Creating a Healthy Body
It’s Wednesday morning and I’m at CC’s Coffee House reading Gabby Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back. Today I’m on Chapter 2, “You Are the Dreamer of Your Dream.”
On page 35, she introduces the practice of image-making, reminding us that our thoughts create our realities, so it’s important that we create visions of the world we want to see.
“What do you want to see?” she asks. “Be unapologetic about your answer.”
I opened my journal to answer that question. Here is what I said:
I want to see myself in a healthy body.
I want to see a world where all are healthy and accept their bodies and appreciate their weights.
I want to see a world without eating disorders.
I want to see a world where people nourish themselves with love.
I want to see myself confident, in every moment.
I want to see myself empowered, at my core.
I want to see myself live fiercely, fearlessly, and unapologetically.
I want to see myself with a healthy relationship to control.
I want to see myself in healthy relationships with my loved ones, where I can differentiate myself from them.
I want to see myself detached from my parents, living my own life.
I want to see myself with strong, healthy boundaries.
I want to see myself saying no.
I want to see myself being honest.
I want to see myself living in a state of chronic healing.
I want to see myself living without internal blocks to love.
I want to see myself at a healthy weight.
I want to see myself having a period.
I want to see myself free from pain, shame, and fear.
I want to see myself free from physical objects.
I want to see myself at peace with and free from my past.
I want to see myself rely on a higher power rather than on self.
I want to see myself surrendered.
I want to see myself aligned with love.
I want to see myself creating and sharing my work.
I want to see myself living in acceptance, not denial.
I want to see my full authentic self.
“Next, read your response and then close your eyes and sit in stillness for five minutes…When you’re ready, gently come out of your meditation and take a moment to jot down any images that may have come through.”
I closed my eyes and channeled the most salient of these many images.
I sat in stillness for 13 minutes, repeating, “I want a healthy body.”
When I opened my eyes, I took to my journal, asking, What did I see?
I saw myself in the black romper and heeled boots I wore when I was healthy last October. I saw and felt myself with meat on my shoulders and arms. I saw myself with a period monthly. I saw myself slightly curvier. I saw myself with my head held high. I saw myself slightly better dressed. I saw and heard myself laugh, fully and loudly, head thrown back. I felt energy draining—fear lifting—from my chest. I heard my voice, booming and loud, come from deep in my chest with no tension. I saw myself independent, separate from my parents. I felt myself believing in myself. I saw images I had seen before, all images from my past, from a year ago, proving I have been my desired version of health before and that I can and will be there again. I emerged from the meditation with an appetite; I stood up and got a snack.
But how did I get here? How did I come to need this meditation in the first place? Hasn’t my body been healthy all along?
Well, throughout my fall semester, I felt a disconnect within me.
My confidence felt forced in every interaction, and I didn’t feel fully myself.
It was as if there were a wall around my heart, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
I cared for myself physically and nutritionally to the best of my ability.
I showed up to every class, rehearsal, and meeting.
But this disconnect followed my every pursuit.
This disconnect manifested itself in my body as decreased bone density and lack of period. Or, at least, it manifested as stress, which in turn caused my lack of period and, as I now know, a decreased body weight.
However, my inability to identify this disconnect’s cause prevented me from healing its effects. My daily yoga and meditation only served to numb.
Finally, on Monday, I received the information I lacked, through the magic of my fairy godmother (aka, my dietician).
With her help, I got to the core of what’s going on, and came to accept the reality of what was happening in my body.
The plan was to get coffee; I have not had a formal nutrition session in over a year. I’ve graduated, you see, I’ve graduated. And quite frankly, I’d been craving her support and guidance but refrained from reaching out due to fear and pride.
Anyway: while sipping coffee, I confided in her my period-less-ness, as well as some feedback I’d received the week before. That Thursday, I’d seen my psychiatrist, whose first words to me were, “You’re so thin.”
At that point, I began to lose faith in myself, fearing that the cause of my health issues was more than just stress.
My fairy godmother and I were at a cafe across the street from her office, and eventually she made a suggestion:
“I think we should go to my office and have a reality check,” she said. “I think I should weigh you, just to see where we are.”
I started to cry and she grabbed my hand. “Listen, we don’t have to do it,” she said.
“No, I want to,” I replied. “In fact, I’ve been wanting to. But I start to cry just thinking about the scale.”
“Bella, when I had my bicycle accident, I never wanted to get back on my bicycle again. But my partner pushed me to do it. He said the only way to get over the fear was to face it. And let me tell you, it was the best thing I ever did.”
“I’ll weigh you backwards,” she continued. “You don’t even have to see it.”
“No, I want to,” I said. “That’s part of the problem. Not being allowed to stand on a scale facing forward. Being denied permission to weigh myself. It’s degrading.”
“I want to see the number,” I continued, “not to trigger an obsession, not to activate my eating disorder, but to heal my relationship with the scale.”
