Me & Hyrum, Amalia, 2009
This is not the post I was intending to write today.
But, from time to time, I receive notes from you. They touch me, make me think, & occasionally, like this one, cause me to be put on the defensive.
Today, I received the following from a reader (I’ve changed her name):
ive only commented once on your blog before (a few weeks ago) although I have been reading it for a few years….. I too am a vegan Christian mama pregnant with number 4. I suffered from an eating disorder in the past and have been recovering for the last 12 years. anyway, I was so exited when you posted your ‘curves‘ post a yearish ago and I have it saved and read it often as inspiration. there are many foodie bloggers out there who are also vegan and in ‘recovery’ from an ED past, but I honestly don’t think they are really ‘recovering’ but still suffering. anyway, your curves post and a few others really distinguished you from the crowd. you had given much such strength through those posts. I think on them often. anyway, I know that you just gave birth and I understand what that post-baby body feels like both physically and emotionally. and im honestly hurt at the measures you are going through and the things you are saying to ‘get back your bod’. I am in no way judging you. we all live different paths and I obviously don’t know you personally. and trust me, I know that I will feel the same way after this new bundle is in my arms. it just frightened me. because I looked up at you being so strong to embrace those curves and realize the more important things in life. and now im worried that I too wont be able to stand strong….Clara
I typically don’t respond to emails immediately–I like to let them stew for a bit before I formulate a response. But with this one, I felt it imperative to write back immediately. So that the response given wasn’t overly thought out, but rather raw & honest.
Here’s my response:
Wow Clara. I think I will need a few moments to truly digest what you’ve written.
First, I want to say thank you for having the courage to write to me! I think most people would just think what you’re thinking & move on, & not take the time to write me a very personal email. So thank you for that.
Second, I’m not sure I can address all of what you’ve brought up in this email, but let me just share a few thoughts that come to mind.
I understand where you are coming from.
Having struggled with disordered eating in my past (I go into greater detail in my ebook
), I too have struggled with finding just the right balance with exercise, my relationship with food, & my body image. I spent a good chunk of the past decade immersed in the world of professional fitness, & was always in the spotlight as the instructor. This taught me so much about relating with others & how so many of us just want to feel good and be fit. I learned to truly love the joy of movement & also learned how awesome our bodies are! How we can stretch, bend, & give them just the right amount of resistance to adapt & grow stronger.
I also saw a darker side of the fitness world–one in which diet & the body become idols of sorts. It can become all-consuming & the pursuit for a “perfect” body can be never-ending, & rather fruitless.
As a result of these experiences, combined with my perspective gained as a mama of now five beautiful children, I’ve learned a lot.
That curves post marked a major turning point in my thought process
, sort of a culmination of a lot of experiences. I became pregnant just shortly after I wrote that post (just a matter of months). From the writing of that post all the way through my pregnancy to a few weeks after, I didn’t exercise (at least formally). There were a lot of reasons, but I feel the pendulum had swung. And in hind sight (which is always 20-20, right?), I wish I had exercised, I had paid a bit more attention to my diet.
Because, as you may know from reading my blog, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Whether or not this diagnosis was a result of my lack of exercise or what I was eating is neither here nor there, I know that I could have done better.
I’m a person prone to extremes. I’ve been rather transparent about this fact over the years with my readers.
Whether I like it or not, finding balance is something I have to work really hard at achieving. When I do something, I go all the way, I’m committed, focused, I work hard. But this drive, & tendency for extremes is something I also have to temper with a good amount of thinking, deliberation, discernment, & dialogue–particularly with my husband, & as a person of faith, with God.
Though I’ve struggled in the past (as I’m sure 90% of women do) with finding the right balance & approach to weight & exercise, diet, & body image, I have to believe that it is possible to lose weight (through diet & exercise) without resorting to extreme measures or disordered eating behaviors. I have to believe that. Because otherwise, there is no hope for people like me or you. I have to believe it is possible to get to a healthy place, to have a healthy relationship with food & with our body image, without eschewing attention to diet & exercise.
With this past pregnancy, I gained over 50 pounds of fat weight
(this did not include the baby, placenta, nor all the other weights associated with carrying a baby in the womb). Most recommendations for weight gain are somewhere around 25-35 pounds total
weight (if you’re of normal weight to begin with, which I was). Clearly, I had gained too much weight. All of the physicians with whom I worked after my G.D. diagnosis
, including a R.D., made it clear the best path for preventing a permanent diabetes diagnosis later in life are to do three things:
1) Get back to my pre-pregnancy weight 2) Eat a healthy, balanced diet (similar to, though not as strict as, someone who is on a diabetic diet) & 3) Make exercise a regular part of my life (which it was, up until about a year ago).
Since I have had the baby, I have done nothing extreme to lose the weight. I eat (a lot!) a variety of all kinds of foods, including flours, desserts, oils, fats, restaurant food. Nothing, aside from animal foods & gluten (because of my gluten-intolerance & commitment to a vegan lifestyle) is excluded. I make exercise a priority, though since I have five kids & am rather busy with other things, does not take up the amount of time it did when I was teaching fitness as a profession.
Clara, I know it’s scary to have to lose weight when you’ve had a history of disordered eating. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Eating disorder & thin, OR overweight & “anything goes.” A balance can be found. Though not perfect, I’m trying to find that balance. I feel happy & content with the choices I’m making. I have nothing to hide. And because of this, I’m sharing my journey with you, & with all of the bring joy community.
I know some, maybe many, may not agree with me. I use the word “diet.” I’m using a scale. I’m losing weight just a short time after having a baby. Some may think I’m losing too much weight or discussing it too much, but as someone who has willingly put my life out for scrutiny as a part of the greater online world, I’m okay with it. As a blogger, it’s a part of the deal, a part that if I’m being honest, I don’t always like, but I know that I can’t pick & choose all the consequences of my sharing some of the most personal aspects of my life on the www.
Obsessive, compulsive, or disordered behavior can be found in all sorts of approaches & methods. For me, the way to achieve a healthy balance is to focus on the things that matter most to me–my relationship with my family, my health, my faith. My approach to losing weight is not a narrowly focused one, with the end goal being a size 0 or 2, or 4 or 8. For me, it’s about getting back to a place where my weight is within a healthy range, where my body is strong & able to run and “not faint.” The means to that end, I believe, are not extreme, irrational, unhealthy, or disordered.
I hope I don’t sound defensive here. I’m coming from a place of understanding, I hope you know that.
Thank you for reaching out, & feeling comfortable enough to be honest & open with me.
I don’t know if I’ve addressed or resolved the main issues you’ve written to me about, but perhaps, in my sharing a few thoughts we’ve come to a better understanding of how it is possible to get to a place where diet is not a dirty word, where exercise is not a tool to erase “bad” food choices but as a way to enhance the quality of life, & where both of these can be used as just a few of the tools needed to sculpt a vibrant & healthy existence.
Take care, & please let me know your thoughts.
There’s a good chance that you have had thoughts similar to Clara.
I assure you I am not offended by you asking me questions, or calling me out. I want to remind you though, that sharing my life, these thoughts, often takes a great amount of courage for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the answers.
I’m like you, figuring things out day by day. Hopefully making each a moment, one that is a meaningful part of the greater process that we call life.
I’d love to know your thoughts, if you have any you’d like to share.