Article: How To Be Real

As part of my eating disorder recovery (yes, I have an eating disorder. It sucks) I ask myself a very important question: ‘What do I need to do to be in recovery today?’

In addition to the obvious one statement keeps on reemerging:

Be Real.

This is a phrase that I got from a book I read, Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaeffer, in a section that involved Jenni trying to save a fellow recovering individual from going on a binge. To me it’s important to quote the section:

“Heather,” I said, “Ed wants you to purge right now. What does Heather want you to do?”

Heather paused for a few seconds. She later told me that she had glanced at a bracelet on her wrist. She answered my question by reading what the ornamental letters on her bracelet spelled out, “Be real.”

You’ll notice here that Jenni used ‘Ed’ here not just as shorthand for an eating disorder but as if Ed were an actual entity, or individual, trying to impede Heather’s progress and get her to do something counter-intuitive and ultimately self-destructive. And that’s precisely the case.

Whether you struggle with an addiction, mental health concern, or just a sense of occasional self-doubt, we all have that little negative niggle in our heads that is incredibly critical of us and tries to bring us down.

If you’ve heard any of the following:

“You’re fat”

“You’re not good enough”

“People don’t really like you”

“You’re being lazy”

“You’re shit in bed”

“You’re such an idiot for hurting yourself”

Or anything similar then allow me to formally introduce you to your own version of Ed – an entirely unhelpful addition to your life – and to help you tell Ed to back the fuck off and let you get on with your life.

We all have personal demons we need to slay (or at least tell to shut the fuck up).

Because, if we really think about it, this amalgamation of negative thoughts in our head (whatever you choose to call it) is dreadful and usually entirely in contrast to who we are as a person. Chances are you would never bluntly say any of the above things to someone you care about. So why would you say them to yourself?

It’s ludicrous! And yet so many of us do it every day.

Well, no more.

It’s time for anyone struggling with their inner negativity to take a stand and deny them the gratitude of stealing our love of life (and ourselves). It’s time to be real.

Now, I’m no Jenni Schaeffer, nor am I a lifestyle guru (although that god for that). But I do try my very best to get through each day being as authentic and true to myself as I possibly can. I figure the least I can do is share some tips that have worked for me. It is my deepest hope that they can help you too.

#1 Get Moving

OMFG, what!?

Yeah, I know: This is the boring, Doctor’s orders thing, and it’s far easier said than done, but it really does pay to try and get in regular exercise wherever possible.

Now, I’m a big fan of professional advice but I’m also a realist. So here’s what I have to say on this matter:

The UK National Health Service recommends that adults between 19-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week / 75 minutes vigorous activity a week / a mix of the two that equates to 150 minutes (pick one) and strength exercises 2 or more days a week that target all the main muscle groups.

Moderate activity includes things such as brisk walking (I’m a big fan), water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, volleyball, basketball.

Vigorous activity is stuff like jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts.

The NHS also provides resources for strength training for anyone struggling to figure out where to start.

I, on the other hand, am a big fan of meeting life (and your body) where you can. I know it’s not going to be realistic for everyone to go from zero to even the baseline at first and certain mental or physical conditions might make any effort a struggle.

In which case I recommend starting with what you can and sensibly building up in a way that works for you. Eventually you’ll get to a point your body can work with in which case keep up the good work. Our bodies really do enjoy moving, even if they protest at first. Oh, and be prepare for DOMS. DOMS are a bitch but they’re a badass bitch that helps make you stronger over time.

If you start exercising and find that you adore it and want to make it a hobby then brilliant! Join a gym or club and keep on going. Otherwise use that determination to take care of yourself in a way that you can at least continually manage.

#2 Drink And Eat Healthily

You can bet I struggle with one of these (as for the other one: I am a tea fiend).

Food is important, as is drinking. Everyone needs these two things to survive. But, more than that, a good diet allows us to nourish ourselves and helps us pursue the life we want to the fullest capacity.

