The Fit Student – Managing Your Mind

End Depression; End Eating Disorders

Standing on the scale, I hit my target weight. Yet nothing feels different. I long to have that high?that feeling of exhilaration?that is supposed to happen when you skinny down. So, I aim for a lower weight?that is until I feel weak and lifeless, until I see a picture of a boney dying soul that could very well be me within a year or so. It’s a turning point.

As a student, to perform at peak, you need a healthy mind and a healthy body. Whether you want to prevent eating disorders or depression, your life’s purpose and your self-worth can help you overcome. The book Managing Your Mind by Gillian Butler and Tony Hope shows that weight doesn’t change the inner you. And time for fun keeps you healthy.

Prevent Depression? Indulge in What You Love
doesn’t the idea of indulging seem kind of, well, self-absorbed? You bet it does, and you need to take lots of time during the day, like me, to get full of yourself: indulge in hot bubble baths, indulge in journaling for pleasure, indulge in shutting off that foul morning alarm for an extra thirty minutes of sleep. No shame in that.

More importantly, find out the activities you truly value and love and spend your time absorbed in them. I dream of becoming a Ph.D, so I read academic material daily to bring me closer to that goal. As another example, I love my boyfriend to Saturn’s moons and back.
So, I spend as much time with him as possible. I also enjoy reading about mental health issues, as it seems I’ve been stricken by a number of them throughout my life: OCD, anxiety, PTSD?you name it. Taking daily time-outs for niceties keeps me strong.

In fact, by indulging in things you love, especially in things you value, you buffer yourself against depression, according to Butler and Hope. So, align your goals with your passions and with the tasks you do each day for enjoyment: It’s as simple as that.

If you don’t know your passions and values, then explore, inquire, seek them out. The more you do the things you love, the more likely your passions will tap you on the shoulder for some play time. Opportunities await the daily doer; and opportunities, passions, and goals quell the flames of depression.

Break Free from The Fat–Skinny Cycle
For most of my life, I struggled with weight. I played sports and ate well during my youth, but when I stopped engaging in physical activity, I resorted to excessive dieting. In one photograph of me on the beach of Hawaii at the age of about 21, my bones protruded from my flesh. Recalling that day in Hawaii, I shudder at the number of insults people hurled at me: “Bone wrack!” “Anorexic!”

When I began eating (and wow?did I ever eat), I gained almost eighty pounds within a four year time frame. I appeared on the local news as a protestor, horrifically obese. I felt like crying. So, I started swimming regularly, timed my chewing rate with the second hand of a clock, and ate half my normal portions. Within a year of reaching my peak weight, I lost the eighty pounds. The only problem was that I returned to an anorexic state.

Eventually, with the influence of a dear friend, I started eating regularly and exercising voraciously. I exercised strenuously for hours daily, six days a week. I ate like a pig, too, yet stayed super lean. All of my money went to new clothes, frequent tailoring, or expensive makeup from The Bay. What a waste! (Now I hoard books, instead.)

Since then, my weight has fluctuated significantly more than once. Recently, I dieted to the point that my weight dropped to an unhealthy level. I started getting wobbly-kneed from lack of energy. I avoided eating. Someone pointed out a picture of a woman whose eating disorder spiralled and whose bones almost pierced through her skin, and the photo shocked me. I was fast-tracking to a similar state.

As a solution, I began reading books on anorexia. I learned in Butler and Hope’s book Managing Your Mind that when we don’t eat regularly (consuming just enough to stabilize weight), we often develop issues with obesity and anorexia or bulimia. Yet, the biggest takeaway was that we often think having control over our weight bolsters our self-esteem; the truth, however, suggests that no matter what weight we reach, we are still the same person. If I gain ten pounds, well, I’m still the same me. I used to think that the skinner I became, the better I was. Yet, every time I reached my weight goal, I felt like nothing changed. No fireworks went off in my head. No bands played. Neither did I jump on stage to be whisked away by John Travolta in a dance to the 70s band playing Xanadu. I was still the same me.

Now I eat more regularly, and don’t eye the weigh scale on a daily basis. I feel freer than before. I manage to eat just enough to sustain my current weight. I found my set weight of 123 pounds, and I rarely sway more than six pounds away from that mark.

Regardless of what weight I’m at, I think I’m a kind and gentle person, and kindness and gentleness matter more than skipping breakfast, don’t they? When I look in the mirror, whether I weigh 123, 110, or 180, I still see the same twinkle in my eyes and the same broad smile: the marks of spiritual beauty.

— Many of our articles provide advice of one kind or another to students, whether that’s on how to improve their academics, study habits, relationships, health, or even just state of mind. The Fit Student series of articles was one of these and ranged over a few of the areas, so it was nice to get a student recommendation for this one, from our April 1st issue, in particular.