My life used to revolve around workouts and strength training guides and protein bars, “hacks” to get leaner and “cut cravings,” ways to fit in exercise every single day. I counted every calorie and considered a day “wasted” if I ate “too much” food. I was terrified to eat in restaurants, have a snack in between breakfast and lunch, or spend less than an hour doing cardio. I planned everything I did around getting a workout in. The concept of being okay with my body, let alone ever loving it, was completely unfathomable.

Sometimes I wish I could reach back in time, pull that girl into my arms, and tell her: little Naomi, this kind of life is not supposed to be yours.

It’s been sold to you by media images and #fitspo. It’s propagated by people who, underneath their smiling faces and “motivating” captions, are struggling more than you will ever know. And they make it look so appealing: thin = happy = successful = effortlessly glamorous = living your best life. It seems easy enough, or at least worth attempting.  But little Naomi, you don’t want that.

What those images don’t tell you is that a full life can’t happen on an empty stomach. You want a life of saying “yes” to spontaneous dinner plans, making brownies in the afternoon just because, skipping a workout because your friends want you to come swimming. You want the life of agency, in which possibilities really seem endless, and where the confines of your accomplishments aren’t dictated by your disorder.

The life you want happens in the nights you stay up talking with your friends so long that the minutes run into hours and you lose all track of time. This life is hosting spontaneous parties, dancing in your kitchen because it sounds fun, waking up early to call a someone despite the time difference. It’s writing in your journal until 3am and then making quesadillas for no one but yourself.

Life is food and celebration, spontaneity and indulgence. Life is learning that routines are meant to be broken and re-shaped by your evolving intuition. Life is flexibility, being able to listen to and honor your body, even when your mind gets stuck in the way.

The life you want makes room for things that are inconvenient to you but matter a great deal to others. It involves being pushed outside your comfort zone, it involves long stretches of time when working out isn’t possible because other things are just so important. It involves creating space to give more—spiritually, emotionally, materially—than you ever thought possible. It involves hard work and loss and grit, and using coping mechanisms, including food, to keep moving.

But that life just can’t be lived when you’re hungry. You can’t be there for others when you’re not feeding yourself. You can’t help the people you love when you’re locked in a war with your body. You can’t begin to imagine what will make you truly happy when your only dream is being thinner. You can’t grow your life when you’re still obsessed with shrinking.

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