I once water-skied for 30 minutes straight. The dry Arizona heat dried my body of the chilly Lake Powell water and took away the pain in my hands from holding on to the tow rope for so long. I relished the hot air in my face and longed for the smooth slalom ride to continue forever. Nothing mattered except the canyon walls, the perfectly still water I was gliding through, and the sun’s rays penetrating my skin.
I innately knew letting go of the rope or falling while attempting a trick would end the thought-less state I found myself in. Letting go meant crashing into the cold water and climbing back into the boat. Letting go meant thinking about what my own family was thinking about my body. Could I eat Cheetos and drink Orange Crush, and still be under the calorie goal for the day? We were on vacation. Could I let myself indulge in these things? What if we got ice cream later?
I have not changed.
I still think like this.
I ran a race for the first time in over a year on Saturday. The first 3k was horrendous. My stomach hurt, my kidneys hurt, my legs felt heavy, my breathing was out of control. I wondered why I signed up and realized how similar it felt to all the times in college that I raced and drastically feared the outcome so much that I would unintentionally make myself sick. And then, something happened. My stomach stopped hurting. My legs felt strong. I stopped thinking. I stopped analyzing what was going on and how I was doing. I stopped looking at my watch so much. I let go of all the anxiety I have been carrying for the past 6 months. I stopped worrying about everything that is out of my control. I was temporarily free from myself.
I rode that high for the remainder of the weekend.
And then I walked through the front door of my house and I breathed in everything I left when I walked out the door the prior Friday. I scanned the bathroom for the scale–still there. I agreed to go to brunch the next day with friends but swore to myself I could only go if I didn’t eat anything else the rest of the day. I threw more things in the pantry away that I have crossed off the list of thing I can eat. I returned to spinach for lunch.
I can’t always be running a race, and I certainly can’t always be water-skiing. This way of coping only lasts for so long. Is there some magic trick I am missing that extends being high from healthy activity into everyday situations? Such as, returning home to an empty house and immediately thinking about how much skinnier I could be?
It seems to me that I have all the pieces of the puzzle. I have a vague understanding of how I came to be like this. I have a good handle on the physiological, nutritional, and psychological pieces. I know what my body needs to be healthy. I know this.
What more is there? What am I missing? Is it possible I am actually just doing a seriously good job of keeping myself together despite all these head games? Should I be congratulating myself instead of being forever frustrated that I can’t just stop thinking?