I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder. And clinically speaking, I don’t have one. But that’s not completely true. There are likely no outward indicators of this dysmorphia. And I believed because I didn’t have a clinical condition, that I was doing just fine. But as I get older and my body changes for reasons that are purely biological, I have to face some things about my size and shape that have made me really think twice about my body image, and how I think about my body.
Now let me start by saying that I’m a pretty healthy person. I do get sick when my nieces and nephews sneeze in my face during our visits. And I do get run down when I don’t get enough rest/under-nourish myself. But overall, I have no medical conditions I have to worry about. I am very lucky.
I do, however, suffer from a distorted body image. And I have my whole adult life. Most women I know do, actually. This means how I perceive my body is different than what is actually in front of me. I’m lucky because my case isn’t extreme. And I’m in a healthy enough mental space to understand that I do have a skewed view of what my body’s role is in my everyday life, and even just acknowledging that allows me to meet this challenge head-on.
I should also state that my relationship with food is completely separate from this, too. My distorted view doesn’t stem from my inability to recognize the value food holds in my life. My dysmorphia is wholly encapsulated with my view of my physical body.
“…nobody should tell me how to live because they profit off of my insecurities.”
I let myself spiral into the dark spaces of my physical insecurities. Inevitably, this always leaves the hubs baffled. And he can’t understand how I jump to the wild conclusions I’ve made about my body. I know when he reads the phrase, “ramen-roll” he’s going to be almost angry that I would talk about my own body with any semblance of negativity because I would never do that to a friend, and I shouldn’t treat myself worse than I do others. And he’s right, but that’s the illness tainting the waters of my mind.
As I’m typing this, I’m getting ready for a trip to Miami for my birthday. The number of times I’ve actively thought about my body in conjunction with this trip and all the ads for meal plans and detoxes on every media outlet have led me to a place that is a little bit frightening. Mentally, all I want to do is reject all of the societal pressures to change my body because it’s my body and nobody should tell me how to live because they profit off of my insecurities.
But old habits die hard. I want to report the ads as “harmful content”. But still… I am so tempted. So. damn. tempted. to try something that will get rid of my ramen-roll hanging out around my middle. I also know there’s a balance between being healthy and self-love. So, I also kind of support them. I love resolutions at this time of year because I think the collective energy is something we can harness. That kind of group motivation to start the year off on the right foot is something that should be inspiring. But more often than not, it can actually be harmful if we’re not careful.
“…the lesser of two evils is still actually evil“
Too often, we ignore this harmful narrative that quietly nestles itself in the background of our minds because we’re not “as extreme” or clinically diagnosed with anything. Maybe, like I did, you know someone with an eating disorder and because their challenges felt neon-bright, your nearly translucent insecurities silently took a backseat. Then they found high-horse you could ride because your demons “weren’t that bad”. But that’s a great way to justify harming yourself; the lesser of two evils is still actually evil.
There’s that scene in Mean Girls where the girls critique something about their bodies and Cady Herron has to on-the-fly contribute her own negative opinion of herself or she’s left out. And that scene made the film because nearly everyone can relate to disliking something about themselves. But in the bright light of day, just because everyone has their own insecurity doesn’t mean that we need to continue to let our negative conversations freely proliferate until it’s become a self-sustaining organism in our minds.
“I’ve been beholden to the concept of how my body should look”
I’ve never been good at diets or workout plans because I’m too damn willful to submit to being told how to live. Seriously, ask my boss. I also really love food. As my metabolism changes with age, I do have to consider that this will impact me differently. So my tried-and-true methods for re-engaging with my body might not have the same impact they once did. But I also won’t give up ramen or pizza because that’s no way to live.
I also know food restrictions are a place where I could easily find myself developing an unhealthy relationship with food, and for as much as I like restaurants, I am unwilling to compromise on what I can eat because “I’m not eating [insert anything] right now”.
I don’t like feeling limited, but for much of my adult life, I’ve been beholden to the concept of how my body should look, and what I’ve come away with as I actively shut out all the noise is this:
- I want to feel good. However that manifests in/on/through my body is great.
- I want to feel good mentally when I think of this vessel.
- I want to feel good when I think of how I treat this corporeal bind.
- I want to feel good physically because of how I nurture my muscles and bones.
- I want to feel good when I talk about my body—with myself and with others.
And that’s it.
It’s easy to admire someone and then simultaneously put yourself down.
I don’t want to be burdened by expectations set by advertisements or the media. It’s easy to admire someone and then simultaneously put yourself down. So I’m working on re-training my brain to feel good for the reasons above, no more, no less.
I intentionally didn’t work out these last few weeks. For 2 reasons:
- I didn’t want to. And that is not new. It took a very long time for me to stop feeling guilty about not wanting to work out because that guilt was horrible for my self-respect. I also stopped making excuses when I didn’t want to work out and admitted to myself (or anyone else who might ask me to) that I simply didn’t want to, and was okay with not “finding a reason”.
- I was “supposed to”. This is a really horrible place to start any kind of habit. Again, guilt should not be a motivator. It sets you up for trying to please someone for all the wrong reasons, even if it’s yourself, and that’s not a good reason to workout. Exercising your body is good for you, plain and simple. That’s reason enough for you to get moving and shaking. But doing it because you feel like you have to [insert reason here] isn’t a healthy motivation.
Our brains shouldn’t be battlefields. I’ve felt like I’ve been watching Colonel Custer and Colonel Sanders arguing against the backdrop of a Cosmo cover. It always ends up being 100% bloodshed because nobody wins when we fight with ourselves. There’s room for peace in how we view our bodies. I don’t need to hold myself against impossible standards or feel bad about how my fat distributes across my bones. The end.
Your body is a beautiful thing.
Let’s be clear. I’m doing the work on some mental health, as it pertains to my physical health. That’s meant taking a step back from my workouts so I can re-approach them with a better attitude. That does not mean I reject workin’ on my Fergalicious fitness forever. It just was on pause while I came to terms with some realities. I think that’s important to state because I don’t want this to be perceived as a manifesto for boycotting healthy physical activity.
I hope if you’re reading this, that some of it will resonate with you. Your body is a beautiful thing. It performs miracles literally every second you’re alive (even on the bad days, y’all!). I think we so often forget that… and as always, gratitude can go a long way.
When I travel I always find it interesting that I don’t think about my body. I revel in the experiences and my ramen-roll doesn’t even cross my mind. It’s probably the healthiest mental-space I ever occupy, and I think it’s worth reaching for that kind of tranquility in my day-to-day.
So here I am, 72 hours away from leaving on a jet plane and I’m still excited to be on the beach, in my swimsuit, and I’m looking forward to looking in the mirror to see myself, exactly as I am, for the first time, in a long time.