Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beyond Body Image

For as long as I can remember, I've had horrible body image. I remember sitting in my fifth-grade classroom looking over at my friend A and thinking to myself that my thighs were fatter than hers. Fifth grade, how sick is that? I swear that my parents didn't do this to me - my mom has told me a million times that I'm beautiful, but never emphasized physical appearance as an important part of my character. Regardless, I grew up with zero self-esteem and decided that being skinny was the answer.

So on the surface, at least, my eating disorder has always been about feeling fat and wanting to lose weight. Of course the perfectionism and anxiety and OCD tendencies have factored into it, but primarily I've just felt ugly and fat and thought that being skinnier would change that. And for some reason, no matter how physically crappy and exhausted and sick I've felt, the thought of being fat seems worse. My dietician and I once compiled a pros and cons list of weight restoration, and there was literally ONE con: bad body image. I know all about body dysmorphia and that I'm probably more critical of my body than anyone else would be, but feeling fat is real. And it sucks.

Anyway, I think that one of the major reasons I've been so resistant to weight gain is because my body image is so terrible that in my mind, it outweighs all the other negative aspects of having an eating disorder. Heart palpitations? Whatever! At least I still fit into my skinny jeans! Of course, I conveniently ignore the fact that my body image doesn't ever improve no matter how low my weight gets.

But recently, something has shifted in my head. Don't get me wrong - my body image still sucks. But for the first time, I'm feeling like there could be something more important: health. Not in a hokey, love-your-curves rah rah rah! kind of way, but in a real, intrinsic, deep-down way. Basically, I'm sick of being sick. I don't want to be tired and hurting and miserable all the time. I don't want to be worried about what will go wrong next. What kind of life is that? I'm so young, my body shouldn't be falling apart like this. I want to get up in the morning and be able to do whatever I want to do - walk, run, bike, swim, veg on the couch, bake cookies, anything. Right now, I can't, and it hurts so much to realize that.

Maybe, finally, I'm getting past this paralysis over weight gain. True, my therapist may have more or less required it by making me sign a contract, but maybe I'm finally doing it. As a matter of fact, I'm drinking a Boost at this very moment. (But ew, don't get the vanilla, it's disgusting.) I hate that it took this long, and I hate having to admit that everyone around me was right all along, that I don't know best and that I do need help, but being healthy and getting a life back is worth it to me.


  1. I think it's wonderful that you're prioritizing your health above the poor body image, which is so closely tied to the ED. Great to hear that you're being proactive about the contract, even if Boost isn't the most pleasant thing ever. Keep up the hard work, you deserve to be healthy and to have the life that you want!

  2. SO glad that you are starting to feel that shift in your mind. I agree with you, "feeling" fat is very real, but honestly with an ED it is possible to feel that way even when you're at a deathly low better be healthy and have a better degree of mental clarity to deal with it than to stay unhealthy and let it continue to torture you in that state, right?

    You have worked really, really hard in recovery, and it's great to see you get to a point where further motivation can kick in and make you see how worth it the rest of the fight will be also. It's so hard to beat these things when you have to make a ton of progress just to get to the point of accepting that you need to make more progress...but I know you can do it.

    And honestly, the healthier your body gets, the healthier your brain gets, and the easier it will be for you to appreciate your body and shake some more of that weight anxiety. I found that if I just gave myself a grace period to adjust, I often like my body so much more after restoring to higher weight, even though the thought of weight gain is almost always cringe-inducing at the outset. Hang in there, it WILL pay off!

  3. Ugh, I had a really long comment and Blogger just swallowed it! Just wanted to offer major kudos and encouragement to you. You have worked so hard in recovery, and it's great that you're getting to the point of realizing that being so sick is just not worth it. The 'fat feeling' is definitely very real, but the sick thing about an eating disorder is that losing weight, or even just not gaining weight, doesn't necessarily diminish it. Better to be healthier with more clarity of mind to deal with that then to continue to let it torture you when your mental and physical resources are low, right?

    And honestly, I have found with weight restoration that I usually end up liking my body *better* after adding weight (given a certain grace period to adjust to the change), even though the thought of weight gain is almost always cringe-inducing at the outset. It sucks that you have to make so much progress in recovery just to get to the point of realizing how much more progress you have to go, but I know you can do it.

  4. Well damn, it posted both. Now you can judge my comment reconstruction/paraphrasing skills, LOL.

  5. I think it's great that you've been taking these steps and I'm so proud of you for having compliance with the Boost goal!!! Your attitude sounds fantastic. Way to go!!

  6. I know you wrote this a while ago, but I'm at that place right now. My body hurts and feeling like its tearing apart, which scares me. A little over a week ago I started to strictly follow my meal plan, supplements and all. I wish I started this a loong time ago so I wouldnt be in the spot I'm at right now, I wish I had just listened and did what I was told. I feel like I'm super behind now. But reading your story makes me feel better and motivated so thank you. Youre a strong, smart, beautiful girl.