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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Age 29

Ten years flies by in the blink of an eye…a cliché, overused phrase often times used by “grown-ups” in an effort to help those who are younger and “less experienced.”

Ten years ago, at the naïve age of 19, I embarked on my “dieting journeys.” The first few pounds were a fluke; grief pounds that dissipated from the death of my grandfather. The next several pounds were intentional. I’d fallen into the dangerous trap which kept me obsessed, occupied and entangled for the next decade.

Throughout my twenties, I’d approach every New Year vowing that this is the year that I’m living without my ED. I kept breaking that promise to myself year after year. With every pound I lost, my life became a hollow jumble of deceptions and superficiality. The things I was once passionate about took a back seat, because all I wanted to do was lose weight and become skinny – really skinny.

Through exercising, purging, restricting, consuming diet pills, laxatives and diuretics, my sense of self-worth slowly melted away and I soon donned an estranged, new persona. Paradoxically, my out of body experience grew with each bead of sweat, each purge, each pound I lost and each time I denied myself of essential nutrients. Food had become the enemy and I was convinced that anything I ate would turn to fat on my body.

Those who knew me told me that I had “changed.” My therapist told me any remnants of life I possessed had been depleted and my doctor warned me that I could die, correction, I WILL die unless I “knock it off” – and I didn’t give a shit, hoot, crap, a care in the world. All of my passions were a distant memory as nothing interested me one bit. The only thing mattered to me was how much weight I can lose and how fast I can do it. I wanted to fit into the smallest pant sizes and have them hang off my body. There was a morbid giddiness that would pulse throughout my body when my once skinny jeans were no longer tight.

When I finally hit my rock bottom, my all-time low, and the goal weight that I’d been pining for, years in the making, I realized that this person that I’d become is NOT who I want to be. Had I become “that” self-involved girl who was so fixated on her weight that she was blind to everything else? Yes, I was “skinny” now to the point where random strangers at the store would give me apprehensive glances and the occasional lady would comment on my “thinness.” I had become a shadow of my former self in all aspects, and it was time to face the consequences of my actions.

Slowly, as reality set in, I saw my future husband and children disappear alongside the cessation of my menstrual cycle. Grad school no longer an option because I wanted to lose weight and become “thin.” I couldn’t eat many of the foods I once loved because I was terrified of keeping it in my body.

As I look back and reflect on this point of my life now, I find it repulsive. I spent my twenties unknowingly attempting to look like a cadaver, slowly committing suicide. I lost my soul at an age where I could have been exploring my passions. My peers began to find a sense of self, while I remained lost and even more insecure than I was during those awkward years of puberty! I understand that I cannot be too callous, as the weight loss and eating disorder began as a means of filling this emptiness and self-hatred within me. As my therapist and dietitian say, “It was there to serve a purpose and to protect me.”

As I cautiously venture down the path of my recovery, I’m starting to see things that previously weren’t in my peripheral view. I have appreciation and gratitude for things I was too distracted to notice before. I’m starting to see that others respect me for my character and personality - two aspects that I have lost among the emaciation and malnutrition. From time to time, I look back at some old “sick pictures,” and long for that bony, hollow body, but soon snap back to reality. Despite feeling constantly afraid, conflicted, apprehensive, anxious, insecure and uncomfortable, pushing through this has been worth it all.

Although I find it hard to accept the fact that I’m “good enough” and people like me for well, “being me,” I’m trying to focus on diminishing my distortions and developing my true, inner self. Now, at the age of 29, I’m embarking on my mission of how I truly want to be “seen.” I will not let the last year of my twenties slip out from under my feet to become regret. This is my year to take back from ED.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Age 20

I know what it feels like. When somebody with no regard for anything makes known and publicly draws attention to how fat you are. When you’re alone it’s like a worse version of tripping when no one sees - it’s degrading and highly embarrassing, but you don’t need to share the moment with anyone and can therefore go on pretending it never happened. But when you’re not alone, when you’re with any number of people, it’s a moment that so painfully and unfairly catches you off-guard that a response cannot be conjured. How can you really respond to something so against common and decent practice? There are no understood rules for dealing with this situation because these situations have been established as too taboo for discussion and are therefore too rare for preparation.

So every time some punkass kid or drunken frat dude made a comment about the fat friend, I froze. I wouldn’t speak because what could I say, and I didn’t do anything because what could I do. It was true, after all. I wasn’t blind, I just lived as if I were. I was aware of the situation, but I could convince you I wasn’t. When someone calls your bluff on ignoring the elephant in the room, you’re vulnerably and inevitably at a loss.

Fast forward.

It’s just another day in which I exit the stall and stand in front of the full-length mirror and stare. Complete shock and awe. You would think that because these moments occur every hour of every day, the image of my physical self wouldn’t surprise me the way it still does every time I get a glimpse of it. My legs are long and my waist is even thinner in reality than I can conceptualize with my own eyes. I turn sideways and wonder where it all went and how it was just there a minute ago. Flex. Holy shit. Who am I?

