Trimming The Fat

So, I've been seeing a lot of dead birds lately. I mean that literally.

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It's mostly tiny birds, crushed on the sidewalk, like maybe they landed there and someone accidentally stepped on them. I've seen a whopping seven of them in the past week or so. Two just yesterday.

It's been a little disturbing and a little unusual. Perhaps I'm a little superstitious, because I am prone to seeing significance in things like this: yeah, I see them as potential signs. What could encountering dead birds mean? I did what any semi-spiritual person would do: I gave it a google.

So, what is the significance of seeing dead birds? As I found here,

"It represents a death, but it is a death of something you have been focused on.  It could be the death or “end” of a bad relationship, or a bad financial situation, or a behaviour pattern you have been wanting to break, etc.  And with all things that end, the way is then clear for new opportunities to come into your life."

If you go by that school of thought, then encountering these dead birds might not be the bad omen I feared they were. As this article goes on, 

That is what these dead birds are, a message that whatever you were dealing with is now “dead” and behind you and you are now ready to move forward with the new opportunity that has been presenting  itself to you but that you have been ignoring for some reason. So, see the sign, and determine what message it is sending you and be grateful that you have now received the message and start looking for the new opportunity.

Well, that resonated with me, big time. I'm going through an obvious and big transition by ending CakeSpy and figuring out How To Move Forward. 

At the risk of continuing to sound annoyingly semi-spiritual, I think that this time of transition is vital in my final stages of recovery from disordered eating.

It's in some ways the most subtle phase of recovery, and in some ways the most dramatic. It's the time when I must shed my former skin to move forward.

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Or as I'm thinking of it, I'm trimming the fat.

When I say "trimming the fat" I am speaking in a figurative sense. Basically, I am taking stock of my life and deciding what is serving me and what is not. Those things that I identify as holding me back? I'm trying to get rid of them. Here are some examples of the "fat" that I'm trimming:

Unhealthy behaviors.

Recently, someone pointed out a behavior of mine. It is something that I do on a frequent basis when I'm rejected or criticized. Basically, when I am faced with the discomfort of criticism, I take on this sunny-yet-steely demeanor, breezing off the comments and kind of shrugging "oh well, that's just the way I am / the best I can do / etc". I take an attitude of "this is bouncing right off of me" but then, later, in private, I'll obsess about the criticism and have painful, I'm-not-good-enough emotions. 

So, maybe instead of using time and energy letting things like this fester inside of me, maybe what I really need to do is this: take a minute to feel the pain or impact of the criticism at the time it is given, and begin to actually work on it rather than going to my cave. While it might sting more in the moment, ultimately I would experience less pain in the long run. 

This is an example of an unhealthy behavior that I am working very hard to eradicate. Not only does it simplify my life, but it reduces the temptation to be secretive, which is when I tend to return to disordered eating thoughts. 

Obsessive food thoughts.

I am at a point in eating disorder recovery where I have not been actively restricting for quite a long time. But I am still sometimes prone to obsessive food thoughts. In my opinion, the thoughts are MUCH harder to get rid of than the actual behavior of restricting, bingeing, purging, what have you.

So how am I beginning to face and banish these obsessive food thoughts? By actually paying attention to what I eat and the effect is has on me. 

Believe it or not, for a long time I didn't really pay attention to how food affected my mind and body. I just kind of ate the same "safe" things all the time. It never occurred to me that some of these foods could actually be affecting my brain and perpetuating the obsessive food thoughts. 

Well, I've had a bit of a wake up call and have really begun noticing the connections between how I feel physically and mentally, and what I eat. I have made some drastic dietary changes which have had an extremely positive effect. Not only have I noticed huge relief in certain physical symptoms, but a huge reduction in obsessive food thoughts. 

Everything that keeps me from moving forward.

This one is perhaps harder to explain, but basically, I am taking an inventory of everyone and everything in my life and assigning a "pass/fail" system to it. 

For instance: pair of shoes I haven't worn since 2014? FAIL. Jeans that I never liked my butt in? FAIL. But it's also extending to people, places, and habits that aren't serving me. For instance: acquaintance who might become a friend one day but flakes out every time we make a coffee date? FAIL. 

