It’s #WarriorWednesday, and Kaitlin Bolt-Lovett, the warrior behind @alifenourished, is sharing her journey with eating disorders and mental health. Check out her story below!
I have words for emotions I never had before. I am able to construct sentences like “my worth is not determined by the shape of my body nor my ability to perform, prove, please, or meet anyone else’s expectations of me.”
Has it taken years to confidently tell myself I am worthy no matter what? Absolutely. Do I find myself forgetting on a daily basis? Oh yeah. This is a journey. It isn’t necessarily a journey to “self-love” though that would be lovely, but more realistically one towards self respect, acceptance, and more than anything, an understanding.
I’ve been at war with who I am at a basic level for as long as I can remember and my coping showed up as an eating disorder mixed with depression and anxiety. As a former collegiate level synchronized swimmer, my perfectionist mentality thrived while my body tried to become smaller and smaller, hide deeper and deeper. I didn’t know who I was without a team of girls. It felt safer to physically and emotionally shrink than to take up space. I learned to disconnect with not only the painful emotions but the light ones too. I had to become a shell of myself before realizing there had to be more, I had to isolate myself to realize how important community is. That internal voice can be so loud, so disempowering, so quick, that a compassionate knowing is the last thing we think of when triggers show up.
We so quickly compare and find ourselves unworthy, either telling ourselves the story that we’re “too much” or “not enough”.
It’s crazy how powerful shame is, and how perverse it has become in our culture. I used to believe that my lack of will power around night time binges was because I was weak and worthless, I didn’t have the verbiage to understand it was my body keeping me alive. In a society that glorifies thinness, we are all touched by the lies fat phobia tells us. The truth is, the food industries need our buy in. They need us to buy into their marketing schemes and believe we are the broken ones when our kids candy magically disappears over night. We live in constant fear that we can trust ourselves, or at least I know I did. Shame keeps us in a spiral of isolation, of believing or fearing that indeed we are “bad” or “broken” when we don’t comply with our own or others expectations.
The thing is? This cycle with food or anything really, will always leave us feeling less than. Restriction of any kind BREEDS out of control responses, it’s our natural biology doing whatever it takes to gain autonomy. The hardest concept for people to grasp? Releasing the restrictive mindset from food is actually the quickest way to a healthy relationship with food and body. When we can begin to release our grip around fearing food, we can begin to have some curiosity around it based on how we FEEL. This process opens up the door to feeling on a more somatic scale. The binge in some form or another almost ALWAYS comes after a period of restriction or deprivation. There’s a reason we always reach for those “fun foods”.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the places we fear can be the most powerful. Digging into the parts of ourselves we have labeled as “don’t like” or have been told are “unacceptable” opens up an opportunity for healing and wholeness. It takes away the power from others because we learn to have a relationship with every part of ourselves, an undeniable truth and knowing.
I am far from healed. I still have bad body days, I still find myself in shame and anxiety spirals and compassion quickly jumps out the window. We live in a fat phobic society where many people are outwardly told their physicality is unacceptable, that has a trickle down affect to everyone.
Part of my work as a Registered Dietitian is helping my clients to have an empowering and respectful relationship with food and their bodies. I feel like this is insanely important work right now in our society and I would be doing myself and my clients a disservice if I didn’t continue to do the work myself. It’s seriously uncomfortable work, but in tandem it’s also an internal space and comfort that I’ve never had before. I don’t always like what I see, but I’m learning to have a relationship with it. I’m learning to use my anxiety as a red flag that something is going on. I’m learning to separate out big F feelings that I trust, from little F feelings that might not be true.
It isn’t linear, it looks more like a giant knitted yarn ball with a couple strings coming untied, and that’s pretty much what it feels like.
If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, it would be this. You are not broken, you are not alone, you are safe to show up just as you are, you are safe to trust yourself and LISTEN to what your body needs on a daily basis.
I’m grateful for my ability to use food to cope, it kept me alive when nothing else worked. I’m grateful for my anxiety because the flip side of it is my sensitivity, which enables me to connect with others on a deeper level.
Feeding ourselves can be an amazing form of self-care if we can move away from the shame and the guilt that is often put with it. Unless that Halloween candy robbed a bank, guilt from eating it won’t help you enjoy it anymore. Instead try using all your senses when eating. What’s the taste, texture, smell, mouth feel, temperature? How can you bring more awareness to your eating? ALLOW yourself to be fully present.