A “Healthy” Obsession?

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Sometimes I think my obsession with food and exercise isn’t such a big deal.

Yes, I realize this is my blog about disordered eating, which in most people’s minds equals “bad,” but let me explain.

(I’m searching for the “gray” here, trying to avoid black and white terms.)

See, although it’s caused me a lot of internal strife, it seems as though my obsession has almost worked in my favor, in the sense that I’ve not allowed myself to gain more than a couple pounds from my lowest, attained in 2004.

True, I’m not “at goal” at the moment (teetering about 5-7 lbs from it still depending on that time of the month) but it’s attainable, and I am working on changing some unhealthy behaviors associated with disordered eating that drain me.

I really think the reason I haven’t gained more (or “let myself” gain more) is because even under the most stressful of situations (and I’ve had many over the years), I’m naturally hard-wired to be regimented, at all costs. So I still ate well and exercised–two surefire ways for keeping the weight off.

And in spite of the ugly behaviors that began since losing weight, I’ve still been able to maintain a healthy weight–and now I just want to do it in a healthier, happier way.

A new way of looking at this for me is, “If I weren’t such a meticulous, rigid person, maybe I’d be 30 lbs. heavier and still dealing with these issues.”

That would be a lot tougher to swallow now, wouldn’t it?

So, as Dr. G said the other night, maybe it’s ok to be a little obsessed with food and exercise…to a degree. Because there’s always a line to be crossed, and once you do, even a healthy obsession isn’t healthy anymore.

And sometimes, we don’t even need a trained professional to “wake us up” to our obsessions; our friends can point out something to us that just sets the lightbulb off and makes pure sense. Case in point: one of my best friends concerned about my obsession with my weight told me yesterday after reading the blog:

“I just want to make sure you know that if you gained weight, and I am not saying you will, but if you did — it would not be the end of the world, at all. Really. You are never going to go back to the habits you had before. You will always be healthier than you were before, and that is the important thing.”

Wow…wow.

She’s so right. I am much healthier than I was four years ago and, all things considered, I am physically healthy: per my doctor, per the trainers at my gym, per waist-to-hip ratio, per body fat %, per BMI.

Maybe I’m not getting the ‘A’ I got three years ago (by being at my goal weight), but maybe at this stage in my life, it’s ok to get an ‘A-‘. It’s still an ‘A’.

I’m learning there’s a fine line between “giving up” and “settling” or getting to a happy place. My nature is not to give up, and it’s keeping me from finding my “happy place.” So if I naturally settle, mentally and emotionally — as well as physically — at a B+, so what? It’s not like I’m giving myself permission to gain weight, but rather I’m giving myself permission to live a little!

I guess this means ultimately someone like me shouldn’t really fear gaining weight; so long as my clothes fit and I am living a healthy and happy lifestyle. That’s all I can ask for.

I think I needed to hear it from someone else, so gracias, mi amiga!

How about you? Do you think besides weight loss, there can be something positive that comes out of your food and/or exercise habits?

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16 thoughts on “A “Healthy” Obsession?

  1. I think it might help me not be so obsessive in other areas of my life… but sometimes the food obsession affects the other parts anyway so it doesn’t matter =/ I think to a certain extent it keeps me in a routine, and due to my anxious/OCPD tendencies, routine makes me feel good.

    Your friend seems like a great person to be supporting you – you’re lucky to have her!

  2. I agree, routines make me feel good. Now if I could only focus the same energy I do on food and exercise on money, I’d be much better off! 🙂

    She sure is–I’m lucky to have such wonderful friends, family, and husband–they’re all super-supportive, which means a lot.

  3. I found your blog and we have very similar backgrounds…I, too, got down to a small weight after restricting my food and over-exercising. Now, I’m on the road to being okay with not being that size anymore, and also not falling back into some bad habits!

    My sister and I have both struggled with eating disorders in the past, and so our family has come to understand that it’s always something we’ll struggle with a little. That said, it’s not always a “bad” thing, because we eat really healthy (lots of veggies, fruits, grilled chicken). I’m injured right now and can’t exercise, but it’s one of those things where I just need to find a good balance…I can’t let it control my life (like, if I can’t go to the gym on Christmas Eve morning before eating a bunch of food, I need to learn that it is okay!), but it does help me FEEL better emotionally. I’ve always said that running is a natural anti-depressant for me. 🙂

    You have a wonderful and caring friend…it’s so important to have people around you like that!

  4. I’m struggling with the same issues…I’m a few lbs above my ideal/goal weight, and more than a few from my lowest. But I’ve come to terms that my lowest really wasn’t my healthiest, since I didn’t use healthy means to get down there.

    It’s hard to not obsess over these things, but at the same time, I agree with you that a little “obsession” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Because of our past and who we are (our hardware!), we’re probably going to be thinking about food and exercise a little more than the average person. But if that’s what will keep us healthy and happy, I don’t see a problem with it. We just need our loved ones to help keep us in check.

