Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Age 16

When I look in the mirror, I see my past, present and future play out before me. I am in recovery from anorexia and it has made me hyperaware of each and every detail of my body. When I was a child, I was told I still had my "baby fat." I was called "chubby" and "out of shape." After I went through puberty and a natural growth spurt, people told me they were "jealous of my body." They called me "pretty" and told me I "could be a model." When, out of fear, desperation and deep sorrow, I starved myself and exercised to exhaustion, people told me I was "skin and bones" and called me a "disgusting skeleton."

None of those labels define me. I am INTELLIGENT. I am STRONG. I am BEAUTIFUL. I am WHOLE. I have a future, and no one's opinion of my body can change the fact that I accept myself fully and completely. I am imperfect and flawed, and I love it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Age 24

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I feel powerless.

My once perfectly flat stomach is rounded and hangs over my jeans when I bend over. My thighs are naturally voluptuous and covered in self-inflicted scars. My body makes me aware of its imperfections as I carry out daily activities. My thighs rub together when I walk, it takes me ten minutes to pull up the zip on a dress; I find crumbs in the creases on my stomach when I am eating in bed.

I feel ugly.

But other times I look in the mirror and I feel…



My body has presence. My body has power. It has carried me this far and will carry me further. It has healed when I have damaged it. It has been the object of many people's desires and admiration. It has swum for hours in the sun, danced all night and made love to wonderful people.

And when I catch myself feeling this way, I am overwhelmed by how beautiful I am. How fortunate I am to have this amazing body.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Age 20

Every. Single. Reflective surface. I cannot look away. I am constantly looking…not out of vanity, but concern. I look and I critique. My stomach (Does it puff out too much?), my thighs (Is there cellulite? Why are they so thick?), even my head (Why does it look so big? Why do my cheeks puff out so much?). I’m told that I’m beautiful. Gorgeous even. Their words are hollow and empty to me. To myself I am disgusting and cannot be convinced otherwise. How do they not see what I see? When I squeeze my thigh I see a bumpy ripple of cellulite. When I squeeze my stomach there is a thin layer of fat. 

I run cross-country and distance track. I love to run, but even when running I cannot run away from myself. Short, muscular legs feel disgusting to me. I want to be a svelte, graceful runner that makes everything look easy. Running is easy when you have long legs, right?

After I binge I feel heavy and tired. The twisting pang in my stomach and headache I get when I do not eat enrages me. Why am I so obsessed with food? Why is that all I seem to think about? WHY CAN I NOT HAVE A FUCKING NORMAL RELATIONSHIP WITH FUCKING FOOD?! Food. Food and exercise. Food and exercise and mirrors. When I was little, my body was a comfortable home that I cuddled with, played with and cared for. Why has it become a prison? How? I am trying so hard. When will it get easier? I am almost 21 and have felt these struggles since I was 13 when my health teacher taught us about calories and how you should have 2,000 each day. You also must exercise every day. Potato chips are bad. High fructose corn syrup is bad. If you follow THE RULES you will be good. You will be happy. Why am I not happy?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Age 20

The dieting started when I was only 12 years old. My "best friend" at the time always had something to say about how I looked or what I wore. I felt as if I really had no friends and no control over my life.

That girl, I thought, was the best thing to ever happen to me; she was like the stylish older sister that I never had – she always had cool tips and advice for me and made me feel like I belonged somewhere. For once in my life, I didn't feel friendless and alone at school. But she took advantage of that.

Her bullying worsened through that seventh grade year when I began my battle with anorexia nervosa. I even told her hoping, as my best friend, she would help. From there she only saw my weakness and escalated the teasing after that. When my mom started to notice my eating, I began eating dinner...and with that I gained weight. I couldn't take it any longer and before I knew it I was purging.