I pay no attention to the fact that I’m washing my hands because now I catch myself up close. Boy do I love these collar bones. Every facial feature is narrower, but luckily still in proportion. I stand up straight and use my eyes to flirt with my reflection one last time before looking away and inhaling deeply to regroup. I conclude this tiny little bathroom chapter of today and move on back into the world outside my own mind.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Age 24

I wake up every morning and walk into the bathroom, take off all my clothes, use the toilet and then pull out my scales. As I wait for the digital devil to give me its final answer, my whole body screams at me, "Please let me be a kg lighter!!! Even just a few hundred grams will do, just please don't tell me I am heavier!!!"

I am heavier than I was yesterday. I slam the demon scales back into their home, cursing at them for ruining my day. I angrily pull on ugly baggy undies and clip on my only comfortable bra. I search for something to wear and end up choosing the same sweatpants and loose fitting band shirt that I probably wore yesterday and go back to the bathroom.

I glare at myself in the mirror, “It's your own fault that nothing fits you.”

Due to me having bipolar and needing medication, my weight fluctuates horribly all the time and it makes it hard to lose it as well.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point in time I started pinning all of my happiness on being thin, telling myself that I can't possibly be beautiful at the weight I currently am. I sometimes catch my reflection and think, "You have a nice face…if only it was thinner."

I am tired of feeling self-conscious when I grab another biscuit at parties. I am tired of constantly obsessing about food and exercise. I am tired of weighing myself all the time. But above all of this, I am tired of not feeling good about myself. I have a wonderful husband who tells me how amazing and beautiful I am all the time. I wish I could see myself the way he does…and I know he wishes that I could as well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Age 22

In a world where size-zero models with flawless skin, hair and makeup are considered ideal, it’s no wonder I oftentimes feel inadequate. It’s hard to feel comfortable in my own skin when I’m too busy comparing myself to other women, wishing I inherited their slim build, tiny waist and fuller bust. But this just doesn’t do any good; it’s time to embrace who I am.

But just because I’m not a clone of a size zero “Project Runway” model who has just returned from the L’Oréal Paris hair and makeup room does not mean that I’m any less of a woman. I’m still a woman, but not just any woman; I’m a woman who is proud of her less-than-“ideal” body, a body which can do all the things a so-called “ideal” body can.

Women must realize that we offer the world so much more than just our bodies. There’s more to us than our physical appearance. What about a woman’s generosity? Kindness? Intelligence? Humility? Aren’t these qualities more important than the number on a label sewed inside a pair of jeans?

I’d rather be known, valued and remembered as the woman who puts others ahead of herself, who plays three instruments, (clarinet, saxophone and guitar), and who knows which element of the periodic table has the atomic number of 17, (it’s chlorine), than a woman who only offers the world her so-called “smoking-hot” body and nothing else.

We must be ourselves. We must not change who we are; we are who we are. We must not put ourselves down and we must not allow others to drag us down just because we don’t fit some arbitrary “standard.” Who sets these “standards” anyway, and what gives them the authority to do so? Why do these “standard setters” frown upon women who don’t, in their myopic minds, have the proportions of a Barbie doll?

I know that I don’t fit these so-called “standards” and never will, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m an individual who doesn’t see the need to starve myself and spend every waking hour at the gym, just so I can say that I can fit into size zero jeans and an extra small t-shirt from a trendy mall store.

I’ll never have the perfect waist-to-hip ratio, blemish-free complexion and little to no body fat, a body in which these “standard setters” consider “ideal.” (Don’t these people realize that body fat is necessary for the proper functioning of the body? I guess they were too focused on their appearance rather than paying attention in biology class.)

Listen up, “standard setters,” I have news for you. Not all women who can’t fit into a pair of size zero jeans and don’t have your so-called “ideal” body are lazy gluttons with no self- control. I, for one, have PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome, an endocrine disorder that affects the entire body, not just the ovaries.

Because of PCOS, I’m going to battle my weight for the rest of my life, as this disorder makes maintaining a stable body weight extremely difficult, due to high levels of the pancreatic hormone insulin. I didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this disorder; it’s most likely genetic and the underlying cause is not under my control.

I’ve gained and lost the same 25 pounds (and then some) since I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 17, and unfortunately, I’ll probably be playing the “weight game” forever. PCOS causes other problems with the body, like unrelenting acne, and even more concerning, high cholesterol, irregular menstruation, and a much higher risk of Type II diabetes.

So, “standard setters,” I’ll never have the body you think is “ideal,” nor do I want your “ideal” body. Instead of trying to attain your “ideal” body in which you hold in such high esteem, I’m trying to attain as healthy a body as I can. Try living one day with my body, a body that you deem “worthless,” a body that needs medication in order to menstruate, regulate cholesterol levels, and lower insulin. I dare you.