SKINNY

The Truth Behind the Lies Of An Anorexic Mom

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Note:  This blog contains descriptions of eating disorder behaviors.  Although I have tried to be mindful in writing about specific behaviors, there are parts of  that may be difficult to read for those actively struggling with an eating disorder.  For support please see the "resources"page on this site.

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  • sherrisacconaghi

 I'm going to yoga today I told myself as I marched through the front doors of the big box gym. I was carrying my new purple yoga mat, and trying to ignore the people sweating it out on the treadmills as I walked past. Yoga today, I reminded myself as I turned the corner, passing the cycle room, the pre-warm-up music spilling out into the hallway. I couldn't help but glance in, noticing my favorite bike was empty. No, today, you are doing yoga, I muttered, forcing myself to continue down the hall to the mind/body studio. I walked into the cool, dimly lit room and quietly laid my mat on the floor as to not disturb those who were already seated for their pre-practice meditation. As I took my shoes off, ready to be seated, a voice stopped me before my rear end even hit the ground.  


"Is this really what you plan to do today?" My Anorexic Brain (AB as I came to call it in treatment) whispered, "don't you feel like the high of a good sweat instead?"


"It’s yoga day,” my healthy Sherri Brain (SB) retorted back silently, "I feel good after yoga."


"Who are you kidding?” AB pressed on, “you feel good after you have burned serious calories." 


"I don't need to burn calories," SB argued, "my body already feels empty." 


"You can eat chips with lunch if you go to cycle, though," AB taunted convincingly, "you love chips."


Oh crap AB is right, I thought hastily rolling up my mat and running to grab one of the last remaining bikes in the cycle toom. Once in, I threw on my shoes, adjusted the bike, jumped on, and began to pedal. I don't want to be on this bike today. I want to be in yoga, I thought to myself, as I slowed my pedal speed, willing myself to get back off the bike. 


"If you cave and go the easy route today, then you will be tempted to do the same tomorrow and the next and the next, then what?" AB shouted, breaking down SB's willpower. 


"Just fucking shut up and let me go to yoga,” SB screamed back silently, tears of frustration springing to my eyes. The back and forth in my head so loud I was sure everyone around me could hear it. 


Fueled by spite, I jumped off the bike, and before I could change my mind, I grabbed my mat, ran back into the yoga studio, and took a space on the floor just as the class had begun to start. Although I was flustered and distracted by the shit show in my head, after a few deep breaths, I was able to settle my body and focus my mind. 


My anorexic brain loved a good sweat session. Of late, however, I had begun to dread my cardio workouts. I was constantly worried if my heart would give out in the middle of class. Knowing I was punishing my starving body. And why? Overcome by shame that I could not bring myself to stop. Walking out of most of those classes with my head down to avoid the cruel, judgmental stares, I was sure I was receiving from others.

My friend Lori texted this to me randomly one day. It was the little things like this that made a difference. That made me think..hhhhmmmm.....just maybe. (2016).

My healthy brain, however, was loving yoga, although I didn't fully understand why. It was challenging, but without the feeling of being punishing or offering a depleting calorie burn I was not yet convinced it was an efficient form of exercise. But it did make me feel strong. It filled me with an energizing warmth that radiated through my limbs, making me feel more mobile and fluid. And afterwards, I felt a boost of confidence that allowed me to stand a little straighter, knowing I was finally doing something good for myself.


And that day after yoga was no exception. I walked out of the room, energized, with my head high, proud, and very relieved that my healthy brain had won the small yet very rare victory against my dominant anorexic brain.  It felt good.


It gave me hope that winning that battle meant I hadn’t yet lost the war.



  • sherrisacconaghi

"Hey, girl," my friend Kristi said to me as we were leaving a six AM cycle class, "are you free this afternoon?" 


"Sure," I replied, figuring she was going to suggest grabbing a coffee as we were known to do from time to time. 


"Oh good," she said, happily clapping her hands, " meet me back here at Noon for a yoga session, I need to practice."  


"Oh my God, you cannot be serious," I moaned, rolling my eyes, "you know I do not DO yoga."


I was aware Kristi, who in addition to teaching cycle, was was training to be a yoga instructor but surprised she was asking me, a cardio junkie who found yoga to be less enjoyable than watching golf on TV, to help her out. I hated "slow," so the fact she reached out, gave me the sense it must be important to her.


