“You Look So Healthy!”

I was reading through tweets yesterday and came across a few of the dietitians retweeting lessons they learned from E. Tribole, the author of Intuitive Eating. I can’t recall the exact quote, but the main idea was that you may not always LOVE your body, but you need to respect it.

I personally need to repeat this mantra several times of day because with the way I am feeling lately; physical respect is not high on my list of priorities.

Remember how I told you looking back at my journals can sometimes help show me the progress I’ve made in recovery. Well it can also serve as a reminder of the cyclical nature this journey tends to have.

Getting healthy is not a linear process. It has peaks, valleys, highs, lows, and tends to get worse before it gets better.

Let me explain. When I first made the decision to change my life of disordered eating and move toward one of actual wellness, I rode high on the wave of ambition and motivation. This lasted approximately a month….until my body began changing, emotions were running wild and the comments started coming.

Comments?! YES. Comments.

One of the things that I find seriously discouraging is when people remark on my appearance. This probably sounds ridiculous to any “normal” person but honestly, when someone comes up to me and says, “Oh you are looking so HEALTHY.” Or “You are looking so much better!” my mind decides to translate this as, “CJ you are gaining so much weight, you are getting fat, stop following your meal plan and ramp up the exercise immediately.”

Yup, as silly as that may sound, that is what those statements, and anything along those lines, mean to me.

Typically I don’t like to throw out numbers because it can be triggering to others, but I am especially sensitive to these statements right now because I have gained enough weight that it is noticeable, to not only me but those around me. My clothing is tighter, my bones are no longer pertruding from my chest, and my arms aren’t sticks but instead have little lumps where my biceps used to be.

Some of these things are good….like the fact that I am gaining muscle is definitely awesome and making me feel strong both mentally and physically, BUT, as I see my clavicle disappear, and my abdomen looking a bit pregnant, I just want to hide and avoid these comments that confirm my biggest fears…fat, rejected, unacceptable, disgusting.

These negative things override any pride I had about getting more fitness abilities, filling my body with whole foods, making strides in therapy, or rekindling relationships I once cherished.

These horrific feelings can take it all away, and in the past have caused me to relapse almost instantaneously. The peanut butter and banana sandwich lunch would be changed into a salad, my reasonably paced walk would be turned into a sprint, and all the trust I gained from my family would immediately be gone because I proved once again that I couldn’t follow through on my plans to become a whole person.

But, because I had my old journals, and read a few entries that demonstrated my past habits of falling off the wagon when these kind of statements were made to, or about me, I attempted to find a new pattern to follow.

“Ryan, how have I changed?”

“CJ I am not entertaining this question, you know no answer will be the right one.”

But in all honestly, I needed a reality check that my body didn’t magically double over night, because as irrational as this sounds, that’s how I felt the entire day, especially after I heard how “healthy” I looked.

When I explained this he was more willing to participate in the conversation and was actually quite helpful.

He told me that it wasn’t as much a physical change in any specific body part, but more my presence, face and demeanor has altered significantly.

I walk differently, smile with my eyes rather than the fake curve of my lips. My neck is no longer simply holding a round object but more engaged in my expression, and the pink of me cheeks is not just from make-up but from actual skin color.

Before, he told me I looked gaunt and lifeless, like a person who simply went through the motions on a day-to-day basis without much passion or exuberance, and now I have a sparkle, not always but more often than I had in the last few years.

My clothing was no longer all black and baggy, v-necks and color were more prevalent. I am again wearing my favorite glitter head bands, and finally seemed interested in topics other than running and food.

I was happy to hear all of things of course, but I was definitely a bit skeptical. There was no way this was IT. My body had to change somewhat because numerically I know the scale is up more than a pound of two.

He looked back at me hesitantly and continued that if I HAD to know the biggest place he sees a change, it was in my sternum, just as I suspected. But unlike my earlier reaction I wasn’t AS devastated.

I would be lying if I told you I was completely ok after hearing this, because gaining weight and physically changing, is not necessarily something I am absolutely excited about. I get way too caught up in the numbers and artificial aspects of recovery sometimes and forget that, like my post said earlier in the week, this process is about gaining way more than weight.

I am gaining a self, a person, a glow that I have been missing for years and maybe people noticing that isn’t such a bad thing.

Not many are drawn to someone who looks sick, tired and run-down, but maybe someone will want to be around a girl with crazy finger-nail polish and be-dazzled headbands? Or a girl who is smiling brightly, and saying hello with confidence. I certainly hope so.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation, I would encourage you to at least TRY to reframe the thoughts that arise, or the perceptions you get, when someone says something to you that might trigger a destructive mind-set.

I have never been one to take compliments well; for example if someone liked my shirt, my brain would automatically resort to “well my shirt yesterday must have been ugly then…” but that’s not true, and I need to remind myself of this continually.

I may not love what I see in the mirror, which causes paranoia when anyone makes statements about my appearance, but I need to remember that for once, I am trying to respect my body.

Love can come later, but it will never be there without proper care. Letting the comments of others influence my path to respect and do the healthy thing for me, is only preventing me from loving myself even further.

So although I still absolutely detest these statements, I am going to repeat the idea that I need to respect my physical-self, to eventually love my whole person.

Do you agree with Evelyn Tribole?

How do you respect your body?

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16 thoughts on ““You Look So Healthy!”

  1. Oh my gosh, I know exactly what you mean. I feel like all I ever wanted was to be HEALTHY and then when I would hear those words, “you look healthy” I felt like I was not myself. I think we place so much of our identity into the ED that when it starts to change (even for the good) it’s still hard to accept. But eventually, you start to realize that healthy is like someone telling you you look amazing and that is exactly how you want to feel and want to be so it gets easier to hear.

