In life there are a lot of realities that no one really talk about. Like, poop, or what we eat when no one is looking (or what we do when no one is watching); The neuroses we encounter in our relationships – both given and received; the pain and vulgar happenings that come along with the miracle of birth; the physical and mental discomfort, paralleled with a sense of pride, which results when one pursues recovery.
Granted, in the past year or so, many people have opened up about their own personal struggles in life, which does contradict my point above. Regardless, I still think there is very few raw posts out there regarding the topic. Here are five physical struggles that go along with recovery, along with ways to both physically and mentally combat them.
Struggle Number 1: You will feel fat all/most of the time for a while
Unlike normal people who have ‘bloaty’ or ‘fat’ days, where they just feel uncomfortable in their own skin. It is likely that you will feel this most of the time (for a bit anyhow). Your stomach is likely going to be bloated for a while due to the fact that it is learning how to accept much more food than ever before. I am not saying I do not have days that I feel I am more… fit and flat than others. But, I do often feel chubby. For me this usually follows meals. I am trying to be less, mainstream [I am not committed to this word, but whatever] about my diet. This means, no six meals a day… no set time to stop eating, etc. I am letting myself feel full – completely and 100% full. After that, I am even letting myself eat a little bit more, if I really want to. As a result, I sometimes feel… like a beached whale. It is not fun, but it does happen and it is normal.
Combating Struggle 1: Looser clothes
The only way I have found to feel more… comfortable with my weight gain is not wearing anything form fitting. I have tried from time to time to wear things that are snug to my form, and I find myself feeling extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. Therefore, the best way to overcome this struggle is to simply wear clothes that you feel comfortable in. This does not mean you need to sacrifice beauty or fashion. A lot of trends these days have leached into many different silhouettes, including that of a more loose, fall off you, style. This is what I like to embrace. Constricting clothes only make you more aware of your body’s size.
Struggle Number 2: You will have bouts of ravenous, bottomless pit huger spells
While bringing your caloric limit/food intake up, you are giving your body – for the first time in a long time – what it wants and needs. And it loves you because of it. Due to the fact that your body was in starvation mode for as long as it was, now that you’re giving it food… your appetite will increase. The main fear here is that your appetite will sky-rocket, as will your waist line. While possible, if you do recovery right, you’ll be OK.
Combating Struggle 2: Intuitive Eating
First, the main issue is cravings. We will all have them from time to time and you can not control how or what kinds of cravings you will get. For instance, last night, I smelled French fries** and I craved them. For me, the cravings are usually pretty, intense but short lived. If I get a craving, then see a cute dog or something, my brain will likely go something like this: ‘Man, I could go for some French fries right about – oh, my god! Look at that cute puppy!’ and completely forget about the original craving. So honestly I typically do not give into cravings. Unless it is cake. The key to not becoming too ravenous is to always honour your bodies desires to some degree, while maintaining an over-all healthy diet. That is, eat healthily, but never deny your body something, or cravings will develop and in worst cases, you’ll KNOW you want something, you just will have no idea what that something is. Just remember to balance your life, completely.
Struggle Number 3: You will relapse.
One week I will be perfect. My meals are keeping me satisfied, I feel happy and confident, well slept and calm. The next week, I am a wrecking ball. Always hungry, never happy… completely annoyed. Immediately, I feel like I need to control something… anything. The first to get it, is my food. Whenever I feel anxious, I try to restrict my food again. It is like that poorly directed belief that if I get skinny again, my struggles will go away. But that is not true. Soon, my depression grows and I begin to feel like I failed myself. I felt no good. I felt I should be above that, but I am not.
Combating Struggle 3: Cultivating a light-hearted practice
One thing a lot of people, yogis and non-yogis alike, seem to forget about yoga is its ability to, almost, force you to be light-hearted. First, a number of postures in yoga are challenging, and you must therefore be prepared that you will (and you will) fall down at least once, while learning the pose. This is OK. In fact, this is encouraged. The art of falling down only means that you will need to practice the strength of getting back up. Do not fear the fall, but embrace the empowerment that comes with regaining alignment and focus. Another point, is some postures look like… this:
Now while this just makes you look like a total fool, the principle behind it is two-fold: first, it helps to relieve any stress found in the neck, throat and face, massaging and stretching the inner parts of the throat; however, it also allows you as a yogi to remind yourself that yoga is not solely about the physical, but about the whole body and mind. Try doing this pose (simhasana) for as long as you can without laughing, it is hard. The beauty here is that you are actively reminding yourself to not take yoga so seriously. Have fun with it and with yourself! Do not force things to go where they do not want to go, be content with what is readily available to you and soon, in both life and in practice, more opportunities will come. A regular yoga practice will help this.
Struggle Number four: You will not love yourself enough
This more happens before recovery, however the act of loving yourself again is not an easy task. The more you tell yourself something, the more you begin to believe it. It is sad, but it is true. Then, further than that, the more you believe something, the more frequently you try to disprove anything dis-confirming it, causing your belief to intensify. This happens even on an unconscious level. You do not like broccoli as a child, you grow up hating broccoli, but you have not eaten it in 10 years, so how could you truly know? Because you actively tell yourself every day (or when broccoli comes up) that you do not like it, enforcing your reasons, however weak they are. Applying the same belief on our hatred of self, the more you tell yourself – and justify to yourself – that you are not worth it, the more you will find within yourself reasons to find that to be true. Loving yourself again will be a struggle, as you will not only have that void without yourself, but you will also have create the ability to redefine what it means to love yourself. Most people do not openly admit to all that they have a hatred for themselves, so they’ll fill that void with harmful things, sometimes disguised as healthy. For me, it was exercise and healthy eating. So, in pursuit to love yourself again, you need to challenge your current thoughts of what love is, with more accurate and balanced beliefs of love. It is hard.
Combat for Struggle Four: Opening your heart.
Open up your heart to someone. Challenging yourself without the help of another can be hard. While not impossible, it is hard. I am the first to say that the only person you really need in life is yourself; however, as I grow, it becomes more clear to me that that could not be further from true. Humans need others. We just do. And having someone regularly around, reminding you why it is you should love yourself, makes it a lot easier to believe. You inner voice is challenged. It is scary, but it works. For me, it is baba and my mother. For you it could be anyone. I also have my Zooey. So, it could even be your pet. Just allow yourself open to them. The feeling of opening up you heart is empowering and fills the opener to feel love and warmth. This is also something to practice on your mat. Let the love and light in, and you will be reminded how to love yourself right.
In sum, there are many struggles you will encounter on your road to happiness. While I am not suggesting that these are all musts they have helped me and I know that they would help you, if you let them. Do not fear, just feel. If you do not like yoga, if that is not your thing, apply these beliefs to anything you do in life. The beauty of yoga is that it is a practice that travels off the mat with you, which to me, is what makes it different than strict exercise. So if your thing is art, or singing, or what have you, but light about it, keep yourself open to others and remember always to focus on both what your body and mind wants and needs, in order to achieve happiness.