This post is a doozy, so sit down with a hot cup of coffee or tea and get comfy.
About six months ago, my hairdresser introduced me to a revolutionary new idea. She told me that, if I washed my hair with only conditioner, using shampoo once a week or so, my hair would be easier to work with and much less dry. I hesitated to try it. I mean, I had been washing my hair every day forever. If I started washing it less frequently, wouldn’t it be gross? Wouldn’t I be like one of those kids in elementary school who always had dirty hair and dirty clothes? Wouldn’t my friends stop hanging out with me? Maybe I didn’t get quite that dramatic, but I did think the idea seemed a little crazy. However, I figured that she knew what she was talking about, being a hairdresser and all, so I gave it a shot.
Guess what happened? My hair became softer. It became more manageable. And I wasn’t a dirty-hair kid who nobody wanted to play with on the playground. My hairdresser was right after all! I I hadn’t been willing to at least try her advice, I would still be a hair-washing fool ignorant of the possibility of something better.
What does this have to do with weight gain, you may ask? Well, seemingly not much. But I promise the two link together if you’ll just stick with me. See, in the last two weeks, I have gained some weight. Because weight as a measurement is a rough estimate at best, I don’t know exactly how much I have gained or why I have gained it, but it has been enough to stress me out. For some reason, seeing that I gained weight this morning was especially hard. I quickly reverted to my old coping mechanisms as my head was filled with ohmygoshhowdoimakethisstop thoughts. I started jumping to conclusions that didn’t make any sense, like believing that the weight gain must have been because I licked the knife after I put peanut butter on my bread, or because of the sliver of a cookie I ate a few days ago. I started to believe that I really was the exception to the rule, I really do have to count calories forever. There really is value in this diet-obsessed culture. I knew it! I knew the idea of listening to my body was too good to be true, I thought.
At some point in this stressful morning, I told myself to calm the fuck down and I thought things through a little bit. When I decided to enter recovery, I took a chance on the possibility that I could learn to listen to my body. This meant choosing a path different from the one most of our society advocates. It meant finding people I trust, who seem happy, and who say that another way is possible. Much like when I decided to stop washing my hair as often, it has felt very strange. And that first week that I didn’t wash my hair, it was kind of gross. It took my hair some time to adapt. Going against the grain of society’s weight-loss emphasis has been similarly challenging. Today was a day when I was tempted to throw in the towel and try, once again, to trust the mainstream promise that if you eat less and exercise more, you will be happy. But I have to hold on to the possibility that it does get better, that my body knows what it needs as much as anybody else’s. There will be moments that I am tempted to fall back into old habits, just as there were moments when I was tempted to wash my hair in that first week or two. But now, my hair is softer and more manageable. And since gradually moving away from the belief that I can’t trust my body, I am happier and healthier. I have to believe that it will only get better from here.
A year ago in Indiana (shudder), I let the fear of weight gain keep me locked in a cycle of calorie counting and excessive exercise, resulting in more weight loss. I was so unable to believe that I could trust my body that I let my disorder take complete control. Here’s where the semi-truck story comes in. On one of my insane, obsessive, fast, cold, early-morning bike rides last year, I did not stop for a semi that was coming toward me. I couldn’t stop because it would interfere with my workout. I couldn’t stop because I would have to recalculate every calorie consumed and burned that day if I stopped biking for the 10 seconds it would take for the semi to get across the road. Because I couldn’t stop, I narrowly missed getting hit. I mean, very narrowly. And if I had been hit, that would have been it. I would have been killed on that road, essentially because I was petrified of taking a chance on weight gain and believing that things would get better. Thank God that didn’t happen, but I write this from a place of reflection today, to remind myself why I would rather push forward and handle the intense fear that comes from days like today than believe that maybe, possibly, dieting could still work for me. It cannot. It did not.
I have to believe that it will be worth it. Some teeny piece of me believed that life could be better a year ago, and that piece has to keep pushing forward. I took a chance on my hair and it paid of, and the chance I’m taking on recovery will pay off as well, I believe.
Sorry that was such a lengthy post, but hopefully it had some merit in there somewhere. Have a great day, everybody!