Honouring our Bodies
Our bodies are strong, resilient and undeniably remarkable creations. Carrying us through our lives, they house our mind and soul, are exposed to harmful environments, opened to vulnerabilities, and yet they still maintain the ability to replenish and keep going. I am constantly in awe of our bodies abilities to move, adapt, grow, recover, and roam free.
During the previous six months while cycling over 10,500 kilometres, this sense of appreciation for my body has only grown. With awareness and gratitude, this journey has cultivated a greater desire to share my own experience of why pursuing a healthy, sustainable and holistic lifestyle has continued growing into one of my greatest passions.
Movement and exercise
Growing up I was always incredibly active. Running outside with the neighbourhood kids, playing football with my brother in the backyard, spending summers hiking and camping, joining nearly every sports team my school offered, and running consistently by the age of 11 (inspired by my dad's own passion). Whether it was roaming barefoot in the mud, alongside my teammates in the gym, or running on a forested trail, movement and exercise became part of my life at a very young age.
As I continued these activities throughout high school, my focus and energy began to shift. As my love for exercise and health grew, my outlook on it changed. I became consumed with my running times and distances, amount of exercises I could do, calories I consumed, days I exercised, and so on. I was fixated on a squeaky clean diet, perfect workouts, and the image of an 'ideal' body.
Going too far
What started out as a simple desire of becoming healthier quickly spiralled into an unhealthy controlling and restrictive mindset depleting my body of essential nutrients. Naturally, my body cried out for nourishment and I fell into a vicious cycle of restricting and binging. As these patterns continue I soon resorted to throwing up to purge my body of the food I ate thinking this would 'solve' the growing problem.
What followed was a long and immensely exhausting battle with bulimia.
Starting those destructive behaviours towards my body over six years ago has taken me on a long journey through multiple forms of therapy, admission into the Calgary Eating Disorder outpatient program, weekly group therapy sessions, months of regular doctor check ups, and fluctuating over 40lbs in weight. I should mention that not all of this time was dark as I experienced incredibly high moments and experiences as well, along with long periods of no eating disorder behaviours. Unfortunately, however, I would rise up only to fall back down even harder.
Nearing the end of 2015, I knew I could not continue disrespecting and destroying my body. My electrolyte levels were erratic, I was depleted of all my energy on a daily basis, my esophagus risked tearing from consistent purging, I had terrible digestion, my muscles ached from over exercising and I felt hopeless. At one of my lowest points, attending a regular appointment, my doctor sat me down to explain I risked going into cardiac arrest if I continued these patterns combined with my vigorous exercise routine.
Crippled with fear, I realized these behaviours would continue forever if I allowed them, but just the same they could come to an end. After years of failed 'attempts' in recovery, I knew deep down it was ultimately up to me to implement healthier changes and heal myself. It was time to take responsibility for my actions, acknowledge and accept my past, and begin taking the proper steps forward to heal my body and mind. No quick fix would be sustainable and the help I received from trained professionals and loved ones would only be beneficial if I took initiative, continually showed up for myself, and took action.
Stopping dead in my tracks from the alarming hospital visit and this new found realization, I quit purging right then and completely refocused on healing my body. It was incredible to experience both my physical and mental health improve and see my body return to a place of vitality as I began taking the right steps to prioritizing my health in a more all-encompassing and holistic way.
making positive changes
The months that followed I truly felt happier than I believed possible and some major changes began to take shape in my life.
1) I was finally able to follow my desire of a fully plant-based vegetarian lifestyle, while pursuing a deep passion of more holistic living. For years I felt compelled to make this transition towards a more compassionate lifestyle for environmental, ethical and health-based reasons. For me personally, this lifestyle just makes sense, however coming from a history of disordered eating, I wanted to ensure my reasons came from a honest place. In the beginning of 2016, I knew it felt right. Now instead of viewing this lifestyle as restrictive or lacking, I believe it has allowed me to opened up to more abundance for my overall health and life.
2) I was able to enjoy a more meaningful social life and open up to people about my past. For years I became withdrawn and anxious, hiding behind secrets, lies and insecurities. Bulimia kept me in hiding for fear of judgment, uncomfortable situations based around food, and not being deemed 'enough'. Letting go of these ideas, reaching out to close friends and even going so far as sharing my story with my public peaking university class, I began to feel lighter than ever before (pun intended) as the weight of my 'dark secret' began to fall off my shoulders.
3) I began diving into healthy practices of self love which have continued to evolve and truly change my life. While inconsistent and lacking at the start, I began dappling into meditation, journaling more frequently, writing gratitude lists, practicing mindfulness, being more conscious of my self-talk and attempting to unlearn old habits. I won't lie, in the beginning these practices seemed impossibly hard to maintain, but as I've continued through recovery they have been vital for my growth.
Travelling and wellness
Genuinely happy and healthy, in the summer of 2016 I travelled to Europe to take part in the Norway Field School my Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership Degree program offered, and later to hike solo across the country of Iceland. This trip was paramount for my personal health journey and healing, as I rediscovered the power of my both my body and mind.
Since that trip I have continued to recover, learn, and grow. I would love to say my recovery and healing has been a linear process, but there have no doubt been bumps along the way. Healing your body and mind and adventuring into a journey of self-love and acceptance is not a steady, upward progression. It looks more like two steps forward, one step back, and a few simply standing still before another leap forward. I have needed to open up to forgiveness, allow myself space and patience, unlearn old habits, let go of the need to control, and gain the highest respect for myself and body. This has been incredibly challenging at times, but some of the most rewarding work I have done for myself.
In all honesty, writing my truth here came so naturally, however it is sharing these vulnerabilities that has required a lot of courage. Swallowing my pride and opening up about my struggles with bulimia is something I've felt called to do for a long time but have always been hesitate to share. Previous fears rose of being judged, ridiculed, belittled or seen as weak. But if anything, awareness of those limiting beliefs may have compelled me even further to share my story. Coming out from the other side and opening up to others, I will not let my past define me. I will not let fear of others creating their own stories keep me from expressing the most genuine and real parts of who I am. I do not need to be ashamed or embarrassed, but instead use these experiences to create a healthier, more authentic version of myself.
Here now, I feel a sense of overflowing gratitude and freedom as my health, body and mind have continued to evolve. Experiencing my body overcome immense pain and sickness whether it's been through a past of self-destructive behaviours or the physical struggles that come from pushing myself in outdoor activities and endurance sports, I have created a deep rooted respect for all of my bodies capabilities. With a continually growing passion for health and wellness, I believe eating nourishing foods, healthy exercise, practicing balance and self-love, meditating and radically loving ourselves is so vital for longevity and a more sustainable lifestyle.
So if you've made it this far.. thank you. Thank you for listening, understanding, and allowing me to be myself. While this may just be a quick glimpse into a larger story, I feel liberated to share my past, open up, and express my own passions that have evolved through my experiences.
They asked her.
"What is true power?"
"True power is living the realization that you are your own healer, hero, and leader. It is when you share your truth with compassion and peace. Your power grows when you make progress in your own freedom and wisdom. The powerful do not harm themselves or others, instead they use their energy to enrich all they know with love.
- Yung Pueblo