Content Warning: This blog post discusses weight, eating disorders, body image and food.
As a very young child, I thought thinness, skinniness, would make me popular, would make the other kids like me and would make the bullying stop.
As a 12-year-old, I realized that it wasn’t just thinness that mattered but, rather, having the perfect body, the idealized body we see splashed across the pages of Victoria’s Secret catalogues and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition: the hourglass body with perky “natural breasts,” a tiny waist, toned arms, a flat, lightly toned stomach, and a tight butt with sculpted legs.
I used to hold my hands so carefully, trying to still the tremors as I cut out Gisele Bündchen’s photo from the pages of Victoria’s Secret to be used as my inspiration to lose weight and work out harder, back when I still could. I’d clip certain phrases from the magazines like “pounds,” “work-out” “body”… all in the hopes that I would resist my body’s natural desires to eat food that made me happy and that I would go a day without self-loathing.
I used to think that if I weighed 145 pounds (my goal weight for years, scribbled furiously in my journals when I was at my most desperate to be loved and accepted) if I just didn’t have love handles…if my arms didn’t jiggle so much when I moved and if my thighs didn’t shake and rub together when I walked…I’d be happy. I’d be free to enjoy life. So I’d restrict my food intake some days. I’d deny myself foods that I loved, and I’d work out hard sometimes. I’d ignore the massive warning bells clanging loudly in my head, telling me: THIS PAIN IS NOT NORMAL! I was in a competition with my body, my mind, my spirit to love myself. If I just got to my goal weight, I could rest. I could love myself.
I weigh 123 pounds today (I’m 6’0) and sometimes my weight drops lower.
Those love handles that I fought so hard to be rid of? Those are gone. That “arm flab?” That’s gone, too. I also have that coveted thigh gap. That’s certainly not all it’s cracked up to be.
I cannot work out, even though yoga actually brought me a lot of joy and relaxation and cycling was a great way for me to let off steam.
My diet is permanently restricted and I can no longer eat my favorite foods, or most foods.
I spent so much of my life wanting to be 145 pounds, thinking it would bring me happiness, and now that I’m this thin, all I can think is…why did I waste so much of my life thinking a number on a scale would bring me happiness? Why wasn’t I eating the foods I loved when I could? Why was I wasting my life trying to change myself? Why did I spend so long hating myself? Hours spent in the mirror pinching “fat” and measuring and finding flaws that weren’t there instead of loving the beauty that was.
I hope you can learn from my mistakes, my decades of self-loathing and wasted time. Eat what makes you happy. Focus on what you love about yourself, not on those flaws companies benefit from manufacturing. Spend time treating your body with love. Try and love yourself. It’s not easy, not in our society. Self-love is an act of defiance, it is a battle cry.
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