Through months of post cycle chats, Kristi and I had discovered we shared a lot in common and quickly formed a strong connection. I felt I could talk to her about anything, well, almost anything. I didn't want to let her down. So five hours later, I found myself back at the rec center, my ass on the old blue yoga mat I had dug out of the hall closet, and ready to get it over with.  


“We will start with a moment of silence to connect to the breath," Kristi said, closing her eyes and taking in a deep breath . The music playing softly in the background was a serene instrumental I'd expect to hear at a spa while getting a massage, but I was far from relaxed. I shifted restlessly on my mat laid across the polished hardwood floor, my breathing shallow and quick.  


"Deep breaths in and out," Kristi said through her breath. She looked serene. Peaceful. I however, couldn't calm my antsy body. I wanted to bolt out of the room to the nearest treadmill.   

I had a choice, keep avoiding my pain or do something different. With this amazing woman by my side, I continue to see ways to do it differently. ( With Kristi at our weekly coffee, socially distant style, (6/2020).


Kristi was patient and supportive as she led me through the basic yoga poses. I felt big and uncoordinated next to her graceful, flowing movements. My lack of post-workout stretching over the years made my body performing yoga about as easy as turning a two by four into a pretzel. My hands hovered near my knees as I bent into a forward fold, attempting a warrior two pose made me look like I was reaching for the last container of yogurt shoved in the back of the grocery refrigerator. And in down-dog I looked like a plank with a butt.  


"Deep breath in and let it out," Kristi's voice broke through the silent cursing in my head, bringing my attention to the fact I was once again, holding my breath through the movements, frustrated with my inability to do each pose perfectly (or at all).


I was shocked by how hard it all was. More difficult than the high-intensity interval training on which I'd come to rely. The chaturanga pose, where I had to hold my body parallel to the floor, left my arms shaking, and core screaming. And holding chair pose had my legs burning like one of my old hill runs used to do. But it was more than just a physical challenge.

“Remember to breathe," Kristi's quiet voice once again reminded me as we held the poses.


As our hour in that room continued, I did begin to relax, my breathing becoming more purposeful, finally allowing myself to become lost in the movement. Focusing my mind on moving my body in unfamiliar ways. Determined to find each pose and hold it, even when it was difficult. Practicing in that room what I struggled with in life; When reaching a place of discomfort, resisting the urge to avoid it, and instead, learning to breathe through it.



  • sherrisacconaghi

We walked silently side by side, the rain fluctuating from a light mist to a heavy drizzle, but neither one seemed to notice. Down the hill, past the fire station and by the park where we passed a small group of kids playing soccer on the lush freshly mowed field, their laughter piercing through the quietness of the neighborhood. We turned left at the stop sign at the end of the road, and continued our silent journey down the tree-lined path to the sleepy neighborhood mall, stopping briefly at the pizza place for soda water before completing our loop around the park and back up the hill towards home. We were two people walking together but lost in our own thoughts. Both hurting.Not only had I lost my mom unexpectedly leaving me stunned, emotions hanging and words left unsaid but, my husband Marc was watching his dad painfully lose his battle with cancer. With the end drawing near, the weight of saying goodbye every day left him emotionally depleted. We were barely able to get ourselves through the day, let alone be there for each other. So we walked, several times a day, while the kids were at school and practices,  finding comfort in our silence. Aware that neither one of us had anything else to give the other except for space.  


I walked because I could not sit still. When I allowed myself to have a moment of stillness, the walls began to close in around me, sucking the air out of the room, leaving me gasping for breath as if I had been underwater for too long and had just broken through to the surface. Outside is where I could distract myself by watching kids playing, dogs walking their people, and moms pushing strollers, their passengers blissful contentment bringing a wistful ache to my heart . I tried to lose myself in the life swirling around me so I would not have to think about the life I had just lost.

  

These guys needed me. I had lost my mom and I feared if I didn’t pull myself together, they might also lose theirs. (2016)





And that is how it had was for me, when life got tough, I got moving. A stressful job meant cardio classes. A tumultuous marriage meant long runs through the hills and being a stay at home mom without an outlet of my own resulted in hours on the tennis court. The movement was my coping strategy. Just like some may find relief in a bottle, a pill, or the internet, I too found the best way of dealing with unwanted emotions was to distract from them. To move until the threat of feeling anything uncomfortable subsided, and I felt numb.  I knew it wasn’t healthy or helpful for me to stuff my emotions about the loss of my mom with more physical exercise, but I was too depleted to try and figure out another way to cope so I kept moving. Fearing that stillness would allow the grief to engulf me and my world would go dark. Unaware that only until I welcomed the darkness would I begin to see the light.






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