    I think it can be hard to be patient while our bodies find their healthy weight. While we adopt new, healthier behaviors to replace our old, unhealthy ones, we have to learn to accept that our bodies may change. I’d rather be happier and healthier not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, even if that means being a couple of pounds higher than what I thought my original ideal weight would be.

  5. Anything good can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. It seems to be my natural tendency to take something good for me (like healthy eating) and then go crazy with it (how I ended up with Orthorexia). Right now, like you, I’m really trying to learn to be okay with non-perfection. To realize that compromise is okay.

    And yes, I get many benefits from eating right and exercising (when I don’t overdo it). Yay, runner’s high!!

  6. i know exactly what you mean! i LIKE being thinner, i like the way my clothes fit so much more now than when i was 50lbs heavier, but i have such an issue with compromise. it’s all or nothin’ for me, all of the time, and it’s exhausting. A-s are great grades, and B+s are, too. but i’ve always been an A student and my eating / exercising has followed along that same safe, familiar path. exercising makes me feel good, and that’s important, but getting all of the right nutrients is important, too.

    last night i woke up at 3 AM and ate a tube of ritz crackers and felt like crap, knowing that this morning i’d feel gluttonous, defeated, and unmotivated to make healthy choices (ex: eating breakfast) in the morning. but then i thought about your blog (hahah, i sound like a MAJOR e-creep but, really, i promise i’m okay!) and knew that not b-fasting just ’cause i munched all night on crackers was a terrible idea. sooooo i guess i’ll get some yogurt from the work caf now, and i hope you have a great day, dear. thanks for this entry, and thanks in advance for whatever you update with tomorrow!

    – sarah b.

  7. For me, the most positive benefit from eatting healthier and exercising is that it is something my husband and I do together and we motivate each other and support each other, especially at the gym and it has brought us closer. It has also helped me realize just how different everyone’s bodies work, by seeing the results. When I use to work out by myself I only focused on exercise to lose weight, now I also incorporate a lot of strength training and have actually gained weight and while I initially struggled with the higher number on the scale I’ve realized I’ve never felt better about my body and what it can do.

  8. CD Lover, so glad you and your sister are both doing so well now.
    And I totally agree about running–or any exercise–being a natural lifter.

    Kristen, hurrah! 🙂 “I’d rather be happier and healthier not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well, even if that means being a couple of pounds higher than what I thought my original ideal weight would be.” I want to be there, too.

    My lowest was 140, but since it was on an old scale, I am counting 145 as “goal” (the lowest this new one ever saw was 144). But it’s still hard to not be “at 140!” even if I never really was…so I am thinking I can be happy and healthy at 145.

    Charlotte, so true!

    SB, my therapist used that word, “exhausted”–if I felt that way. Boy do I ever! And I am soooooo glad my blog helped you in some little way to not beat yourself up!! Yea for healthy bfasts!

    Jody, I am totally with you–I love exercising with my hubby. Right now he’s in a cast and can’t do anything, but we love to bike, run, walk together (and still can walk even now). Strength training rocks and I wonder if it’s part of my higher numbers (as my BF has gone down) but even so, I’m wedded to that scale and am trying not to be!! (Aiming for 2-3 WIs a week).

  9. I have to say that my morning walks with Sirius my dog, is the best thing that has come out of this…I am usually very moody in the morning, it helps to get out to the park, watch the sun rise, and enjoy a quiet moment where I can process my feelings before the day begins.

  10. That is wonderful! I can’t wait til we get a dog (hopefully this fall after my MIL leaves that would be a nice reward, as she’s coming for 5 WEEKS, Aug 15-Sept 19).

  11. Lissa, I have full confidence in you that you will be happy and healthy in more ways than one at 145. It’s evident that you’re well on your way! Keep it up! Your blog is definitely enlightening.

  12. it’s a wonderful relief to hear these words from you!

    I am equally obsessed 90% of the time, so need to work on that, but it IS nice to know, that if this is my only cross to bear…it’s not the worst thing in the world.

    and YES, it’s true, I am pretty rigid most of the time. but I do let go alot (to a fault) at times and I do let myself live, so in that sense, I could be in a worse boat?

    Don’t know how much sense this makes, but your post did hit home for me. Thanks!

  13. Thanks, Cathy–I am glad this hit home for so many of us.

    Tomorrow I’ll address an area where my rigid hardware will come in handy: getting my personal finances in order!!

  14. It’s like a spiral. I started way out there, and little by little have used my diet/eat/weightloss habits to find out what works for ME. Not what works for you or this group, or Biggest Loser, or Weight Watchers…I could go on. There are at least 10.

    My exercise habits grew out of trying everything to excess, then finding out what I really really like. I love running now, and that’s my new drug of choice!

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