I’m a big fan of plant-based health (what with the whole vegan thing and whatnot) but, no matter what your dietary habits look like, make sure you hit all of your macros, micros, and essential vitamins and minerals.

These can be tracked via apps but, to be honest, I favor finding out the rough measurements of each food that you need to achieve a nice daily balance and going from there.

Don’t eat too much, nor too little. Consider intuitive eating but, if it doesn’t work, find a different system that works for you and allows lifelong sustainable health. This means not dieting. So many people in my life (mostly women, sadly) seem to be slaves to the latest diet fad and I’ve rarely seen it go well. In fact, I’d hazard a guess to say that it feeds people’s personal Ed to constantly be judging their self-worth on whether or not they’re keeping to a plan they dislike to match a number that can typically fluctuate from moment to moment.

It’s just an all around ‘Do not want’ for being true to yourself.

Oh and get a reasonable amount of sleep too. Sleep is important.

#3 Identify What Matters

Speaking of being true to yourself and the markers that matter: Do we really want the people in our life to remember us as ‘That person who could always stay slim’, or ‘That person who was always working when you met up with them’ or do we want them to remember us as something else?

Perhaps instead of defining ourselves by numbers and the amount of deadlines we hit we should instead define ourselves by how kind we are, how honest, how charitable.

Each of us have heard of core values which sound like qualities to live by. When we think of them we get energized and a smile crosses our face and we think to ourselves ‘Yeah. I want to be an honest/creative/caring person”.

Taking the time to identify some key traits that really resonate with us and investing our time in trying to live by them, instead of by outward markers, is the best way to move forward in life while nurturing the things that really matter to us.

Thankfully, many of these traits tend to make us not just happier but also more efficient and fulfilled in life. But, let’s be real here: Even if they don’t – even if we take our last bow broke, unliked, and nowhere near the Western ideal of ‘success’ – at least we lived life on our own terms under our own values, and nothing beats that.

#4 Don’t Let Others Determine Your Version Of Real

Maybe you like the idea of being real but you’re terrified of how it will make you look to others.

Judgement is a huge issue in the world, and is especially prevalent in our modern society, where a simple tap on to social media or Google search can show us hundreds of markers for extreme success that we’re not meeting (not to mention putting us at the scrutiny of our friends through the ‘Likes’ system and free-for all comments visible 24/7).

This doesn’t just make a great case for unplugging every now and then but it also teaches another lesson: You cannot find happiness in the opinions or achievements of others.

Yes, maybe your mother will be disappointed if you decide to become a creative rather than a business accountant. Maybe your friends will bitch about you behind your back if you go to sex positive rallies instead of doing the local school bake sale. You could avoid these reactions – live only by what others want from you and think is best for you  but where are you in all that? Nowhere. You disappear.

A passive life is no life at all, and is certainly not an authentic one.

In life if we want to be true to ourselves we will, eventually, upset, anger, or frustrate people. We may even break their hearts. But this is a necessary part of life.

How many parents cry the first time they send their kid off to school? Or watch them leave home? A fair few, but does that mean the best scenario is to avoid that upset and stay by our parent’s sides forever? Of course not! That’s absurd, and the same applies to all important choices in life.

But trust me when I say that making your needs equal to those around you isn’t selfish, nor is it in any way unreasonable.

It’s just that, in life, we will never be able to please everyone all the time. So we might as well try our best to at least be honest and to cultivate the relationships around us on terms of honesty and self-nurturing.

Aaand, on that note, I’m going to end this list on those 4 points instead of 5 because I’m a total rebel!

Just kidding: I’m doing it because the above suggestions should be more than enough to help you take those first solid steps towards being truer to yourself and making sure that you’re cared for and well prepared to counter those negative thoughts that might emerge.

If, at any point, your personal Ed says that you’re not enough, take the above points and write them down. If you’re checking them off then you’re probably on the right track. If you’re not then it might be time to readjust, but on your terms, no Ed’s.

Be real my lovely readers,