I will be the first person to tell you these fad, clean diets are a load of bologna.

This is all really hard for me to admit. I am recovered right? RIGHT. Because I made the decision to live 4 years ago and committed myself to recovery. I am still committed. But I think along the way I got stuck and never realized it because my weight was stable, I was succeeding in school, and I have what most (me included) would consider a pretty fantastic life.

Just as I am still learning in school, I am still learning in life. I am only 21 years old, and it would be weird if I had it all figured out.  My life includes my recovery. Right now that means I have some days when that dang ED doesn’t have a chance to put its two sense in. But I still have quite a few days where the voice is present and I hear it. But does that mean I listen? The answer should be no. But sometimes I do. But do I act? Again sometimes yes. It is hard not to all of the time, I am not perfect after all.

But none of that means I am not recovered. Because I know who the ED Shannon is and who the recovered, totally awesome smart Shannon is. I see the latter a lot and the former not so much. And when the ED Shannon busts into my life you best bet I kick her to the curb. I am recovered and it is my life. I still have pieces I need to work on and I need to stop ignoring that and actually get to work. I am not a procrastinator so why do I procrastinate with this? That’s a topic for another time.

I’ll end with this. I am committed to my recovery and the healthy life I have been given in the 4 years since my eating disorder. I am forever grateful for what  was a learning experience I don’t wish upon anyone else, but for me it has taught me to never take life for granted, showed me that I am worth it, and has given me the opportunity to live for what makes me happy, not for what I think people expect me to be.

Recovery = Life and Life just isn’t perfect. In other words my recovery won’t be either. The important thing is I have realizations like this that get me back on track.