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.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Age 25

This post is hard for me to write. I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should write it. I don’t like being vulnerable and this post is going to make me extremely vulnerable. I want to start off by saying that I am not a victim and don’t plan on making this post around being a victim – but I have body image issues because of my scars and I feel like the only honest way to address them is to be upfront about it.

My number one body image issue I have had to deal with my entire life is burns. It’s something that I've come to accept and most days they don’t bother me. That doesn't mean that there aren't days where I would rather hide from the world and be a recluse, but most days I am okay with them and sometimes even like them.

For those of you wondering, I was burned in house fire when I was 3 years old. Over 50% of my body was burned and I have 20+ skin grafts and various other surgeries because of it. I’m telling you this because it was extremely hard to grow up being “different.” Kids are jerks. They’re mean and I was teased relentlessly about it. It did a number on my self-esteem. I really hated my body because of it for a really long time. Obviously scars aren't the prettiest things on the planet, but they’re part of me and there isn't anything I can do it change it.

Even though I can’t do anything to change it, my family made sure that I knew I had been burned on a daily basis (and sometimes still bring it up). What I mean is they’d say things like, “You were such a pretty baby. You would have been so pretty if you hadn't been burned.” Or, “You shouldn't wear a tank top. You should cover your scars up more.” Heaven forbid I show any imperfection or anything that isn't the norm. It was hard to deal with. I feel like I’m more insecure about it because of the way they handled it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Age 23

Diet Lie #1: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels...


The first time I really tried to diet, and I mean really tried - not the dozens of times in high school when I would count calories for exactly three days and then give up and eat Taco Bell - I told myself over and over that nothing could ever taste as good as being thin would feel. I don't know when I first learned that phrase; it just floated in the ether of diet/body-hate wisdom I continuously and subconsciously internalized, but I immediately found it comforting. What better way could there be to talk myself out of eating a cookie? The cookie would only taste good for a few minutes, but once I got thin I would be happy for life! I just had to keep my eye on the prize - the payoff would be worth it.

The trouble is, it wasn't true. After seven months of dieting (which should probably be more accurately referred to as the beginning stages of anorexia), I had lost almost 50 pounds and was well below my original BMI goal. I was 5'4'' and weighed 105 pounds. Others, including my boyfriend, told me I was beginning to look too thin, but I thought I looked great. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I still thought my belly stuck out. I was still not entirely comfortable in a bathing suit, but I sure felt better about my weight than I did before.

And yet, being thin didn't feel good.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Age 23

Like Her Momma
I was watching the Tyra Show this afternoon and it was an episode about young girls that hated what their face looked like. They had the mothers of these young girls on the show as well, and it was said that if the mother didn't like how she looked, the daughter would internalize that feeling and manifest it. "If Momma looks in the mirror and criticizes herself, her daughter would do the same, like her Momma.”

Sitting there on the couch watching this show, it hit me. I think my mother is a very pretty woman. She keeps herself up well, her makeup and hair always looks nice, and she dresses well for her body.
But it wasn't always this way. She used to be quite overweight and that is how I remember her for most of my childhood years. My father would be extremely focused on her appearance and constantly put her down because of how she looked. And I hated him for it. For years, I could barely talk to him or be around him because of the way he treated my mother. And I secretly felt paranoid every time I cracked open a pint of Ben & Jerry's or helped myself to seconds at dinner because I felt he was watching me with that internal disapproval - the same disapproval he looked at my mother with.

So I became an exercise addict for most of my high school years and did not eat well at all. I would starve myself during the day, go to track practice and work out hard, then come home and eat dinner like maniac because my body was so deprived. Oftentimes I would stay up late at night and binge eat as well. It didn't help that my sister had gone through this very same cycle a couple years before, so I felt like I wasn't being abnormal.

