A+ Attitude

I’ve recently been told (and quite often now), that I have a great attitude on life.
For someone who felt like she had such a bad attitude years ago (as an obsessed, possessed, distressed eating-disordered runner), this feels like both a compliment and a relief.
race1
My life isn’t perfect, and I have a lot of things I could be unhappy about. I have not lost the weight I gained from bingeing. I do not run as fast as I used to. I’ve graduated college and I’m still looking for a job related to my degree. My book is not yet published (I’m working on it!).

And yet, because I am happy with who I am as a person–without needing validation or relying on numbers–I feel stable overall whether good or bad circumstances come my way.

Acceptance

Changing the attitude from bad to good first began with accepting myself. Even though I didn’t like the weight I had reached due to all the bingeing, and even though I hated how “slow” I had become as a runner, I had to finally accept that this was where I was going to be, that this was what I had to deal with, and that restricting–only to binge later–was a result of so desperately wanting to change who I was or how I looked. Acceptance was not a form of “giving up,” but instead seeing myself as someone worth more than her weight and fast running times, and someone who could begin to look past all of that and work on loving herself.
And how did the self-love process begin? Introspection has been the key for me (as I stress time and time again). I had to understand where the eating disorder started, why I felt the need to please others, how I could feel okay making mistakes (we are human, after all) and what parts of Rachael the eating disorder was covering.
An SSRI medication was a piece of the puzzle to calm anxiety and reduce feelings of guilt. Starting the medication did not come easily however, as the eating disorder side of me worried that a side effect could be weight gain (it never was). I also had to dare to try foods the eating disorder told me would pile on the weight. I had to allow myself to enjoy food when the eating disorder equated enjoyment with failure.
I also dared myself to get out and do things unrelated to running. I was encouraged by a friend to stray from my perfectionist, obsessed mentality. And as I met more people, as I learned that I actually liked to have these different experiences, I began to see and feel Rachael without an eating disorder break free.

race3Finding Peace

I understand how attitude is about perspective now when I wake up each morning no longer feeling guilty about what I ate the night before or feeling worried about if I will binge again. I no longer wake up thinking about whether I should restrict or find another way to eat “perfectly.” I no longer feel like I want to crawl out of my own body, and I don’t have to listen, through every cross country practice and race, you must restrict again, you must go back, you must close down, and you will binge and all will be lost.
Yes, I still have tough days. Yes, the eating disorder rears its head once in a while. No, I don’t have everything together. But knowing that I am progressing, that I enjoy spending time with my friends as well as by myself, and after gaining a new perspective after struggling for years with the eating disorder, a good attitude has prominence in my life.
Now that I’ve uncovered Rachael through acceptance, finding ways to love myself (through introspection, medication, daring to try new things) makes me excited to share this Rachael I have always wanted to bring out. I’m excited (and have that “great attitude” on life) because I’ve never really gotten to try out me; because this is the person I knew I had inside for so long–
Because I worked my ass off to get to her.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

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2 Responses to A+ Attitude

  1. Tamara Steil says:

    I LOVE this post. This is the Rachael I hoped to raise – self-sufficient, self-loving, and self-enjoying. I am SO proud of you and the woman you have become. I am so proud of how smart and introspective you are. You are beautiful!

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