How to Balance a Cleanse, Eating Disorder and Anxiety with Grace
As someone who has struggled with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, there is a very thin line between doing a cleanse out of love for myself and punishing my body out of hatred. I have had to monitor my thoughts, feelings and motives very closely these last few weeks. It is both exhausting and troubling how easily it is to slip into hatred. In the past I would use cleanses as an excuse to justify severely limiting my food intake to lose weight. "I'm starving myself so that my body will fit what is societally considered beautiful" sounds very different than "oh, I'm on a cleanse". No one really questions the severe limitations or restrictions when you're on a cleanse. It was the easiest excuse out there. And when you want to hide a disorder, you get very good at finding the beset excuses.
This has been the first time I've started a cleanse purely out of love and a desire to heal my body. I think I've had a pretty serious candida infection for awhile now. My insides needed a break and chance to heal, and this cleanse definitely gave me that. However, There is a shift that occurs where I go from doing something out of love for myself and my body to doing it out of sheer hatred, guilt and fear. The shift is so slight it is almost imperceptible, and I can barely catch it. My discomfort with my body has been so deeply ingrained that doing something out of love for it feels unnatural. That's heartbreaking, but it's the truth.
I've lost a pretty substantial amount of weight while doing this. I'm pretty sure most of it is just from how much you poop, but I am at least a size smaller than when I started. Unfortunately, losing the weight triggered some old mindsets for me. I started seeing my body as bigger than it is, and I wanted to do everything I could to lose even more weight quickly. Luckily all the work I've done this last year kicked in and I stopped myself from that downward spiral, but it was scary how easily I slipped from self love to self loathing. I'm still fighting the those tendencies on the daily, but at least I'm not giving in. And now that they've been triggered, they would be there regardless of me doing a cleanse or diet.
I've also experienced insane anxiety when I would choose to break the cleanse. I've had wine, some cheese, and some gluten once or twice, and enjoyed it. While the choice was thoughtful and conscious, I still felt like a failure or bad person because I had "bad" food. I would obsess over making sure there was nothing in my meals that would be considered a "bad" food, and I would get anxious if I couldn't find something that was "good". Sometimes, especially in the past, if I couldn't find an option that didn't fit my requirements I would simply skip a meal. It took so much gentleness, forgiveness and rethinking how I look at both food and cleanses to get past this. I had to retrain my brain to stop demonizing food groups or beating myself up because I indulged in something. I have to work continuously on forgiving and loving myself, and challenging the thoughts that tell me I am an unworthy failure. I am doing the best I can, and that this is exactly what I am meant to be going through. This anxiety gives me to chance to work through these issues.
My relationship with both food and my body has been pretty tumultuous my entire life. It's taken a solid year of focusing solely on learning about myself and what I need to care for myself. Because I that, I now have the awareness to catch that almost imperceptible shift from love to hate. It makes me sad that hating my body is the feeling I am most accustomed to and comfortable with. But I am proud that I am managing this new lifestyle with awareness and forgiveness, two things that were missing before. These are the foundation to walking this path with grace.