Tuesday, February 11, 2014

To count or not to count.

Last year this time around I was working as a group fitness instructor. I was preparing to get on the board of the local LGBT rights organization; the COC. We were a few weeks away from getting the keys to the new location for the gallery. Things were looking good.
Right now, I don't work at a gym any more. I don't work at the COC any more either. And at the end of the month we are turning in the keys to the gallery due to lack of funds. So things have changed quite a bit and not for the better it seems. Initially I felt like I had no control over the things that were happening. They were simply happening to me. I did my best but in the end I still failed.
One of the ways I cope with set backs like these is by focussing on something I actually can control. I focus on numbers and keep track of something measurable. Usually the thing I set my focus on is my bodyweight, my food intake and my exercise. I developed my first eating disorder when I was about 7 so this is nothing new. It's more like a default setting. Things go wrong? Start controlling your intake. This time I fell into that trap again. I'm pretty sure this will always be my weak point and that's okay. Everyone has one and I know mine very well. About 5 years ago I decided to stop trying to destroy myself and tried to turn things into something a bit more constructive. I still do. So I have spend a lot of time reading research and watching interviews and debates on nutrition. Scientists tend to focus on health, on finding guidelines that people can use to build their own optimal diet. The more attention you pay to something the more it grows and constantly reading about stuff that has health as the ultimate goal makes it easier to actually stick to that and not use the information for evil, as in self-destruction.

A funny thing is happening. Food has always been a tool but the emphasis is shifting more towards the goal. The goal used to be to get to a minimal weight while still 'functioning' (read not getting locked up in a hospital to get force fed). Back then I spend most of my time thinking about food and weight related things. It was a full time job. Then the goal became looking good, strong and healthy. And now the goal seems to shift again to actually being healthy and having the energy to do all the things I want to do. There is a huge difference between wanting to look good and healthy and wanting to be healthy and feel energetic. Wanting to look good is about how others see you. Wanting to be health is about something completely different. It's about how I treat myself, about finding myself worth the effort to take care of myself. The goal is also no longer focused on food or my body, but on what I can do with it. It's great to look great but if, at the end of the day, I don't have the energy to do the things I enjoy, what's the point? And that's the most important shift right there. My body itself becomes a tool, not a goal. Happy people always look prettier then unhappy people. They radiate. It appeals to other people. You can be as fit as a fiddle and still look awful when you're not happy. So that's the new goal: to do the things that make me happy and sharpen the tool that is my body so I can fully enjoy them.
Sounds fantastic! Does that mean I'm going to stop weighing my food and counting my nutrients? I don't think I'm ready for that. But being aware that food is a tool and there are other things in life that are more important really helps a lot. It makes it less obsessive and that gives me more space to breath, and to live. Maybe one day I will be able to let it go, mostly, but I will always be aware of what I eat and how it affects me. I don't think that's a bad thing. I just don't want it to take over my life any more.

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