The Exhausting Inner Battle of Body Dysmorphia
My perception of my weight has been an issue I’ve carried with me since I was in elementary school. My first memory of body dissatisfaction was in third grade. My class was doing an activity, and we were all asked to all weigh ourselves. There was more to the activity, and it had nothing to do with our weight per se. However, weighing ourselves was a part of it.
I was in line and saw the weight of the girl in front of me. I can’t remember the number. Yet, I do remember the feeling I had after I stepped on the scale and saw my number was bigger. As a child who was 8 or 9 at the time, I had my first “I’m fat” moment. I have a hard time recalling where that thought would have come from because I have no recollection of ever being told I was overweight.
When I told a friend I was going to write an article about body issues, she mentioned that I could write a series on my body issues. She wasn’t being mean, but accurate. For as long as she and my core group of friends have known me, I have talked about my weight and what my body looked like. I never looked good enough, thin enough or “model-esque” enough. My body was never enough.
Body dysmorphia is exhausting. Throughout the years, I’ve tried everything from trying to make myself throw up, to diet teas, to fad diets, to all kinds of diet pills, to counting calories, to colon cleanses, to excessive daily workouts, to drinking numerous glasses of hot water with lemon a day. I weighed myself two, three, four times a day. I’ve always been obsessed.
I can’t control the negative thoughts. I don’t believe people who tell me I look fine. I’d think: They’re just being nice. They don’t want to hurt my feelings. They don’t see what I see though. They don’t see my body literally morph in front of my eyes.
At one point, I got my weight down, and I felt great! I looked great! I loved seeing the size tag in my pants. I felt sexy and beautiful. My friends and family, though, were not as pleased as I was and saw there was a problem. They’d tell me my body wasn’t built for such a low weight. They’d tell me I was beautiful, and there was nothing wrong with my body. They’d ask me to stop. My rational mind knew they were right, but my body-obsessed mind had a hard time believing them.
With time, I gained the weight back, and I was right back to where I was: feeling insecure and not good enough. My fluctuations are hard for me to handle, and my relationship with my scale is toxic. To this day, getting rid of my scale increases my anxiety, and I can’t let it go.
My husband has always told me I am beautiful and that he loves my body the way it was. Yet, I always suspect he is lying. I have no idea why he would lie about it, but my mind tells me he is just being nice. He stood by me through my ups and downs and is still here, reminding me that I look great and telling me to get off the scale.
However, he doesn’t see what I see in the mirror. He doesn’t see the tricks my mind plays on me. I could think I look good in the morning, but by the afternoon, I can’t wait to go home and hide. My mind is always changing, and it’s frustrating. It’s scary.
In 2013, in preparation for getting pregnant, I changed my eating habits. For once, it was based entirely on having a healthy body for a child and not for myself. What a change in mindset! When I got pregnant, I worked out and ate well. It wasn’t about me anymore. It was about the baby. This baby changed something inside me, and I knew I had to be strong for him. Unfortunately, I went back to my old mind-frame months after his birth.
My son is 2 and a half now, and the last thing I want is for him to grow up with an insecure mother who cares too much about how her body looks. I don’t want him growing up thinking this kind of thought is normal. I don’t want him barging into my room, catching me staring at myself in the mirror while holding my rolls, which he has done. I want him to have a mother who is secure in herself, who takes pride in herself and who works on herself. I need to be more conscious when I stare at my body in the mirror and when I step on the scale. I need to focus on positive and healthy behaviors, ones he can follow.
While my obsession has gotten better these past few years, the thoughts still manage to squeeze through, and there’s an internal battle. It’s been five years since I’ve drank a weight-loss tea, popped a weight-loss pill or done any kind of cleanse. I’m proud of that. However, while I pride myself in not taking supplements, I still occasionally count my calories and obsess over my workouts. I still stare at myself in the mirror, pointing out all my flaws and think of ways to get rid of the excess weight. I still compare myself to magazines, friends and random people I see on the streets.
Having a child, however, has changed a lot. My son keeps me from getting back to most of my old, bad habits. I feel like I can take this on because he gives me strength.
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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.