Monte Nido & Affiliates Director of Nutrition Anna Sweeney, MS, RD, LDN, CEDRD is an expert in the treatment of individuals presenting with eating disorders, disordered eating, and emotional eating. In this week’s blog post, Anna continues her series in sharing her unique perspective and personal experience on body acceptance.
To read part one of Anna’s series, click HERE.
A SHOE STORY
Although I was diagnosed with MS when I was in high school, I didn’t have any permanent disability until I was in my late 20s. Starting in high school, I loved shoes. High heels specifically. I felt like they made me look older, more sophisticated, and elegant. I acquired and wore lovely high heels through high school, college, and part of graduate school. Near the end of graduate school, I stopped being able to wear high heels if I had to travel a long distance. I would ask my partner to park the car close to wherever we were going. I would wear heels to walk into place where I knew I would sit. I would take off my shoes if I was walking any great distance. As my disease progressed, I wore my high heels in my home only. I would walk in them as though I were practicing to wear them ‘for real,’ but never did.
I completed graduate school in 2009. I stopped being able to wear high heels entirely in 2010. And here is where my declaration of not being crazy should come into question: I didn’t stop buying high heels until the end of 2012. I have strong memories of going into the shoe department, and trying on heels. Of literally trying to make my foot and body coordinate in a way that it could not. Sometimes I stood up in the heels. Sometimes, I tried to walk around. Sometimes I just looked at the shoes on my feet. And then I’d buy them. I would take them home, store them with the rest of my high heels, all the while repeating to myself the message that I “should” be able to wear the shoes. That to be a respected professional, or found desirable, or recognized for my work, high heels were a mandate. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP.
Even as I was truly unable to comfortably wear these shoes, I was unable to separate my feelings about what it meant to wear high heels from my lived experience. I was living in the “I’ll get back there someday-land,” and not practicing any acceptance of what was. I was stubborn, and insistent that I should be able to wear the shoes.
In this part of my mourning-accepting process, I talked a lot of shit. I made nasty remarks about my body. I made fun of myself in a way that felt protective, but wasn’t. I was so preoccupied by my disability, and my inability to meet my own standards, that I lost more time and energy then I am proud to admit.
And then I was given an enormous gift that in the moment felt awful, but changed the way that I viewed myself. My fear of being seen as that which is other was confirmed, and out of my frustration, I committed to stop fighting against myself.. It took a while, but I did arrive to the space where I eliminated the shoes that didn’t work for me. And I ultimately moved past the space where heels held much energy.
This may seem like a small thing, but it was not at all trivial for me, as it was my first overt expression of acceptance of what is. I am a disabled woman, and I can’t wear high heels. Those are two facts about me that actually say very little about who I am. I imagine that you would find a similar ending if you thought about the parts of yourself that you struggle to accept. Those parts are not all of you, and they’re probably not the most important parts of you, either.