I don't want to sound negative, but as it turns out there's a lot of stuff I have been carrying around both physically and emotionally which are really not doing much for me. Maybe we all are. 

Good fat = filler 

The good thing about trimming all that fat is now that I have all of these lean, exposed places. That means that there is room for Good Stuff in my life.

So in addition to trimming the fat, I'm also buffering myself up with some new behaviors to fill in what I am leaving behind. It's like I'm taking that old flabby fat and discarding it, and using good fat to fill in those voids. Here are some ways I'm doing that: 

Investing in myself.

I've been investing in myself, literally. For a long time, I was really cheap and would only buy articles of clothing that cost under $10 at thrift stores; similarly, I wouldn't invest in good blankets, body care products, etc. Part of it was a mentality of "oh, I don't need those fancy things". With items like furniture, etc, part of it was the idea that I never lived anywhere long enough to make such investments worthwhile. 

I am not saying that I've been on a huge spending spree here, but I am beginning to see the value in investing myself in these ways. By doing something like paying $78 for a pair of jeans that actually looks good on me, I'm showing myself respect, not to mention being less wasteful than buying 4 crappy pairs from the Target kids department for $15 each and not actually liking how I look in any of them. Investing in myself is a positive way of reinforcing the idea that I am worthy and good enough. 

Getting stronger.

I've been spending time getting physically stronger, too. Once again, I mean this literally. I've been a yoga enthusiast for a long time, but I've always been more flexible than strong. In many ways, I've been kind of passive about this in the past, just figuring "shrug, that's how I'm made, can't change it". 

The thing is, I can change it, and I am. So I have been focusing on strength building by doing exercises and working with weights, and it has had a pretty profound effect on my psyche. For one, it makes me feel more confident in my body. But for another, it makes me feel deeply capable. It might sound silly, but getting stronger physically is helping transport me from this place of being a helpless girl who can't lift things to being a capable woman. This has a positive effect mentally, as well: I feel like I can do things. 

Defining what I want.

Once someone gave me a great compliment, which was that "Jessie, it doesn't take you much to go from 'what if?' to 'let's go'."

Right now, I am trying to expand that in myself. I am taking the time to define and identify things (jobs, people, opportunities) that I want in my life. Well, I guess right now I am still in a time of transition, but I want to figure out these things.

I believe that when you take the time to actively define your goals like this, you become empowered to actually make a reality. This gives me focus and clarity, which means I can devote my attentions to things that truly matter to me. Without this focus, my thoughts can become jumbled, I can become overwhelmed, and turn to food thoughts for order and solace. I'd say that working toward positive goals is a much better use of my time and energy. 

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Conclusion

The first steps in recovery, of course, are addressing the direct behavior toward food, be it restricting, bingeing and purging, whatever your method of self-abuse. 

But to progress into a deeper state of recovery once the behaviors have been dealt with, I believe that it's necessary to trim the fat from your life. It's the unhealthy and unnecessary things in your life that are going to tempt you back into disordered eating every time. 

Personally, by letting go of the "fat" and filling in my life with more positive influences and direction, I believe that I am in effect giving the last vestiges of my disordered eating a swift kick and allowing myself to grow into the person I'm meant to be. 

What fat do you need to trim from your life? 

Regret

Some of them I consider "regret-lite"--things that I feel, yes, but can dismiss as being fairly standard regret fare. You know. Things I said that I wish I hadn't, things I wish I had said that I didn't. Wishing I'd spent more time with my grandmother before she died. Lamenting the fact that I didn't study abroad when I had the chance. 

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Not Good Enough has never been upgraded from the kid’s table at Thanksgiving. 

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You should turn over a new leaf. Start fresh. Let it go. 

Everyone spouts off variations of this phrase, from therapists to church to even Taylor Swift.

But what if you can't "shake it off"? What if you find yourself holding on to every little thing, from a fear that you'll lose your job to bad vibes from the grocery store clerk who was rude to you to the baggage that comes with romantic relationships both past and present?

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