I was 14 the first time I tried to stop, but I only relieved the symptoms, not the disorder. The longing for the feeling starving, binging and purging had given me lingered for years. Throughout high school I relapsed a few times, but never really recovered. It wasn't until I went away to college that I began to heal and now I can say that I am truly cured…and will never return. I haven't spoken to the girl I called my "best friend" in four years and it's been a long 8 year struggle with my disorder. But it gets easier with every passing day…and I feel stronger as a result of it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Age 18

All my other Asian friends are skinny. Size 0, 25 inch waists, beautiful slim figures. And then there’s me. The short, “chubby" Asian who eats healthy but unfortunately doesn’t look very “slim" for her religiously attained healthy lifestyle. Okay, I know that I’m not fat. But only factually. 5’2”, 120 lbs. Rock solid quads from endless hours of cardio and strength training. No bulgy stomach…just a thick looking waist. Some people even say I’m attractive. That I have a princess face. I don’t see it.

My skinniest was at the peak of my diet back in 2012. I got down to 110 lbs in three short months in the summer. I was the “happiest” I had ever been with myself and my sense of self-esteem was actually present. Since then, after reverting to my pre-diet eating plans that didn’t consist of consuming half a bagel for breakfast, the other half for lunch and half a bowl of veggies and/or meat for dinner, I (of course) gained all that weight back. Even today, I look back to that summer diet for “fitspiration” and motivation.

To this day, I can remember every single thing that goes into my mouth on a daily basis. I workout at least 2 hours a day when I can. Every thought that passes through my mind daily is what I should eat for the next meal and when my next workout session should be. I am afraid of junk foods like chips, Starbucks beverages, cookies, ice cream, you name it. When I DO eat those foods on occasion, I feel like killing myself on the inside. I always have to compare what I’m eating with what other people are eating – is my meal healthier than theirs? Did I pick a lower calorie option? Am I eating less than they are?

EDNOS. It may not always show as plainly as anorexia nervosa, but hating my body and myself for eating food, the very thing that keeps me alive, is no doubt my own disturbed perception. I haven’t told anyone else because I’m afraid that people will think I want attention. The reaction I’ve gotten when I hinted my problem to my family is that I’m just thinking too much.

They’re right. I’m thinking way too much. About food. It’s all I think about. Eating it, not eating it, burning it off, fueling with it, crying from it, regretting it, hating it. And hating myself.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Age 19

I eat. I am a size double zero. I am 5’1. I have big, green eyes. I have straight teeth. I have silky, dirty-blonde hair that shines in the sun. I have abs when I engage my core and a tight little stomach when I do not. I have toned, beautiful legs. I can do the splits, I can run four miles and for a petite lady, I can jump very high.

90% of the time, I cannot see these beautiful features in myself. It drives my friends and family crazy.

I am a pre-professional dancer. I am surrounded by the pressures and demands of this strange, beautiful field.

“Hold in your stomach!”

“Hollow stomachs, ladies.”

“You think you’re working hard now? You’re barely skimming the surface.”

“There is always something to be improved.”

“Study everything. Practice outside of class.”

“If you question whether you want to be here, if you have doubts, then this field is obviously not right for you.”

Body hate tends to be an unspoken necessity to the job description. It’s ironic, because the dancers are the most physically fit, active students at my school. We can do the superhuman, yet most of us can’t stand what we see. Staring at myself in a leotard and tights in front of a mirror for six hours a day does nothing for my body-appreciation. Especially not in such a competitive environment.

I am cruel to my body.

I read a quote somewhere that was along the lines of, “Would you have any friends if you speak to them the way you speak to yourself?” This quote completely describes me. Although I suffered from a nasty bout of EDNOS that was sending me towards the low 90lb range, today I am maintaining a stable weight. I am physically very healthy. The ruthless self-hate talk is all that remains. It is obsessive. It is anxiety-driven. It is unfair.

“If you don’t work out today, you will become fat.”

“You can’t wear that outfit, it will show your flaws. Go put on a baggy, black t-shirt.”

