Is It Better to Have a Dream Body or to Live a Dream Life?
Valuing your dream life, more than your dream body.
For some of you, it may be such an easy concept to grasp, but I lived in fear (utter, real fear) of seeing my body changing.
I had nightmares about piling on the pounds, I used to weigh myself multiple times a day, and I would avoid drinking water to look less bloated and puffy (well, back then I didn’t know much about physiology). Eating gradually shifted from being something enjoyable, a time shared with family and friends, to a moment filled with dread and fears.
I got to a point where I stopped trusting myself around food, as I couldn’t predict when the next binge was going to be or what could trigger it, and I held onto to the safety blanket of starvation. I was a miserable anorexic and a much worse bulimic.
I didn’t enjoy feeling out of control in my body, and I despised the comments that came from people that knew me well or didn’t know me at all.
I would spend days munching on apples and crackers, to then polish off whatever came on sight; in one sitting, I had 2 pizzas, 1 tub of ice cream, multiple croissants, some chocolate, stale bread, and a slice of cake that wasn’t even properly defrosted.
When my binges began, I piled on 7–10 kilos in a short amount of time. I obviously noticed, and people definitely noticed.
The feedbacks weren’t always positive, as I lived in a culture obsessed with reaching the perfect physique, a culture that honors the small, the humble, the pretty, and the rich. All of a sudden, I wasn’t fitting the ideal stereotype any longer, and it was exhausting.
I didn’t give up, and I kept researching the perfect diet, exercise regime, I kept writing down all the calories, I abstained from my favorite foods, and I didn’t talk about my feelings…ever.
If anything, I kept repressing them, pushing them in the back of my brain.
And at the end of an emotional and professional exhausting week, I went back to indulging, to feel miserable, to lose power, to lose identity, to feel like a failure. All because of a new packet of biscuit that sat untouched on the kitchen shelf.
That wasn’t my dream life, but between overwhelming emotional ups and downs, I managed to maintain my dream body. Although I couldn’t entirely get rid of the binges, I managed to restrict more and more; I started exercising, walked everywhere, I skipped meals, I made up excuses, I said no to dinners, lunches, and vacations. I sat in my room and worked out how many calories I needed to survive or to compensate. I tried laxatives, vomiting, and I engaged in many dysfunctional behaviors that luckily didn’t work, or didn’t stick. Within a short time, my legs were toned, my abs showing, my boobs perky and my skin tanned.
Once again, the comments started flowing in, and this time around, I got amazing 5 stars reviews. Of course, I couldn’t rest, because there was more overthinking, counting, obsessing, and restricting to do, but I was happy…
Wait a minute: was I?
I got to a point where my mental state and inner development didn’t matter as much as my toned knees in a new pair of glamourous cowboys boots; I didn’t care about the cramps, the stomach pain that kept me awake at night, insomnia, the constant hunger, the dizziness and the life that I was missing out on. I was skinny. I had achieved what 95% of the population want to achieve and I still wasn’t satisfied.
One day I woke up feeling dread in the pit of my gut; for how long did I have to do it? For how long did I still have to starve, prove myself, avoid eating, and pretend to be ok with it?
I was so tired of spending my free time walking pass the most beautiful bakeries and imagine being able to wrap my lips around a crusty piece of bread. I was depriving myself of simple pleasures, and I didn’t even know why; I started getting jealous of friends that could have an impromptu 2 pm lunch at a random kebab place and talked about topics that were completely unrelated to food and eating, while the grease of a stray piece of lamb would stain their t-shirts.
That’s when it dawned on me: what if I could live my dream life, instead of chasing after a dream body that has never given anything to me, except for some (mostly unwanted) attention?
And that’s what I did:
I started by imagining the life I wanted
In the beginning, the thought of living a different life was so far fetched, I couldn’t even imagine it. And the more I tried, the more I failed. I couldn’t even go past an imaginary breakfast without thinking of calories, weight, and exercise. I felt hopeless and needing directions. So I persisted, and I kept visualising little bits and pieces of my ideal life. What I would wear, talk about, what I would do, how I would move, and so forth
I asked for help
I recognised pretty quickly that I needed professional help; after years of dealing with disordered eating behaviors, I struggled to define normal and to understand which types of actions were serving me or not. The counselor walked me through the first doubtful months until I learnt to walk with my shoes. There were lots of back and forth, especially in the beginning, until the new habits stick, also those ones I didn’t truly believe in. At the end of the day, it was all about repetition.
I wrote…so much
Some days the thoughts and feelings were too overwhelming and I didn’t know what to do with them, and that’s when I wrote. I kept writing about what I was experiencing, and where I struggled, but mostly I wrote about my ideal life, what I wanted to achieve, who I truly wanted to become, until my brain recognised this dream situation as my new reality, and it made it happens.
Every day, without fail, I have been dreaming about the life I want; and I’m still doing it now, also when it comes to my family, work, personal relationship, and so forth. It has not been easy, and I have been on this journey for many years, and I will be on this journey for many more. When I do something silly like stepping on the scale, and I’m confronted with my new body shape, I have to focus hard to avoid limiting my nourishment or walk or run until my feet hurt. But I have been doing it, and I’m helping people doing it every day.
Find your whys, a routine that works with you, and that makes you feel excited; look at food as nourishment instead of numbers, move your body gently and focus on supporting your beautiful brain.
And find someone to talk to. It isn’t easy, but it’s worthy, and a dream life is 1000 better (and easier) than a dream body.
Claudia is a Qualified Nutrition & Dietetic Consultant (BHSC) specialised in hormonal balance, women’s health, non-diet approach and disordered eating behaviors. She sees clients online and in clinical practice; you can find more about what she offers by following her on Instagram, Facebook, or by checking her website.