People often ask me how I got over my eating disorder and the body hatred that lingered long after I was "cured." My journey was long and difficult. There was no "one magic pill". Just like many people who struggle with eating disorders I spent many hours in therapy. When I think back to those days I have very little recollection of what I discussed with my therapists. Most of the time I just cried about how fat, ugly, stupid and undeserving of love I was.
The one thing I do remember is how often my first therapist encouraged me to go on "Outward Bound." He raved and raved about how good it would be for me. At the time, I was far from an "outdoorsy" girl. I had never been camping or hiking except when I was required to for school or camp. I preferred watching soap operas to spending time in the woods.
It took me a long time to listen, but somehow I decided to say "YES" to Outward Bound. I had no idea if this would help me get better but I was 19 years old and ready for an adventure. My Outward Bound experience was 3 weeks of backpacking, canoeing, and camping. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done.
When I was backpacking through the woods I experienced my body from an entirely new perspective. I saw how amazingly strong my legs were to carry me up and down the mountain trails. I felt the beautiful calmness in my body when I was able to sit after hours of hiking. I ate because I needed energy rather than as a means to numb out my personal pain. I felt more alive than ever.
I returned home proud of my blisters and my ability to start a campfire. What I didn't realize at the time was that the most important lesson that I learned was discovering the healing powers of nature.
I started to crave more and more time in the woods. I noticed I felt so much better when I was outside. This was a gift that kept on giving.
You do not have to go on Outward Bound to discover nature's healing powers. All you need to do is spend some quiet time in a natural space. It could be walking in the woods, sitting by a stream, or kayaking on a lake. The possibilities are endless.
I have relied on nature throughout the years to help me make peace with my body. Even during my most challenging moments, I was able to find inner calm when I went outside.
I noticed that I never craved cookies, candy, or chips when I was in the woods. I felt more grounded and in my body. I fell in love with the feeling of the sun on my skin and the wind playing with my hair. The ugly voices in my head that normally screamed about how "sucky" I was were silent.
I am sharing this with you because I strongly believe in the importance of being grounded in your body. Most women I work with are so disconnected from their bodies. They live in their heads and their body becomes a "thing" they feel stuck in.
If you are feeling trapped in your body, I encourage you to spend more time in nature this summer. You don't need to be "outdoorsy" to discover the healing power benefits of the natural world.
If you feel anxious about the thought of spending time alone in the woods then start by sitting quietly on your deck or going for a quiet walk in your neighborhood. Leave your electronics inside, get out of your head, and focus on how it feels to let the sun and fresh air kiss your amazing body. Nature nourishes you in ways food cannot. Try it out and let me know how it goes.