“You don’t deserve two desserts in one day! No one needs that. Eat some fruit instead.”

“You are out of control.”

“You can’t risk losing your figure. You do want a job, don’t you?”

“You are a failure. You will make nothing of yourself.”

I could never speak like that to a friend. Or a child. It dawned on me this evening that some parents do speak like that to their children. I tried to imagine how much worse off I would be if my mother spoke to me like I speak to myself. I wouldn’t want to be her friend or her daughter.

If I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of talk from anyone else, why should I tolerate it from myself? Why should it be something normal to think? It would make me angry if someone else told me that I wouldn’t get a job if I gained some weight. Or that I didn’t deserve two desserts – frankly, when should food be something to be earned? It is a human need.

Here’s to the people who understand what it feels like to be your own worst enemy. The beautiful thing about this is that we have the power to turn it around. The only thing we can control is how we feel about ourselves.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Age 25

I have had a balanced relationship with food (with one small relapse) for about 3 years now. I have stayed away from all my disordered habits and have fallen in love with eating again. This was obviously excruciatingly hard and took almost 2 years. Although I am happily eating and enjoying the benefits of energy, positivity and strength, I am still unable to fall in love with my healthy body/natural weight. I have stopped working on becoming fully recovered because I felt that having a healthy relationship with food meant I was healthy enough to stop working on becoming recovered. I felt it would just happen over time living a healthy lifestyle. I did not realize that I still had a lot of work to do. What brought this to my attention stemmed from injuring my stomach muscles. I was told to do nothing except relax. It has been weeks now and I am still not fully healed. I couldn’t figure out why – I was barely doing anything. Just taking some light walks around my village. Then it hit me – I haven’t relaxed my stomach muscles in years. Of course, body image issues started long before my eating disorder and I think holding in my stomach was one of the first things I learned to do to feel like I looked better. I still do that. And I don’t think I ever realized how unnatural that was until this moment. I can’t relax my stomach muscles because I am seriously unhappy with my natural body weight. I don’t want myself or anyone else to see the way I truly am. I can’t stand to really look at my body in the mirror, with or without holding in my stomach muscles. My first step is to relax my stomach muscles around the house. But I only feel comfortable wearing loose fitting shirts and dresses. I know I can’t relax my stomach muscles in public yet. I am isolating myself to feel comfortable, but that doesn’t make me happy. I want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin around myself and others. My eating disorder might be gone, but there is still so much work for me to do.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Age 19

Last week my boyfriend admitted he lied and cheated. I broke up with him then took a 6 AM flight home for spring break.

And then I lost control. I couldn't stop crying or obsessively checking my phone or picturing him with this other person. So, I started eating my emotions. And then purging. And then eating my emotions. And then purging – something I hadn't done in weeks, something I thought I'd finally gotten over. But the habit came back so easily, so naturally in a moment of stress.

I realized I needed help. So I called a helpline and spoke to a really awesome woman. I said those awful, terrible, humiliating, honest words out loud for the first time: "I have an eating disorder." From this moment on, I decided to love my body.

I went upstairs, stripped done in front of my mirror, and apologized to every inch of my body. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I will love you. I will love you. I will love you. You are beautiful. You are beautiful.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Age 21

"Thinspo." That evil word still haunts me to this day. It's been almost 3 years since I've looked at pictures like that. It's also been almost 3 years since I shut down my own thinspo website.

It sickens me to think that I ever participated in that realm of the virtual world. If I wasn't at the gym, jogging outside or secretly doing leg-lifts in my room, you could probably find me looking at thinspo. For hours. And hours.

Looking back on it, I don't even really get it. Why should looking at pictures of these random people even impact my life at all? At the time, it certainly did.

It's been almost 3 years since I shut down that website. It's been almost 3 years since I weighed 92 pounds (for reference: I'm 5'5"). And yet, not a day goes by where I don't struggle with the voice inside my head. It still tells me I'll never be good enough. It still makes me cry.