By Glenda Rempel
I have struggles.
I sit in the shower and think as the water pours on my back. I think about my life choices, where I am and how I got here, about my struggles with food and about the person I wish I were.
This thinking gets me nowhere to be honest. It’s probably destructive. But after a long day and a hard workout at the gym, this is what I do. I used to eat food. I would walk over to the store and buy whatever I felt like, come home and eat it all. I would then proceed to have feelings of self-hatred, and the sadness would still be there.
There have been times when I don’t feel this sadness, where I make amazing choices, I eat well, work out regularly, and go to work and feel great about my job. However, sooner or later something happens and I feel this way again.
March 11, 2016, is a day that changed a lot for me. I excitedly jumped down off of a pull-up bar, landing in an awkward position and rupturing my ACL. Months and months of rehab, learning to use my leg again, hobbling around with a large knee brace on, not able to work—all of it got me thinking.
This time, though, I was thinking about how I would get through this injury without going back to that dark place that I have been in before, where all I did was eat and ignore my own self-care. I was thinking of how I would keep on my journey to being the best me I can be. I’m not sure why this life-altering event was so different than any other I’ve experienced, but I have a few theories.
When I injured my leg, I had been doing CrossFit for nearly four years. I had actually for the first time in my life committed to an activity that I enjoyed. So the day after I went to the doctor, I had my first knee brace and some crutches, but I was at the gym. The coach got a barbell and told me it was my first day of my new bench-press cycle. She wasn’t wrong.
I continued to go to the gym as often as I had before I injured myself. The routine I had previously set up seemed so normal that going to the gym was just the thing I did. I believe that this routine helped me to make better food choices.
Another theory I have is that because of the better food choices I was making, my diet positively influenced my brain.
I’ll explain. Our brains are said to be made up of nearly 60 percent fat, and for optimal function, they require essential fatty acids that can only be obtained through eating. In the past, when I ran half-marathons and ate a low-fat, low-calorie diet, I did not eat much fat at all. I suffered from a mood disorder and had anxiety with panic attacks. I felt sad all the time and ate chocolate and candy to soothe that sadness. My brain was not functioning very well at all.
With my knee injury, I did my best to eat well, including fat—some healthy and some not the healthiest, but eating it helped my brain feel better. It helped me to feel more positive and to look at each step of the healing process as just that: a step, not an insurmountable barrier. If I had decided to “diet” because of my injury and lack of movement, I might have suffered the adverse side effects I get from a low-fat diet.
My knee will never be what it once was. I have had a lot of physiotherapy, two surgeries and more physiotherapy. I keep going to the gym, working on my squat and enjoying moving my body as best I can. I feel sad about this life-changing experience sometimes, but I have learned better coping mechanisms.
I think that everyone experiences times that are hard and might feel sad. Some of you might be like me and will often turn to food for comfort. I wanted to share with you a bit of my experience so that you know you aren’t alone, that the dark places can become light again.
Find a routine that helps you keep going and helps you stay focused. I found my way through an injury that could have had a much different outcome.
You might not have an injury, but like me, can find a way through your struggles.