Hiking & Eating Disorder Recovery

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter on a hiking trip. We drove the five hours, arrived at our Airbnb, went to dinner and prepped for our hike the next day.

As many of you know, I have been in eating disorder recovery for a long time. Over this past year and a half God has led and called me to a deeper level of recovery. It has brought a lot more freedom and a lot more fear. I have become so much more aware of the rules that I have held for myself around food, my body and my weight. And these rules served a purpose for a very long time, they helped me to feel more control, safety and power. Today these rules no longer serve me. In fact they are, and always have been, a prison which has shackled me.

Whether someone identifies as having an eating disorder, disordered eating, issues around food or body, or none of these at all, we have all been greatly impacted by the diet culture in which we live. Daily we are inundated with messages about our bodies, what we’re supposed to eat, what is healthy and what we look like.

I recently heard a great phrase, “mind your own body“. This is a phrase that one family uses to remind members to keep their attention on their own bodies rather than the bodies of others. That really got me thinking just how much it is second nature for so many people to comment, judge and condemn their own bodies and the bodies of others. Myself included!

Ok, back to the hiking trip……

I experienced some amazing things on that trip with my daughter. I experienced freedom around food. There was no stressing about the food that we were going to eat during the trip. There was also no compulsive planning or panicked prepping of food that I “needed“ to bring with me. I ate differently that weekend then I would have if I were at home. And that all happened peacefully and without much of a thought. That is not something that would’ve happened two years ago.

Two years ago I also wouldn’t have been able to do the four hour, 6 mile hike that Ella and I completed. Unknowingly, my body was under nourished and was having a hard time supporting my daily functions, let alone a hike that clocked 85 flights of stairs!

I have slowly had to go through a refeeding phase for my under nourished and overly restricted body. During this process, my body has changed a lot. That has been really hard to accept. These body changes have revealed countless lies that I have believed about my weight and my appearance for decades. I never realized just how much fear and anxiety I had around food, my body and my weight. Even in the name of recovery I was still operating from so many of those lies.

Over this past year and a half, God has gently loosened the ball and chains around my ankles and the handcuffs around my wrists. It is often felt like a painstakingly slow process. When someone has been a prisoner for so so long, it is not realistic to expect a smooth and flawless return to life on the outside. It only works that way in the movies.

It’s like a wild animal that has been caged for a very long time. When the door is open and they are free to go, they may excitedly leave the cage only to return to it soon after. Why? Because the cage has become a place of familiarity, security, safety and comfort. It’s like the Israelites whining on the way to the Promised Land wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt. That’s what they knew, they knew what to expect. And humans and animals like that.

While hiking, I told Ella about some of the reasons I love it so. Despite the difficulty and sometimes pain that it ensues, hiking brings me a sense of peace, clarity and connectedness that provides a spiritual experience for me. While hiking, it’s just one foot in front of the other, quick decisions about where my next step is going to be and focused attention on the terrain I am encountering. My mind goes quiet and there is a sense of assuredness that takes over. There is a freedom and exhilaration that comes from being out in God’s creation and experiencing it fully with my entire body. Not much else matters while on that trail. It’s me, the trail and God. The only things that matter are staying safe, enjoying the beauty, and finishing the quest. There is some thing so inspiring and empowering about it all!

We made it, we reached the top!!

During the hike, I found myself very aware and beyond thankful for the progress that I have made in my eating disorder recovery. I felt surges of gratitude running through my body as I constantly thanked it for allowing me to have this experience with my girl. I knew that two or three years ago, this would’ve been impossible because my body was not strong enough to support this type of activity.

Instead of focusing on my body‘s appearance, I was too immersed in deep appreciation for how my body was serving me and has served me for over 40 years now. My body has always showed up for me. My body has never betrayed me.

My bigger body allowed me to have an experience with my daughter that neither one of us will forget. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be writing this, I may have been polite to you on the outside but I would definitely be calling you a fool in my head. I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of it, my mind and heart we’re not in a place to even consider it.

Victory, we accomplished our full quest and made it back down! 🙂

Any dismantling of limiting food and body beliefs takes time, patience and practice. It is definitely not a linear progression.

And it is completely possible!

It reminds me of a quote from Bethany Hamilton (World Class surfer and shark attack survivor),

I don’t need easy. I just need possible.

I’m here to tell you it’s completely possible!

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