My body is a machine; my body is also my home
I decided to overcome my eating disorder once and for all because I wanted to get pregnant, and I had no desire to pass along my terribly unhealthy relationships with food and my body to a child.
This is not to shame, blame or guilt any mother who suffers; this is a reality of our world — living in cold, dark cages and not being able to get out, even when we’re raising children — even when we’re raising daughters.
Still, it wasn’t an entirely unselfish decision, my desire to be rid of my anorexia before expecting a baby.
For one, I longed to cherish, adore, welcome and be admirable of my growing body, not disgusted by it. I’ve known far too many women who were hung up on the pounds gained and where and how their bodies changed rather than focusing on the fact that we’re forming a new life!
And yet the first time around, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I pushed myself to exercise when I didn’t feel like it and I ate like a homegrown picture of perfection — although I did enjoy myself and my garden-produced food — but I didn’t let myself truly relax into my pregnancy.
I don’t regret it either — giving birth is the ultimate exercise. (My abs were sore with lactic acid build up for days afterwards.) I gave birth naturally — never having so much as a Tylenol during my pregnancy or her delivery — and when I see women letting themselves get horribly out of shape and eating like anything but the health warriors that their bodies are calling on them to be, I feel sad and I can’t help but wonder how that labor will go.
But we can’t see the future — complications happen, plain and simple — but what about the ones that we can prevent or help to ease along?
My body is a machine; my body is also my cozy, warm, quiet, safe home — my body is both of these things and I wanted to figure out how to treat it equally in these two regards.
Let me admit, this is not easy. We’re conditioned to think in one way or the other — our physical selves as round, supple, womanly places of worship or as rigid, muscle-rippled, health machines. So what I’m asking — and what I asked of myself — is why can’t we be both?
Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too?
So I set on a long, arduous road of keeping ice cream in the freezer but not eating it — or, more importantly, even wanting it — every evening.
I set out to exercise and keep my body in top shape, but not to the point of obsession or ruthlessness with myself.
And this is what I learned: when we go to either of these extremes — shunning our bodies as health machines or exerting them in full as such — we are avoiding who we really are.
We’re avoiding our fear or our hurt or our life in a multitude of ways when we don’t allow ourselves to sit still and eat something for the pure sake of flavour; instead heading to the gym or for a walk outside for the second time that day (or third, or fourth, or fifth).
Simultaneously, we’re avoiding our primal need to be strong and to be able to endure life when we sit around and avoid exercise because sweating in a yoga class might mess up our hair or make us have to shower again.
In short, we can’t be recovered from an eating disorder until we learn to accept these extremes and then to couple them together into softer versions. I know this is a huge claim, but I’m standing fully on it — because it’s true.
This article is an extract of a shared section of Jennifer’s book which can be found, in part, serialised on her website. Read this article and other chapters here.