Why the Starting Point of My Eating Disorder Recovery Is Acceptance of My Body
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
When I was born, I had a body.
It was white and soft and squishy, and it was filled with all the things I needed to survive. It cleverly provided all the functions required for me to continue growing and developing outside the comforts of my mother’s womb. What my body didn’t know when it was born, I later wouldn’t believe it was the “right” shape or the “right” size or the “right” color. While it functioned in a beautiful, healthy and practical manner, aesthetically I would later believe it didn’t conform to a certain ideal of beauty, espoused by those who raised me and the society in which I lived.
I believed I wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough. My skin was too fair, my hair too red. I was too tall, too round and my breasts too large. I didn’t know all this when I was born, but I don’t remember not knowing.
In the 1960s, thin was in. Twiggy was the new kid on the runway and slim, athletic builds were to be admired and attained. I felt my voluptuous curves never stood a chance.
I grew in a world where my body shape was “wrong.” I was different to my friends. I was different to my petite, athletic family. I felt I looked different to everyone I knew. In hindsight, of course loads of young girls had curves, or were tall or fair or buxom – but I don’t remember a single one. I just remember being bigger and paler than every single girl I knew. I don’t know when I discovered what I saw in the mirror, was not entirely true. But I do know I was “old” by that time. Not old by society standards – but pretty darn old to be realizing my reflection was a lie. I think I was probably pushing 40 by the time I started comparing photos to numbers on the scale.
Now this makes for a rather complicated dilemma. Because I was taught my worth and value are firmly entrenched in physical appearance, I believed I needed to be slim and attractive and youthful. Even if I were slim and attractive and youthful, I still wouldn’t be able to see I was slim and attractive and youthful. I am perpetually seeking something that even if I were to achieve it, I would not recognize. Yet I cannot seem to stop myself from pointlessly continuing to seek that which is unachievable and unrecognizable.
This distorted image of myself, and the overwhelming shame that has accompanied my body for all the years I can remember, has had a huge impact upon me. I have developed chronic issues with eating disorder behaviors by fruitlessly endeavoring to lose weight at any cost. I have had gastric lap band surgery, followed by a tummy tuck and a breast reduction. I have starved myself until I was “thin” by society standards.
I still struggle with hating my body.
Logically I recognize no amount of “thin” will ever be thin enough. Yet logic does not reside where acceptance needs to be.
I take no pride in my vanity, or in the fact I took such extreme measures to gain a sense of comfort in this body I have called home my entire life. I wish I could embrace every inch of myself without favor or fortune. I wish I could value health and vitality and longevity over my body.
I think the starting point of recovery for me is acceptance. Not standing in the mirror with affirmations I don’t believe. Learning to live in the now. Learning to see what is, to be what is, to live what is. And to keep going until I accept my body. Not until I am “thin enough,” “pretty enough” or “young enough.” Just until I accept my body is enough – as is. This body that was born white and soft and squishy and has served me faithfully all my years.
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 Transfuchsian.