How sport can help your mental health

When I used to be anorexic, sport/working out/training wasn’t fun or relieving at all. It was just a tool to punish myself after eating anything (even if it was just a bowl of soup).

That’s why I wanted to train alone, when you don’t work out for pleasure everybody can see it and I prefered to hide it.

I was just feeling literally like a giant stick of shit. The mental toll of this illness is very hard. I hated my body that’s a fact, but most importantly I was extremely weak. I couldn’t do any kind of exercise for a long period of time without feeling sick (nausea, dizziness, pain in the joints).

So when I saw my doctor the first step was really just to get back strength, muscles and flexibility and eat properly step by step. Further along I went back to exercise not because I needed too but because it was fun, I was enjoying myself, was pushing my limits and felt part of a group.

I created lovely memories at the gym with the family I have there and some people are still part of my life even being away from Europe.

It took me almost two years of working with my therapist and different coaches to train for pleasure again. I am still working on this today and always try to have fun when I do it.

Some days I need to go very hard and strong at the gym and lift heavy weights.

Some days I need to just walk on the beach or stretch at home watching a serie on Netflix.

Sport has been a very useful tool for healing because it gave me a way to expulse everything.

When I workout I only focus on my physical sensations, my breath, my moves. I put myself in a bubble to just live a moment of deep connexion with my body. I get only into my physical sensations and push it until I feel relieved.

Why does it help with mental illness of any kind ? Because you regain power with yourself along the process. You feel confidence and self esteem again, strength again. You actually realize the extent of your physical power and you feel limitless

The aesthetic of your physique changing is just the cherry on the top.

Plus when you exercise, your body releases hormones of happiness, which is why you actually feel good for real.  

So no matter what kind of mental illness you are experiencing, try do find a activity that you like and do it a couple of times per week, at your rhythm and find the joy in it.

The rest will come 😉

The meditation challenge

The first I heard the term meditation it was years ago, when I was still studying at the unversity. I was talking with friends that were trying yoga classes and saying that the meditation at the end wasn’t relaxing at all. They made a very funny description of it, not appealing at all, and I kept on living my life without getting interested in this topic for a long time.
But after my Master’s degree when I had to go home and get treatment for anorexia, the word started to pop again.
Therapy is good, drugs are good for a while. But there is a time in my life I wanted to be on my own, drug free and without a therapy session every month. I started reading articles about the benefits of yoga and meditation to calm the spirit and heal traumas.

Yoga is a phylosohy, a all way of living. Most of the time I used the postures to stretch my body and some of the breathing exercises to calm me down.

Last year due to a lot of personal stress I tried meditation to calm my nerves. And what’s ironical is that it didn’t felt calming at all at the beginning. It was my fault because I completely misunderstood the right way to do it. I was trying to not think anything at all. But it’s impossible, you can’t have your mind thoughts-free. Never.
But the point of meditation is not trying to control your thoughts, how they come and go. Is just to focus on your breath. Your breathe in, breath out, if there is a thought coming you just “observ” it, let it go, focus again your breath and you keep going as long as you need.

It became a very important ritual in my daily life. I started to do it at night before going to bed to calm me and sleep better. And now I am also doing it in the morning to prepare me for the day. When I have the chance, I also take a couple of minutes at lunch to take a break from all what is going on on my life.

It helps me take out the stress that I accumulate in my mind and my body, helps me breath better, relax all the muscles of my body and put things in perspective.

We get so caught up in our daily problems that we forget our purpose in life, how to be happy with ourselves every day and make our loved one happy. Meditation helps me a better person because it gaves me a bubble where I can relax, focus on my peace and self confidence. I feel so much better after that, I can’t be a bitch to others because I feel in a good place.

For those of you that want to give it a try, I would recommend you to do what I did: go on Youtube and look for videos. There are thousand of videos, short and long, to help you medidate and work on your anxiety, attract abundance, love and good energy in your life. When you start to practive, you feel the benefits quickly and it’s addictive in a good way.
Let me know if you tried and how you liked it !

My health history

I am going to resume as much as I can my experience. Anorexia and the recovery process are pretty tough and long subjects we could be talking for hours.

If some of you are interested in exchanging more about this, I will give more insights in another article or a video.

I started to have an eating disorder when I was 17, resulting from a mix of different stress factors (parent’s divorce, graduating high school, leaving for another city to study and live on my own).

