Before you eagerly begin reading this post expecting an uplifting and thrilling story about a munchkin that found its way home through a forest of tangled branches, let me first kill those expectations by telling you that I am the munchkin, and that the part about "finding my way home" is metaphorical. This post will tell you why and what inspired me to start this blog, and what I aim to achieve through it. Although this story is not as thrilling as the title suggests, it will hopefully be uplifting!
A few days ago on the 17th of August 2014, I celebrated my first Crossfit anniversary (Yes, we have been married for a FULL year ;D <3) "So what?" You might be thinking, "I've been running/swimming/crossfitting/doing some kind of sport for more than 20 years now." Firstly, I've only been alive for 17 years, so unless I came out of the womb doing muscle-ups, I don't think I could ever boast the same duration. Secondly, the 17th marked much more than just a Crossfit anniversary for me - it marked a year of development and change from a previous and much unhealthier lifestyle that I used to lead.
At the beginning of 2012, I was struggling in the deepest pits of eating disorder hell, and was rushed to the doctor after my pulse dropped to a dangerously low rate and my weight plummeted to 36kg. I was trapped in a distorted mindset where unreasonable and illogical rules governed my life, where I had to work out for at least 3 hours non stop before I was "allowed" to eat (and had to work out secretly in the bathroom if I was stopped before I finished), and where eating on a day when I didn't work out was unthinkable. I was stuck in a world of lies, deception and depression - I would hide my food and tell my mom that I had already eaten it, reject my friends' party and hangout invitations because I didn't want to eat food that wasn't cooked without oil and cry all the time because I knew how hateful my behavior was, but knew that no one would understand that it was the illness, not me.
What continues to annoy me to this day about the society's perception of eating disorders is that the person is selfish, that they know and want to be that way. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the person is normally not just "scared of getting fat." Eating disorders often result from a person bringing their expectations of themselves to too high a level, resulting in a quest for perfectionism, or dragging along a burden that they have in other areas of life and exerting their stress through an extreme control of their eating and exercising habits. In my case, I was overwhelmed by pressure from school and "staying fit" as a member of the cross country, although I wasn't aware of the origin and power of this pressure until it developed into something worse.
My goal in telling you about my experience with an eating disorder is not to depress you or ask for your pity - it is simply a way to show you the contrast between what I once was and what I have now become. Exercise used to only serve its purpose as "a way to burn calories and give me food quota", but since discovering Crossfit, I have been shown by a loving community that training is something to be enjoyed with people you enjoy being around, and food is something that you DESERVE (and DEFINITELY need) after an insane WOD. Although I am far from being able to eat with a completely free mind, still have to weigh my food and have a hard time introducing new (or "unhealthy") foods into my diet, I have come a long way from the days when I would feel guilty if I even so much as started chewing a morsel of food before I had exercised the allotted number of calories off.
When I discovered Crossfit in 2013, I had just been "entrusted" by my mom to resume regular exercise again, knowing that I would no longer do so obsessively and compulsively. My diet had improved largely by then and I earnestly wanted to gain some healthy weight, but I was still unable to shake off the remnants of some disordered eating thoughts and habits, like eliminating whole food groups stubbornly and feeling bad if I accidentally ate foods from that group.
When I was told by my coach that I would have to eat more carbs (MAJOR fear food at the time) to train better and to gain muscle, I was shocked and quite afraid. Would it really become muscle, or would it become fat? Although I trusted my coach completely, I found it difficult to consume larger amounts of a macronutrient that I so feared - it took several reprimands before I actually changed my habits and started eating more carbs. It was pretty scary in the first few weeks but it ultimately paid off: I began performing better during training and I actually started to gain some weight.
Though it wasn't noticeable to me how I developed over the year, the change is definitely obvious as I look at the difference between myself now and myself this time last year. I am much more confident in and out of the gym and I am not afraid of falling (in both the physical and the mental sense), I train (that is, work toward a goal or an achievement) rather than work out (exercise for the sole purpose of burning calories) and I treat myself to something I love to eat (WOO QUEST BARS <3) when I feel like it.
Today, I no longer look obsessively at the calorie count on the screen on top of the treadmill or the stationary bike on my own in an air-conditioned gym, counting down the minutes until the torture is over. Instead, I watch in anticipation as the large digital clock on the side of an asphalt-covered garage-like space that us Crossfitters call "boxes" counts down from 10, signaling that it's almost time to start the metcon...
So as you can see, the 17th of August was much more than just an anniversary of one year of sticking to an exercise regimen, it was a marker of a milestone in my life. I found a sport (other than running) that I honestly loved and wanted to improve in, and also found a group of people that genuinely cared about me and became my family.
I have already set my goals for my second year of Crossfit, both in the gym and out, because I find that setting my eyes on the prize(s) is the only way to get there.
In the gym:
1. Get a proper muscle up! (not struggling like a fish)
2. Perfect my handstand walks! (legs together and not flailing like a worm)
3. Improve my upper body strength! (so I can Rx more workouts, of course ;D)
Out of the gym:
1. Not be afraid to have one cheat meal once every week or every 2 weeks
2. Don't avoid hangouts because they involve eating
(More far reaching) Hopes and dreams:
1. Raise awareness about eating disorders through organizing talks and charity races
2. Expanding the general acceptance and understanding of eating disorders in Hong Kong.
And surely many more to add on in the coming year!
Thanks to all of you that tuned in for my first blog post, hope this wasn't too long and hope it wasn't toooooo much of a bore...And of course, thanks to my Crossfit family - thanks for bringing me home.