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.