**This post is deeply personal, and I am a little hesitant to publish it. It started as a simple note about running and the importance of listening to your body, but as I wrote, I began to get deeper revelations of what is going on inside of me. Growing and breaking free from things that once haunted you can be difficult, and facing those things head-on can be scary. My hope is that by coming face-to-face with these things myself, perhaps someone reading this will find the courage to do the same. I know I’m not the only one dealing with these issues, but I do know what it’s like to feel alone. So, whoever you are and wherever you are today, take courage. You’re not alone.**
As usual, when I headed out for my run this morning, I asked God what my goal of this run was.
And for the first time, I heard nothing.
About a quarter of a mile in, I asked again. ”Father, what is my goal for this run? What do you want to teach me?”
So, I kept asking.
Finally, I heard, ”Shhh… Just listen.”
Listen. I am listening! You’re not saying anything! How am I supposed to listen to nothing?!
I kept running. I was feeling good, had some great, encouraging music playing, and I was ready to rock this 4-mile run.
Suddenly, at 1.5 miles in, my lower back started hurting. In my mind, I went back to 3 years ago when I started training for my last half-marathon. Less than 2 weeks in, my back hurt so bad, I couldn’t stand up straight without pain that brought me to tears. I spent months in pain, being very careful with every step I took, everything I picked up, how long I sat in my office chair. I woke up crying in the middle of the night because I turned over in my sleep and had shooting pain in my back.
I thought, ”Hell no, I am NOT doing this again!”
At that moment, I heard my Father say this: ”Listen to your body.”
I decided to do a little bit of stretching, and then walk for a while. I walked at a fairly brisk pace for the next half mile.
”There, I had a nice little break. Time to go again!”
I took off running, and that familiar twinge came again.
”Listen to your body!”
Again, I decided to walk. Slower, this time. Carefully. Calculated.
I listened to my body as I walked. What was it saying?
It had all kinds of things to say to me. All kinds of things I was NOT prepared for…
You see, during my 7-year battle with bulimia in high school and college, I got really good at ignoring my body. My body begged me to feed it, to nourish it, to protect it. My body sent me signals that something wasn’t right. In fact, my body never really stopped talking to me. And I never stopped actively NOT listening to it.
For the past 7 years or so, I believed my eating disorder was in the past. It was not something I still needed to think about, worry about or consider in my daily life. I had overcome that. I beat bulimia by my own sheer will and determination.
I could eat normally. Normal-ish, anyway.
I no longer threw up after every meal. Only occasionally.
I can eat around other people now. Most of the time.
I had moved on from this terrifying, humiliating, hurtful, immature thing that had gripped me for 7 years. Or so I thought.
I’m currently reading a book called “Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering From Your Eating Disorder” and it has opened my eyes to so much.
Never in a million years did I imagine I needed such a book. After all, in my eyes, I recovered a loooooong time ago.
One chapter lays out several different warning signs of eating disorders, and how they can appear in your life. It takes you through a series of scenarios, along with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that often accompany them.
As I read this chapter, I was in tears.
So many of these things were normal in my eyes. But normal is all relative.
These thoughts, feelings and behaviors lingered because I never dealt with them. Not for real.
Sure, I got better, physically. Though I was never underweight, I did lose 100 pounds my first year of college, and I was sick all the time. But I slowly began eating normally again, and I began to feel better and stronger. My bones didn’t hurt anymore. I felt healthy, for once.
I did “healthy” as well as I knew how.
But until the last couple of weeks, I didn’t realize just how much my eating disorder still talked to me. While on a normal day I don’t actively engage in eating disorder behaviors, it is still very much part of my life. And that is a terrifying thing to admit.
Any time I know I’ll be eating around other people, I still get this little voice in my head that says, ”They’re all going to see how much you eat. They’re going to think you’re a fat pig. They’re not going to love you anymore, because you’re so disgusting.”
When I begin to lose weight – even in a very healthy, very calculated way – the voice says, ”Look at you go! You’ve lost 10 pounds already! If you eat even less, you’ll lose it faster.”
When I receive compliments, the same voice says, ”Doesn’t that feel good? You’ll get even more compliments when you stop eating and lose all of that disgusting weight.”
One thing I’ve learned is you can’t trust your eating disorder. You can’t trust that voice that talks to you, saying, ”Come on, keep going! You’re doing great! The less you eat, the more they’ll love you. You can survive on less. Just keep going.”
But I listened to that voice. I trusted it. I trusted it with my life, my health, my future.
And that voice drowned out what my own body was saying to me. I chose to ignore what my body was trying to tell me.
The human body is a fascinating, magnificent, brilliant machine. God designed it in such a way that it heals itself, protects itself, and it can tell you what you need.
Can you hear what it tells you?
I’ve always heard it, but I’ve never really listened.
Which is why, this morning on my run, it was so strange to me to actually listen to my body.
It said, ”Slow down. Take care of me. Be gentle with me. I will work for you and with you, but you have to be careful with me!”
And for the first time in a long, long time, I listened to my body. I honored my body. I cared for my body. I protected my body. I nurtured my body instead of condemning, punishing or ignoring it.
Now that I’m aware that my body talks to me, I will make a conscious effort to listen to it. What is it telling me about the food I’m putting into it? Am I feeding it enough? Am I feeding it the right food? Am I treating it with respect and honor? Am I protecting it? Am I being kind to it? Am I caring for it? Am I pushing it hard enough? Am I pushing it too hard?
These are all things your body will tell you…IF you listen. IF you listen to that voice above the other voices whispering lies to you. IF you choose to hear it.
Your body is talking to YOU… Are you listening? What is it saying to you?