But I hated myself and my body. I'd look in the mirror and loathe what I saw, even if to everyone else I was a completely normal, healthy weight. I was obsessive about myself, all because of how my father treated my mother. She tried to lose weight and took a lot of crap from my dad over the years, and I admire the heck out of her for that. She is an incredibly strong woman today and has come a LONG way from where she was. I'm so proud of her.

It makes me realize that as a woman and a mother in future years, I need to be so careful of how I treat myself because my daughters will follow my example. The last thing I want is for them to feel what I felt about myself. It's taken some time, but I have started to accept and love my body for what God made it to be...healthy and not legalistic. To move my body and exercise, not because it will make me lose weight, but because I love how I feel when I'm done. I still have "fat days" like any woman and just want to curl up in sweatpants on the couch. But then I have to remind myself - beauty comes in so many different shapes, sizes, skin tones, lip sizes, hair colors and textures...and I want my daughter to someday look in the mirror, see her flaws and all, and think she's beautiful, like her Momma.

"You are not your bra-size, nor are you the width of your waist or the slenderness of your calves. You are not the amount of sit-ups you can do, nor are you the amount of calories in a day. You are not a little red are the content of your character. You are the ambitions that drive you, the goals that you set. You are beautiful and desirable not for the clique you attend, but for the spark of life within you that compels you to make your life a full and meaningful one. You are beautiful not for the shape of the vessel, but for the volume of the soul it carries."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Age 16

As a child, I was absolutely perfect. Cute, shoulder-length hair and very SKINNY. It happened in about elementary school when I noticed something about this little girl. She wasn't as skinny as everyone else. So to handle my concerns and worries I turned to food. Ice cream, sweets, soda, almost anything that would fill my insecurities. It always seemed to work so the habit persisted and I fostered it ‘til I became a very chubby child.

Fast forward to middle school. Everyone seemed to be all loved up with their boyfriends and girlfriends, but I was alone. Already having a destroyed self esteem from the bullying in elementary school, this only made things worse. And being the very shy and introverted person I am, I didn't tell anyone about my feelings. Instead I ate them away.

Now I'm in high school. A junior and still FAT. My life has been spiraling down ever since elementary. But now it's taken a turn for the absolute worst. I stare in the mirror daily just looking at all the unattractive features I have. Instead of over eating, now I've turned to anorexia. I have a rubber band on my wrist that I snap on my skin after I eat to punish myself. And today I ate a slice of pizza and held back tears of guilt and shame.

I feel like I can't save myself. Anorexia has literally become a person to me. It's no longer just an ED. It's a girl who sits in my mind and thoughts all day just reminding me of how fat I am. Telling me to lose weight so I can finally get the love I want so badly. And even though she hurts me it kills me inside, I want so badly to be her friend. I want her to tell me she's proud of me for skipping meals. I want her praise for exercising for at least an hour and a half every day.

But more than anything I WANT TO BE SKINNY. I crave it like the air I breathe. Yet I don't want this life. I don't want her in my life. So why do I keep doing this to myself? I want to be free, yet I hold on to the chains that surround me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To This Day

Take a moment to watch this stunning video by Shane Koyczan...and listen. Carefully.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

False Advertising

JAM Films produced this documentary, False Advertising, to help women start thinking critically about the media and how they define what is considered "beautiful."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Age 17

Looking at myself everyday getting ready for school in the morning is almost rewarding. I have started to take care of myself, I started CrossFit (so motivational and comforting) and I look at myself and smile.

I look at myself and smile because of the progress and how I've stuck with it. I am currently doing a project for a class on body image in teens. So I googled "body image in teens" and I came across your blog. This is so amazing that you started this - I am so inspired.

Thank you for starting this.

I’m sure it has made so many girls feel confident about themselves and I’m happy you started it.

I am 17 years old, under a lot of stress trying to finish high school and get into college.

I am going to college for personal training and nutrition. I weigh 170 and am so proud of myself.

I have hips, a large butt and a small bust. I love my body and your blog made me realize how important it is.

Thank you and I hope you see this someday and smile.