This morning I drove my sister to a physio appointment at the local health club / gym where I used to be a member in my past life as a 'normal' person. Sitting in the Starbucks coffee shop in the foyer I watched people go by, gym bags in hand. Some were new faces, others I recognised by sight. It was a strangely unsettling reminder of my past life 'before all this stuff kicked off'...
At first I found myself thinking: "Hey, now things are so much better I could join the gym again and pick up where I left off 2+ years ago, sort out the excess weight and flabby bits that have appeared as a result of eating the huge evening meals and other things you end up eating as a parent of a young person recovering from an eating disorder".
But then the 'new me' kicked in - the person who's spent the last couple of years realising that it's not the way you look that counts; it's what goes on inside and how you spend your time. I might have far flabbier abs than I had during those grueling days on the treadmill. I might have sprouted 'bingo wings' and 'love handles', but what the heck? I've helped my son recover from his eating disorder, I write this blog and I've built up a whole new circle of fabulous 'cyber' and local friends who have far better things to do with their time than worry about what they look like or go to the gym.
And what kind of messages would I be giving out to my son if I started counting calories again and 'having to go to the gym' regularly? Remember back in the summer of 2009 when he 'had to go to the gym' every day as he got thinner and thinner and more angst-driven by the escalating anorexia?
In fact one of my last memories of the gym was, ironically, that of a young woman I used to see punishing herself on the treadmill followed by just about every other cardio machine in the building.
I'd see the other gym regulars looking at her. "How can they permit someone like THAT to use the gym?" they'd whisper, glancing at her very obviously anorexic physique. "It shouldn't be allowed..."
And I used to wonder why that emaciated woman wanted to look like that? Couldn't she see how impossibly skinny she was? Where did she get her energy from? And like the other women, I'd glance at her from time to time, hoping she wouldn't notice me staring.
Two-and-a-half years on I think very differently - about the gym and about that young woman I used to see pushing her emaciated body to the limit.
So, sitting there in Starbucks this morning, I realised that - no - the gym isn't for me and never will be. There are far more important and useful things I can do with my time and energy. And who gives a damn about being a few pounds heavier than I was then? As long as I am healthy, my son is healthy and we are happy then that's all that matters.