Removing numbers from the equation is typical of eating disorder treatment. You fully surrender control to your dietician. Weigh-ins take place with your eyes closed, and you’re expected to never step on a scale again, or at least not be informed of your weight again, even at your yearly physical. This was even in my discharge contract.
But I’m moving on from my eating disorder. And while I don’t intend to encounter the scale often, if when I do, I use it as an easting disorder patient would, I will never fully shift my identity.
Fairy godmother honored my request, and in that moment, I realized my power.
I realized I’m no longer powerless in my treatment, that I’m in charge of my healing.
How I use the scale, and if I use it at all, is my choice.
Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Bella, we’re not in rehab anymore.
So we did it.
I went to the bathroom while she set the scale up.
I came back.
It was before me.
She gestured to it.
I took my socks off.
She held my hand, and I stepped on.
One foot at a time.
The numbers flew up,
while time slowed down.
Then it stopped.
I saw the number.
It was low.
Not too low, but low. Lower than it should be. Lower than I’d thought.
I know my weights well—having been up and down so many times, I know how each number feels in my body—and what I saw in this moment did not align with what I was feeling.
I fell silent.
“How does that make you feel?” my godmother eventually asked, or something along those lines.
“I’m not…upset,” I began, “I’m not panicked…but I’m surprised. It’s not how I feel.”
“But it’s what you’re manifesting,” she replied. Then, “How old are you now, Bella?”
“So at some point you’re supposed to be developing a woman’s body. You should be a little rounder. There should be a little more ‘tit’ and a little more ‘ass.’ Somehow, you’re suppressing your sex hormones to keep yourself in a child’s body.”
“I remember when I saw you when you first started dating that boyfriend, and you came in here, and you were glowing. And then, I remember when you discovered girls and you came in here and you were GLOWING. And I’m looking at you now, Bella, and you’re not…glowing. You’re only half-glowing.”
She continued to continue.
“We know that at its core, anorexia is about shame and fear of judgment. I wonder, Bella—and tell me if this doesn’t ring true—if you’re experiencing shame about your sexuality?”
Oh. My god.
Suddenly, the pieces came together and the tears began to fall.
The first time I dated in college was November of 2017.
The first time I got my period was December of 2017.
I stopped dating in January of 2018.
The last time I got my period was February of 2018.
Since then, I’ve been single, unable to connect with anyone intimately.
I have a myriad of lesbian movies in my Netflix queue I’ve never watched.
I’ve barely had any intimacy with myself (yes, what you’re thinking: there’s been none of that).
My sexuality has been completely shut off.
It’s no coincidence that my last post was on intimacy; my subconscious has been slowly but surely been guiding me to this issue.
I’ve been suppressing an entire part of myself.
Of course I’d feel insecure.
Of course I’d feel inauthentic.
Of course I’d manifest a smaller body.
Regardless of how we care for ourselves physically, our bodies reflect how we feel at our core.
I fell into a depression after this day, for multiple reasons. First, because, “here I was again,” in a state of physical fragility. I felt disappointment, shame, and failure. I felt frustrated by the journey to recovery that lay ahead.
But those feelings were minor; I knew, and still know, that this was no relapse or regression, but rather, the next step in my journey, a new opportunity to heal.
I knew in my heart that I came by these circumstances differently than I had in the past. Though the result may look the same, in the past the cause was nutritional restriction whereas now the restriction is emotional.
The real underbelly of this depression was the fact that I’d been disconnected from my body and for as long as I had. My body’s basic functioning was stunted; it was screaming for me to look within. But I couldn’t. I was trapped in my shame and my fear of judgment.
I took a few days to eat and sleep, giving myself some R&R. Finally, Wednesday, I dragged myself out of bed, went to CC’s with my copy of to Universe, and wound up here, shifting my perception of my body, as the book suggests, and focusing on the body I want to see.
Having manifested the state of wanting a healthy body through the image-making meditation, I am now shifting to the mantra, “I am creating a healthy body.” That way, I won’t get stuck in a permanent state of wanting.
More importantly, however, I’m shifting the core belief that this experience led me to identity: that it is not safe to fully be my authentic self. Instead, in addition to my body mantra, I am repeating the mantra, It is safe to be my fully authentic self. It is always safe to fully be my authentic self.
With every breath I take, I am proactively healing my body. This I now affirm, in a sacred contract with the universe. But first, I want to express my gratitude for the situation before me, for the information that has come to my attention. Knowing what I know now, I am able to shift directions. Had I not met with my fairy godmother and been open to the feedback, I could have wound up in a downward spiral. Instead, I get to grow. The challenge of this week is well worth the recovery that is manifesting in turn.
And now, for the contract:
I, Isabella Rose Florence, hereby vow to proactively heal my body, and to live, in every moment, as my true, authentic self.
In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not resonate with everyone; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.