Inconsistent [in·con·sis·tent | Incoherent or illogical in thought or actions.]
This word comes to mind when I think of my relationship with my body. It’s been inconsistent for so many years. This inconsistency landed me in rehab for an eating disorder (anorexia-nervosa) in 2010. I reached a very dangerous place: my body was shutting down due to malnourishment. I pushed myself through excessive cardio twice a day and restricted my food intake so much that my heart was starting to fail. Not only was I facing physical ramifications, but my relationships with others — especially my parents — became non-existent. I isolated myself and my only focus was me and my beloved eating disorder. I felt high from the “purge” of exercise and the control I thought I had. In reality, my illness had taken complete control of me.
A few months before I entered rehab, I made a mistake that would change my life forever. I went cliff jumping with friends in Lake Placid, NY, and when I hit the water, the impact shattered my vertebrae, leaving me breathless from excruciating pain. The break in my back was caused by my lack of proper bone density (osteoporosis), a consequence of my eating disorder. I look back now and thank God for sparing my life because it could have been so much worse.
Fast forward…post-rehab and a massive body brace my first semester of college (talk about embarrassing), I began a new journey. I started accepting my body. It’s taken me a long time. Just within this year, as I approach 30 years old, I’ve started to appreciate things I’d long considered flaws - things that drove me crazy for years, including the cellulite on my thighs.
Despite my past, I am sharing my story of today because on Saturday morning, June 22, I took my first-ever Pilates lesson and it changed everything. I arrived wondering if I was about to “punish” my body for the treats I’d had the night before. Instead I was confronted with an entirely new concept to me—breathing life into my lungs, recognizing every movement, embracing each muscle contraction, and feeling connected to my body for what I may argue was the first time.
This concept blew my mind. For years, I battled every single therapist about taking time for me and time to breathe. Yet, there I laid on the reformer, completely willing to focus on my breath and movement—genuinely caring for my body—for the first time. Full disclosure: this wasn’t as seamless as I make it sound. I wasn’t breathing in and out in perfect coordination with the movements, and I didn’t have a clue what a reformer even was, let alone how to use it. But that leads me to my next point…the incredible support I received from the instructors.
Despite my “wobbly” start, Kate made me feel strong and powerful, guiding me gently and with great patience and compassion. She explained each movement including why and how it could help my body. We discussed my injury history so she could modify the movements to my needs. It was the first time anyone had given me that extra time! I left wondering what it could have been like to have that care through the exercise I’d done before Pilates. The fact that I met a teacher in tune with my situation and individual body made a huge difference. I felt incredibly comfortable.
“It’s the mind itself which shapes the body.” –Joseph Pilates.
I’ve continued Pilates twice a week since my first lesson. Each time I attend class, I notice a dramatic shift in my mindset. My relationship with my body is completely different. I appreciate my curves and muscles for the first time in my life. In the past, I was so focused on being thin. Now, I am focused on being strong, physically and mentally. As I work my muscles (that I didn’t even know I had!), I see my body shifting and changing. I used to fear change, and now I’m embracing it. On the surface, my core is stronger than ever, my body has shape and my arms finally have definition. Most importantly though, my mental health is the best it’s been in a long time. Pilates has become a healthy outlet for me to let go and to step outside my comfort zone, building confidence as a result.
Overall, I am just so incredibly thankful. I’m thankful for this new relationship I have with my body and that it comes at a time when I have a new baby girl looking up to her Mama. I hope to instill this same confidence in her from a young age, reminding her just how strong and beautiful she is. Pilates continues to play a vital role in my recovery (which is a daily process), and I hope this story inspires others like me who struggle with the same challenges. Know there are outlets and resources. It is my goal to spread awareness about eating disorders and the help available. Thank You for allowing me to share my story!