Growing up, the beach was my favorite place. Both sets of my grandparents lived there.
I played in the sand all day.
I went boating with my grandpa.
Life couldn’t be better.
I was happy.
Sadly, as I developed my eating disorder, at the age of fourteen, my love for the beach turned into dread.
I hated being away from my safe routine. All I wanted to do was stay home.
Every family vacation was filled with severe anxiety and anticipation of what I would eat and how I would exercise.
When I was a little girl, I would wake up and walk the beach, looking for sea glass. I loved it.
After my eating disorder started, the moment I woke up, all I could think about was restricting and working out.
My day could not start until I burned a certain amount of calories.
Prior to my eating disorder, I would get up, eat taylor ham, egg & cheese sandwiches with my family, and surf with my dad and brother.
After my eating disorder developed, all I could think about was exercising to burn calories. I would get up, skip breakfast, and run.
If I still had time afterwards (before the lifeguards came on duty), then I would surf with them – on an empty stomach, completely drained from running.
Before my eating disorder, I spent hours digging for sand crabs with my family. I didn’t leave until the sun was setting, my bathing suit was filled with wet sand, and my parents dragged me off of the beach.
After my eating disorder developed, I watched my family walk to the beach as I stayed back, so I could steal food from the kitchen and hoard it in my bedroom.
I would binge and purge until I was weak and dizzy, and then I’d fall asleep, only to wake up and repeat the cycle again.
Am I able to enjoy the beach again now that I am recovered?
A thousand times YES!
When I was first in recovery, the beach was extremely challenging for me.
My body dysmorphia was through the roof. I had no idea how I looked.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others” (2020).
I felt like a whale compared to everyone else.
I was embarrassed to wear a bathing suit.
Although I pushed through the negative feelings and thoughts, it was not a very enjoyable experience.
However, I am grateful that I forced myself to go to the beach during my early stages of recovery, despite my negative thoughts, because it helped further me in my recovery. Exposure therapy is so important.
Over time, each beach trip became a little bit easier.
The past few years I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my mentality at the beach.
Although I still struggle with body dysmorphia, it doesn’t control and ruin my life anymore. It does not dictate my decisions.
Some days are harder than others with my body, but overall it is signicantly better.
I can go to the beach in my bathing suit and be okay with myself. I can enjoy my family and the experiences.
I can sit in the wet sand, splashing my son and burying his toes, with little care about my belly when I’m slouched over. I never would have imagined this possible.
I can wake up and walk to the beach to fish without obsessing over exercise. It is the most freeing experience.
I do not have wash board abs, and that is okay. I have cellulite and my thighs touch, but, my life is full.
I have my family. I have my friends, and I have my beautiful baby boy.
I am happy again.
Do I enjoy exercising and how it makes my body feel?
Can I survive without exercise for a few days or a week and still enjoy myself?
It is all about balance.
If my body is craving exercise, I’ll listen to it.
I’ll go on a run on the beach or a nice walk with my baby and husband. It genuinely feels good, but my day is not ruined if I miss it.
Being recovered and enjoying my time at the beach with my family is so special to me.
They no longer have to fear what I’m doing if I’m alone at the house.
They no longer have to wonder when I’ll be back from a run and if I’ll be sick from heat stroke again.
They can trust me now. And I trust myself. It’s the best feeling.
I am so blessed for my family, their support and dedication to my full recovery. I am where I am because of them.
I love the beach again, and for this I will always be grateful.
Karol Cook says
You are amazing and such a wonderful writer, and photographer. You are so brave to talk about your struggles and triumphs! All of us have struggles and triumphs from time to time, but being able to talk about them is truly a sign of strength! Love you.
Thank you so much Aunt Karol!! I’m bummed we couldn’t all get together this year for the 4th – hopefully we can get together soon. I love you!!
Lori Key says
Shannon this is so beautiful ❤️ I love hearing your recovery story! I remember the times we spent together and the struggles you were going through. You are so loved and such a beautiful woman and mother and I am so proud of you! ❤️
Thank you so much Lori! I’ll never forget the tough love you gave me and when you had me walk into the Tucson airport alone. I was so terrified because I never did anything on my own, but since then I am excellent at traveling alone and I owe it to you! Love you!!
Cary Tracy says
Awesome blog!!! Freedom!!
Thank you!!! Yes Freedom is the best feeling ever!!
God continues to bless you……❤️
Thank you, yes!!
So honest, so pure, so real! 💕
I Love your honesty! 💜🦋
Thank you Monica!!
What an inspiring story of your life. You have a talent to write your story where people get it. The struggle is real for all of us even if we have struggled with weight most of our lives. Growing up being teased about having a football players legs has affected me to this day. I know my Dad only teased but it still hurt. The struggle is real but for health reasons I continue to push on. Even when I was thin, I still saw myself as heavy. Body image is really tough. Keep on writing you inspire all of us!💕😘
Thank you so much. I so appreciate this 🙂 Body dysmorphia is such a bizarre concept especially for people that have never dealt with it or had a love one experience it! Thank you for sharing part of your story 🙂
aunt susie says
thank you for sharing your story about recovery, it was truly real and inspiring…
we love you, aunt sue & uncle brian
I am so glad you liked it. I love you both very much!!
Kim Blundetto says
Thank you for sharing yourself 😘
Kim Blundetto says
Thank you for sharing yourself. I’m sorry for your struggle but you’re making it…everyday 😘 Love you
Thank you so much!! Yes – God is so good! love you too!!
Aunt Bets says
Shan, you write in such a way that it is easy for the reader to relate. Thoughts that people think to themselves but don’t verbalize , you express so well. It makes u realize u r not alone in your thinking. Words have such n impact on others. U definitely have a purpose in sharing ur journey.
Thank you so much Aunt Betsy and for always supporting and praying for me. It means so much. I love you 🙂