  2. I LOVE the intuitive eating approach to recovery and eating in general (for anyone looking to improve their diet/lifestyle). I think it’s much harder work at first but so worth it in the long-term because it teaches you how to listen to your body. And speaking of respect, intuitive eating really focuses on feeling your fullness and satiety when it comes to food.

    I also like the quote from Ellyn Satter about “normal eating” (but again, this is different for everyone depending on where you are in your journey):

    What is Normal Eating?

    Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

    In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

    • thank you for sharing that quote!! i have been feeling so weird lately because my hunger is all over the map! but that made me feel better that maybe my hunger is intense how, and wont be tomorrow. i love when you share your knowledge! its so helpful to me, and to other readers 🙂

  3. I’m one of those people who is very pessemistic about other people. I expect others to lie, cheat, steal, and be untrustworthy. Especially folks our age. This probably sounds horrible but because of my life experiences I just expect the worst out of others (though always hope for the best). My first impression of you, however, was that you were different. You exuberated a confidence that is very rare. I thought you were pretty, stylish, put-together, smart, and an all-around good person. At the risk of sounding conceited, you reminded me much of myself : ) There is probably only one other person I’ve met that made this type of impression on me and her name was Alicia. Last year, at age 25, Alicia was randomly murdered. 10 months later, there are no leads in her case. I share this story because everyday I look at Leash’s picture and think of her story and it reminds me that life is short. Because of this, I try my best to live in the moment, be conscious of my existence, and make strides towards leading the best and most positive life possible. I’m proud of you for sharing your story and taking the steps to get better — and I wish you nothing but success! You DESERVE it! You ARE a beautiful, smart girl with all the potential in the world.

    • oh my goodness what a tragic story!! im so sorry that that happened to alicia, but the message of the story is absolutely correct. life is short and i am really trying to live each day positively…which is sometimes very difficult. so thank you for the reminder and thank you very much for the compliment. I thought the same of you as we sat in class and learned about political science 🙂 i hope you are enjoying your life and following your own wisdom 🙂

  4. This is what bothers me a bit. Like I’m not exercising at all and haven’t for 3 years and I feel its cause people judged me before and told me i couldn’t or assumed i shouldn’t…like i lived in fear that if someone thought i was, then they’d force me into hospital and lock me up for months (like they did before) whichi is infuriating becuz it was never about exercise or stupid vanity (for me personally). SO…now for over 3 years i haven’t exercised and my body is so burnt out , i don’t even try anymore…zero motivation and zero ability honestly..i couldn’t do one jump jack if i tried ..i just walk lazy and i am sick of it…but so far to go…so freaking confusing…
    but then my neighbor was like “oh u should try yoga and zumba”….
    1) i don’t have motivation
    2) my body is dead
    3) i don’t have the money for toilet paper, let alone anything else
    4) if she thinks i can…then maybe i SHOULD

    so confusing.

    • oh hunni, you are going through so much. when you are properly nourishing your body and are in a better place then i think the energy will return but you have so much healing to do. please give yourself that time without judgement. you will get there. but it will take time. is there anything i can do?

  5. Everything you are feeling/felt… I feel everyday.
    Now that I have been in college for about a month, I have dropped about 5 pounds. It doesn’t sound like a lot to “healthy weight” people. But, I know that you know how bad 5 pounds in the wrong direction can be. I realized I am only harming myself. Nobody else really notices that I have lost 5lbs or even if I gain those 5 lbs back. Between the hustle and bustle of life, not too many people have “my weight progress” on their minds. Our loved ones just want to see us as happy and healthy. 🙂 I love you girl, and I know how hard these comments are to hear. Trust me, but when I tell myself the truth, I can’t deny that my thinking is off. Healthy, Happy, Whole…. Your blog’s name… I want that to be part of your name tooo. ❤

    I mean, I don't think those three words have anything "ugly, fat, or negative" about them. They are pure and enlightening. They are AMAZING words. Goooood words. 😉

  6. I completely understand this entire post. I wrote a very similar post a few months ago when I received a compliment from a friend saying how much “better I looked.” In my mind they were telling me how much fatter I looked… yet now I know that is not the case at all. My friend was relieved to see that I looked healthier because I was healthier and not suffering to the same extent. They are not telling us we look fatter…it’s just that we are glowing once again, actually look like we have some sort of life back in us. Other than one of constant suffering!

  7. I totally agree that we find identity in ED. BUUUUUT that doesn’t mean that it’s what we want. We want to be known for working hard, for our infectious smiles, for our awesome hugs, for brightening up a room, and for loving everyone way too much! ED strips us of all of that. When we start to recover, we get that “light” about us back and people notice.
    Embrace that people care about you and know that they are only trying to encourage you.
    Keep working hard because you have been doing amazing!!

  8. Although my ED has nothing to do with appearance or external validation, i HATE any and all appearance-related comments. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone trying to scare me into getting better with an Auschwitz reference (then I just feel embarrassed, as well as stupid, like my ED is somehow an insult to concentration camp prisoners) or an oh-you’re-looking-healthier “compliment” (which just makes me feel fat and “not sick enough”).

    As a result, I never, ever comment on anyone’s body. Clothes, hair, shoes–sure. But I will never tell anyone he or he looks “better” or compliment on weight loss or gain, because I don’t know the whole story, and I don’t know how the comment will be received.

  9. I’m not yet in the gaining phase, but I’m already scared of the comments I will receive when I will gain weight.
    An ED becomes such a part of your life and people know you as that skinny, tiny girl. Changing is so hard.
    Yes, I wanna be better, I want to gain weight but I already struggle with it and I have not gained anything. Just the thought I will be fatter, my clothes will be less baggy, … it’s frightening…

    Just keep on fighting!

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