Through my work as the marketing director at Ophelia’s Place and Circles of Change, I spend a lot of time aiming to empower others on their recovery and healing journeys. I’m also on a recovery journey of my own. After struggling with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction for years, I am now an active and engaged participant in my own path to wellness. While everyone’s road will look different and unique, there are a few things that link us together.
We all encounter challenging and uncomfortable emotions along the way. We all face what is hard, and we do so with bravery. And we all have some work to do in healing our physical bodies. That’s where metabolic and body composition testing can be an enormous help. If your experience with nutrition analysis starts and ends at bloodwork, these two tests open a whole new level of knowledge. You can learn more about them here, and by visiting this website.
I’ll spare you the details—I’m no scientist—but the long and short of it is that these tests determine where and how your body sources energy to perform its basic functions. Many of us in recovery are surprised to learn that our bodies are in catabolic (using its own bone and muscles stores for protein) or hypo- or hypermetabolic (burning less or more calories than is physiologically optimal) states. This occurs as a result of being underfed and/or under-nourished, oftentimes due to restricted food intake. This is a valuable test not just for those in ED recovery, but for anyone and everyone living in our world today. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of restrictive eating or dieting without even realizing that’s what’s happening.
All of this to say, I recently visited the Nutrition Clinic at The Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service to get tested. I want to be honest with you about something: I was scared. I was frightened that my results would reveal a dismal state of affairs; that I’d be told things were hopeless, and that I’d wreaked too much havoc on my body to ever fully physically recover. I was scared that just the sheer act of hearing specific numbers would send me into a tailspin. I was afraid that learning the truth meant I could never, ever turn a blind eye toward my health again. I was terrified to let go... but I was more afraid to keep holding on.
I’ve had some time to process and digest the experience, and now I want to be honest about something else: Receiving these tests was the best choice I have ever made for myself and my recovery.
Yes, it was uncomfortable to take an honest look at the scope of work I had to do. Yes, my body was both catabolic and hypometabolic. Yes, it was frustrating that, although I had done so much, I had more accomplish. My immediate reaction was to feel upset: My head and heart were so on the recovery train. Why couldn’t my body just catch up, already?
But here’s the thing: This is all just knowledge. The test results are not a judgment, nor are they a dictum. They are a tool for us as we navigate our recovery and healing processes. They are not a measure of our worth as human beings, and they are not a commentary on how sick we’ve been or how far we “need” to go.
The more I sat with these hard emotions, the more I began to unearth a little gratitude for it all. I felt lucky to have been given a clear path forward. I was grateful for concrete nutritional advice, scientifically driven from the inside-out of my unique body, that would continue to nurture my individual needs. I was proud that I had been brave enough to do the testing, and am strong enough to use it as I move upward.
I don’t think about the testing every day. I don’t wake up with it on my brain, and I don’t keep it as a checklist of goals I must accomplish, calories I must ingest, or nutrient counts I have to “hit.” Instead, I hold the results in the back of my mind and use them to inform the little choices I make throughout the day. Could I add a little extra protein to this meal? Would a snack help sustain my energy levels, even if I don’t “feel hungry”? Can I choose nourishment and love, and love, and love?
Our deepest, most sustainable healing comes not from our heads, but from our hearts. And then the true magic happens when we are able to sit with, and learn from, them both.
Warrior for Change