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Caring for my whole self

Written by Hayley Lewis

I recently rediscovered a photo of me from the beginning of last year, almost two years ago now. A time when I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I certainly wasn’t comfortable with photos being taken or looked at. They made me cry. I was in a place of deep darkness and struggle. I used food for comfort, was scared of exercise, and honestly, didn’t really care what the impact was for my long-term health. When I look back at that photo, I see a sad, hollow shell of a person, ready to give in altogether. However, at the time that photo was taken, I had
just decided to choose life.

Choosing life meant I put my whole well-being at the forefront of my energy. I had to recognise that I was truly unhappy with the way things were.

The fix wasn’t calorie counting or a strict diet. It wasn’t cutting out all the foods I really love. It started with caring for my whole self.

Physically

Caring for my body physically meant realising that not everything I ate was helpful or making me feel better.

I started learning about what my body actually needed to function; which foods I genuinely enjoyed and which things I ate just because it made me ‘feel better’.

I discovered that eating little and often was helpful. I started eating breakfast again – something I hadn’t done since I was a small child. I found that eating in the morning, and eating
fruit throughout the day, having a full plate at lunchtime that included all my food groups – proteins, fats, fruit & veg, and carbohydrates gave me energy.

I eat the things I enjoy, I eat bread and pasta when I fancy it and I notice when my body is craving fruit and veg. It’s not a chore to eat anything anymore and there’s never a guilty feeling if I eat the whole share size bag of crisps. I simply ask myself why? Sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes I’m just not paying attention.

The greatest lesson has been allowing myself space to grow and understand what my body is asking for. For me, this has resulted in weight loss, but I have had to accept over and over again that my body may never change to be even smaller or bigger, but it does a wonderful thing in carrying me through life.

Emotionally

Choosing this new path included allowing people to love me where I was. Learning to tune into my feelings and allow them. It looked like leaning into my faith and spending time with people who would help me build upon it. I realised I didn’t deserve to be punished for not being who I thought the world was telling me to be and slowly, very very slowly starting to do things that were really difficult, but ultimately wonderful in reconnecting with my mind, body, soul and spirit.

I remembered I love being outdoors and the feeling of coming inside for a hot cup of tea after a cold wet walk. I learned that I really enjoy lifting heavy things. I found that I am capable of
loving others and myself so deeply and that those negative feelings are no longer there every day.

When I allowed others to love me, I allowed the deep hurts in me to heal. As these healed, I no longer had to seek things that helped me numb the pain. Food and alcohol became enjoyable and sociable again, food was exciting to me, full of flavours. Cooking became a hobby again and cooking for me was (sometimes) enjoyable.

Learning that I am worthy of love, and accepting my identity was the best place I could have started. From that everything else overflowed. Kindness to myself, caring for my body, and how
I treated it. Now I see life when I look at photos of myself.

Now I can play with my small nieces and nephews because I have the energy to. Now I can live life the way it is intended for me too, not as I think I am supposed to. I still have moments where I’m entirely self-conscious, eat the entire bag of crisps without thinking, and don’t want to leave bed all day. But now I know that it is okay to feel that way.

I know how to step out of those lower places when they arise and embrace all of the feelings I’m experiencing.

Hayley Lewis