One cairn at a time. That’s how I vowed to live my life.
The next cairn: physical & mental recovery.
As a now seasoned & aspiring professional thru-hiker I have experienced hunger that lingers & grows for multiple days & nights, consuming all mental focus.
Food becomes a favorite topic of conversation with others – what’s for dinner!?
It becomes the thing keeping me up at night – belly growls, exposed ribs, menu planning, dreams of what I would eat if I could eat anything.
Food simultaneously becomes something I feel I can live without when I am in the wild; when I have endless stream water, sunshine & fresh mountain air to nourish my body & soul with, nutrient-poor processed food seems unnecessary.
When hiking for 7-10 day stretches at a time & carrying all food (sometimes even needing to fit it all in a bear canister) you realize how little you can & have to survive on.
On the last leg of Virginia & I’s stretch through the Wind Rivers, our daily rations consisted of a packet & a half of instant oatmeal & coffee for breakfast, one protein bar, one granola bar, half snickers, handful of salted nuts & dried berries each for lunch/snacks, and a cup of cous cous soup & a mocha for dinner. Eating an estimate of 1,000-1,500 calories per day & burning between 2,500 – 5,000 calories from hiking, setting up/breaking down camp, filtering water, and daily yoga, etc.
We we literally starving.
Our body-talk going from how strong & energetic we felt to how skinny we were, as if it were a good thing.
The hunger hit an all-time high on the very last day. After hiking 16 miles over 8.5 hours total, I was ruined. My ankles swollen & legs sore & tight, hungry & thirsty, tired from yet another night of restless “sleep”. Half a granola bar had to last until late afternoon. I felt out of sorts, light-headed & weak. All I wanted to do was EAT.
And that’s what I have been doing since.
Eating. Everything. All the time.
I didn’t accept until yesterday my current eating habits, as well as how I have always tended eat when I am extremely stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, fit the description of Bulimia Nervosa – binge-eating an excessive amount of food in a short period of time & then doing something to compensate. I usually exercise to balance binging & burn away the excess calories, sometimes using laxatives, but recently my body has also been forcing me to vomit on occasions when it’s just too much.
The real problem begins when it turns into a cycle.
It makes it really hard to stop.
By habit the first thing I do every morning is pee.
The second thing I do is lift up my shirt & look at my belly in a mirror’s reflection.
As if the way my belly looks is going to affect my mood for the day.
When did what we look like become more important than how we feel?
After all, how we feel IS how we look. Not the other way around.
So now comes the hard work. The uphill climb. The ascent to the rocky top.
The journey towards recovery.
The recovery from eating disorders or addictions of any kind isn’t a speedy one because it’s not just about fixing the behavior, it’s about facing & healing the underlying issues: the real wounds, the deep insecurities, the emotions we try to stuff deep down, the hiding & running away, even the genetic tendency.
No, it won’t be easy but it is possible. I feel capable of transforming my relationship with food THROUGH food, of learning new habits of being and of transforming my conception of myself into one of high self-esteem -“confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.”
If I am not hungry for food, then what AM I starving for?