Picture this. Eating out every night for two weeks straight, while fridge-less and kitchen-less. Getting 4-5 hours sleep on average for most of that time. Missing green juices and salads for long stretches (I know, shocking!) Not going for my beloved bushwalks. Yoga practice restricted to childs pose on my mat, perhaps with some muffled dying rodent-like sounds coming from deep down in my glottis.
Many people are surprised when I tell them this. But we all tumble from grace from time to time. Even those who we think are perfect! I've worked with models, actresses, public figures and other health professionals, and the one thing we all have in common is that no one is perfect. We're human, after all.
My wagon stack came three weeks ago. My partner, Palasis had just arrived back from overseas after the longest time we've ever been apart, which took some getting used to. But that was the least of it. At the same time, I was moving house, moving clinic space, and had surrendered my car to the wreckers for permanent retirement.
I'd taken on three new yoga gigs, and a bunch of wonderful new clients - all good things, but even good things can be stressful at first. I discovered that being home-less, car-less and extremely busy does not a simple life make!
All the upheaval took its toll on my healthy eating habits. Hello, nut butter eaten out of the jar late at night. Oh hey, Govinda's for dinner multiple nights in a row - it's been a long time since we've seen each other. And green juice? He'd left the building completely.
This disruption in my mostly green-light eating habits came with attendant feelings of guilt and failure, and a total loss of perspective to boot. I'd also "feel fat" far more often than usual, which I realise is ridiculous yet as a woman the feeling was undeniably there and persistent. At times, after a long day of moving without wonderful raw vegetables, I would feel like I'd failed myself - even though we didn't yet own a fridge! How could I forgive my friends' and clients' dietary misdemeanours in light of big life events, yet be so unaccepting of my own imperfections?
The perfection delusion
But the most rife body image/eating disorder is the one that is so common it appears normal today. The girls I’m referring to may not be outright starving themselves or purging, but they are nonetheless suffering enormously with their bodies and dieting. The average woman is infatuated with having “a good body”.
While it is overlooked as normal for girls to diet all the time now, the fact is that it is all consuming and the majority of women are actually suffering over the mental focus, time, and energy drain that goes into food and their body. I have yet to encounter a young woman this year who is distress-free with regard to her body!
This distress can be exacerbated by stressful life circumstances which disrupt our normal routines. Staying flexible, honest and compassionate with yourself are crucial when there are inter-state weddings to attend, injuries to adapt to, houses to move out of, and relationship break downs to cope with. These are the times to be extra gentle with ourselves as we adapt to changing circumstances, rather than exercise even more harshness and self-judgement.
When you're stuck in a rut, there are ways of accepting where you are - I'll leave that for another blog. But once you've acknowledged and accepted the fact you've fallen, the next step is in climbing out of the rut.
Just get back on
1. Surround yourself with great friends. People who know you well can point out your strengths, provide valuable perspective (and hugs), and can have a clearer view of what you can do to climb back on the wagon, than you do.
2. Ask for support. As you pick the pieces up post Humpty, you're going to need all the king's soldiers you can get. Think about who you spend the most time with. Cranky because you're feeling toxic and overworked? Let your partner know how off-kilter you're feeling. Let them know you need a little more support than usual whilst you put yourself back together again, and that it may take a few days (or months... or years.) Ask them to please be aware that although bad things may go down in your cloudy state, you need their love and understanding more than ever. This can save you a mountain of unnecessary arguments and relationship stress added on top of your load!
3. Just do one thing, each day. Rather than write a list of all the things you "should" be doing only to realise that you can only manage to muster the strength to do one (or none) of them, just do one thing. To break my meditation drought after weeks of missing my practice, I started meditating in bed for just 5 minutes on waking. If this was the only thing I did to get back on the wagon all day, it still made a huge difference in my mental clarity.
4. Avoid comparing yourself to others. That woman who seems like she's got it all together? She's a totally different person, in a different body, in a different set of circumstances, living a different life. Plus, you just don't know what's really going on for her behind the scenes. It just doesn't make sense to compare yourself to anyone else, and it often makes you feel worse so that you want to give up! Just don't go there.
5. Treat yourself. Ideally in a way that's health-generating (so not with 2 bottles of red!) Get a massage. Dress up pretty and go out f Or simply go for a walk in the park or a swim in the ocean. Why do we wait until we have done something good or feel worthy before we do something to honour ourselves? Sometimes the good feelings need to start flowing before we can see clearly. Miracles can and do happen at the hands of a gifted masseause.
6. Get outdoors. Breathing in all those wonderful negative ions by the ocean or in the bush is, for me, uplifting beyond description. I knew when I was finally out of my rut after a three day hike in the Sunshine Coast hinterlands with a friend. I came back refreshed, clear-minded and with a new sense of perspective - like looking back down a dark tunnel after coming back into the light and sighing in relief!