At the beginning I was just eating less because of the stress. I lost weight slowly and wasn’t even noticing it. Until then I had never been really preoccupied by my weight or physical appearance because I was a “normal” girl. I was just really focused on my studies. But my family started to see a change when I was going home on the weekends. With time, they became more insistent and some of my family members really insisted of the difference on my look and the word anorexia started to pop-up.

I began to look at myself more in the mirror, track my weight, banish some food progressively, counting my calories and spending more and more time doing sports just to burn what I was eating.

Sometimes I was slowing it down, but it was really temporary and for a short period of time. I had control issues (still have but much better today) and controlling my food intake was a relief to me in a way.

Also, there is an interesting but dangerous shift in your mind that happens when you lose weight: you have a really strong feeling of power and control upon yourself. At some point I kept going only because I wanted to see how far I could go, when people would really notice and how I would feel about myself if I could lose a few more kilos.

There is no word I can use today to express the sadness, despair and exhaustion that all this journey cost me. There was not one day I was feeling good in my body and my mind. I was worried all the time, living with fear and it’s not a way to live this only life we have. At the beginning I was afraid I could not lose more weight. Later on, I was afraid of the look, judgement and comments of people around me. It’s an illness that make you very alone. You are scared of sharing your feelings and be misunderstood or rejected.

For almost three years I have been in total denial, avoiding the subject and running from every person that would even try to begin a conversation with me about it. I have lost precious moments with my family, my friends, my ex-boyfriends (yep several relationships during this period) because I didn’t wanted to eat neither drink alcohol. I was scared to go out for a coffee, a restaurant, on holidays or clubbing just for a couple of hours.

I have accepted the fact that I needed help and couldn’t recover on my own after five years of battle in my head. I was finishing my master’s degree in Spain, living with my ex-boyfriend in a beautiful country and I couldn’t enjoy anything. It hit me so hard: this was my last year of studying, I should be going out, live crazy with my man, dance, eat, drink, visit places, go to the beach. Nothing was possible with joy (I was doing all of this) because I was focusing on just one thing: keeping the numbers on the scale really low.

My romantic relationship with my ex would have never continued anyway, we were not good to each other. But my illness definitely made things worst.

One day I woke up lying on the bathroom floor, I had passed out. I can remember very clearly my sensations at that time. I was tired all the time, dizzy, nauseous, I didn’t sleep well, I was losing my hair and my body was hurting me so much. I was doing 30 minutes of bike every morning before my « breakfast » and then run 8 to 10 kilometres every night. At some point I just wanted to die because it was too hurtful and exhausting mentally to fight. That’s what I was feeling, fighting every day and for what? I could not see a point in anything at all.

I realized how bad the situation was and I thought « I never want to feel this way again. I don’t want my family to find me in a floor, lying like a piece of shit ». I was feeling like a piece of shit. So weak in my body and I hated myself for not being strong enough to fix this by myself.

I graduated my master’s degree, left my boyfriend and Spain and I went home in Normandy. First moment in a long time that I just wanted to be on my childhood home, close to my mom, in a familiar place. It was the best decision I have ever made because it led to where I am today.

During this recovery process that took me months before feeling better, I had to work hard on myself. I had to learn who I am, why I am this way, how I could really live my life with purpose, how to love myself the way I am.

I had the chance to meet amazing doctors both for my body and my mind. I have been working with a doctor specialized in nutrition, a behaviour therapist, a life coach and several personal trainers. I tried several sports to find what was good for me and how to eat in a good way for me.

I am now feeling better than ever because I work on my state of mind in priority and just not on my physical aspect. I can’t say that I feel 100 % happy with the way I look. It would be a lie and I still have to work on my insecurities. Most of them rely on the fact that I always doubt myself and my capacities, but I should not. We are all always a work in progress, we have to accept it, even if it’s fucking hard.

When I look back, I see how far I come from. I feel super strong and proud of myself. It feels like it was a different life, this girl I see on old pictures is another person. Anorexia is a tough illness that you always have to be careful about. You never fully recover, and you can slip at different stages of your life. That’s why it’s important to work on yourself on spiritual and mental levels, so you can handle the triggers that you will face, because it always happens.

The good thing is that in Canada and America food is way less good than in France and Spain, so I have less temptations!

If you guys want to share more on this topic, we can 🙂