How 'Body Positive Warriors' Helped Me Live a Life Free of Numbers
My life was once completely ruled by numbers. Numbers viciously controlled my entire life. The numbers on the scale and the numbers on food items. I truly thought happiness would come to me once the scale showed a certain number. I thought then I could finally be free of numbers and begin my life.
Instead, my obsession with numbers and food nearly destroyed my life. It kept me from social engagements, from properly enjoying gatherings and dinners. It made me second guess and question every restaurant menu. I lost almost ten years obsessing over food and my appearance. I never wore the clothes I wanted to because I counted on finally being able to wear what I wanted once I reached a “forever” size. Orthorexia robbed me of the peace of mind and playfulness of life I was entitled to, that everyone is entitled to. It told me I didn’t deserve things, that my reflection in the mirror was of the utmost importance.
At times it made me mean and spiteful, envying those who didn’t have to struggle with what they looked like. I often questioned why I had been made the way I was, why I had to struggle while I watched friends and family enjoy life. Unfortunately their version of enjoying life was often filled with snide comments about my body, because it didn’t match theirs or didn’t fit their version of what was “right.”
Now that I’m on the other side, now that I’m in recovery, I can see the lies and deceit of those numbers. I can see the hateful comments and cruelty weren’t my fault. I was never deserving of that kind of treatment and it was never OK for people to yell at me on the street or criticize my body.
Numbers are just symbols. They have a function and a purpose, but their purpose for me was never to bring happiness and joy. I never thought it was possible to have a life where numbers no longer mattered. I never thought I would be able to look in a mirror and see my body as strong and worthy of love. I never thought I would be able to tell my therapist it has now been nearly a year since I have had any disordered behavior. I never even thought I would be comfortable seeing a therapist, but with each session she is changing my life.
Recovery isn’t linear and it certainly isn’t easy. I have to wake up each day and decide to make recovery a priority, to reach out and hold it tight because I know I can’t let it begin to slip away. And the best way to do that is to ask for help, which I know is far easier said than done. For many years I didn’t even know I needed help. I thought what I was doing was beneficial and healthy and in a society where weight loss has family and friends cheering on the sidelines, it can be difficult to see where “healthy” morphs into dangerous.
I never thought I could have a life free of extremes. Free of thinking one food was more worthy than the other, free of judging myself based on those food choices. Or even free of judging others, because eating disorders often create a sense of superiority.
It was social media that helped me discover a group of people who love themselves the way they were made, who love what society has told so many of us is ugly or wrong. They call themselves “body positive warriors.” When I first came across these accounts, I was still in a bad place. But I looked at their photos and read their words in complete awe. These people were going through life embracing themselves. Embracing every flaw and imperfection and blocking out what anyone else had to say about it.
I began to follow their journeys and I saw the humanity of it. They didn’t just wake up one day loving themselves. They actively chose to love themselves and worked hard to get to places of self-confidence. It certainly wasn’t easy either. So many of them were incredibly candid with their experience. I saw their tears as they experienced hate, but I also saw their strength when they continued to love themselves. It was people like these, these incredible body positive warriors, who helped me realized my extremes and treatment of my body was wrong. They helped me realize I needed help and that I didn’t have to keep going the way I was. Many of them came from disordered eating backgrounds as well and I could really relate to them on a personal level. Seeing their personal accounts, seeing their acts of rebellious self-love and pure joy towards life helped me see I could also live a life free of numbers.
I knew this was what I needed. I knew as a mother, I couldn’t continue my behavior, because little eyes were watching. I realized my children deserved a mom who wouldn’t be afraid to go to the beach because of the fear involved with wearing a bathing suit in public. They deserved to have photos of me enjoying life with them, instead of photos of me manipulating angles or hiding behind things, hiding myself.
There is hope on the other side of eating disorders. It may take me 10 years to be fully recovered, but I know I get closer each day. Each day that I decide to choose life and vitality over pain and obsession, I know my eating disorder is slowly losing its grip. One day, it will let go completely. Because now I know I am so much more than my exterior, so much more than these canyons and crevices that make up my body. I am strong and resilient and so is this landscape I proudly call my home.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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Thinkstock photo via Olarty.