Beyond Extremes - what happened when I swam in a frozen lake for 2 weeks
Each morning, I'd run a hot bath, then run as fast as I could to the lake. I'd break the ice at the edge of the lake with my bare feet, my body recoiling as I slipped into the dark water.
Every time, I’d feel compelled to swim to the other side and back, all of me gradually going numb. In the middle of the lake on the return journey, something would happen. My arms would slow right down, my legs already almost motionless. Fear would take hold. Sometimes I barely made it.
Then, stumbling back to the farmhouse, I'd sink into the waiting bath and into elation as my shaking and cramping body heated up. I'd proved again that I was stronger.
When we approach our eating disharmony as a fight, it's easy to project that violence onto the body – punishing it, proving that we're stronger than the cravings, urges and compulsive behaviours.
Think about it: whenever you've felt out of control with food (say, when you've had an evening of bingeing) how often do you jump into some extreme behaviour, to prove that you can control 'it'?
It might be going days on celery and apples, or no solid food at all for the next 24 hours... it might be pedalling on the exercise bike way past the natural point of exhaustion, running twice as many laps of the park than usual, or reams of squats and sit-ups.
But the elation, the high of it, isn't the physical well-being that we think it is. It's a combination of hormones washing through us as our body tries to cope, combined with a misplaced mental/emotional kick that comes from having proved, after all, that our willpower is supreme! Until the next time, that is...
Yes, humans can do extreme activities and gain a sense of wellbeing from them but not with disharmonised eating, these extreme behaviours only make matters worse. At the time, 21 years ago, I thought swimming in a frozen lake in the midst of February was a brilliant idea; and yet, at the end of that fortnight of breaking ice, I fell into one of my worst binge-purge sprees ever.
It was so bad that, at one point, I couldn't move for the excruciating pain in my stomach.
It's one of the severest pains I've ever felt – and I've since been through natural childbirth and have had all my amalgam fillings replaced in one go, without painkillers!
Thinking I might have ruptured something, I tried to reach for the phone to call emergency services, but couldn't. I spent a very long night curled up on the floor until the pain subsided, sometime after dawn.
At the time, I didn't directly link the two: some other similar experiences had to happen first before I got wise to the malevolent tango between my extreme behaviour and the extreme bingeing.
However, that horrendous night is still imprinted in my memory, as the climax of my punishing behaviour – a climax that took my body very close to its edge.
My story is extreme in itself, the majority of women in Nourishing Light aren’t contending with such severe eating issues, but it imparts a truth: the harder you are on your body, the more you override its exhaustion and its pain cues; the more you punish it, the more you try to prove that you can control your eating... the more you feed the extreme, or 'out of control', eating.
Inevitably, you'll be led into an intensification of whatever your disharmonised eating manifests as, and for many that manifestation is bingeing.
Some questions to reflect on:
- Do you double your time in the gym because of a big dinner out?
- Are you prone to skipping a meal or two to compensate for what you've ingested earlier, even though you feel hungry?
- How about going on a 10-day juice fast, only to find yourself gorging on junk for days, even weeks, after?
- Is it a familiar scenario to push your body past exhaustion, and then find you're desperately reaching for sugar just to keep going?
- Does feeling hungry, and not eating, feel victorious to you?
Simply recognising and being aware of the connection between your ‘compensating’ behaviour and your disharmonised eating will already start changing your behaviour.
Maybe you'll notice a reduction in the intensity of the behaviour itself, or a heightened sense of what's really going on in you, or perhaps the unconscious compulsion won't be as strong.
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With blessings x