How a Pizza Tattoo Helped Me Overcome the Shame of Disordered Eating

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.

Have you ever tried to lose weight? Statistically, the answer is probably yes. Now, what’s the most irrational thing you’ve ever done to lose weight? Never eating after 7 p.m.? Snapping a rubber band on your wrist when you crave sweet food? Carrying around a gallon of water to try to finish drinking during the day?

I’ve had some doozies. I’ve sat in a bathtub full of ice. I’ve chewed literally thousands of packs of gum. I’ve cut off my long, heavy hair. I’ve made playlists of weight loss songs and downloaded weight loss hypnotic learning tapes to listen to while I slept. I literally tried to brainwash myself into hating fatness and thinking I had to do everything I could to change myself. Well guess what? It worked.

In November of 2015, I hit the rock bottom of irrational weight loss techniques. I got a tattoo of a pizza slice on my left knee. My line of thinking was this: I would be so ashamed to be a fat person with a pizza tattoo, that if I got a pizza tattoo, I would never allow myself to get fat.

In case you haven’t read the dozens of articles, blog posts and scientific studies already published about the subject: shame is a terribly ineffective way to make anyone do anything. It just doesn’t work.

It didn’t work for me. In November of 2015, I weighed the least I had ever weighed after spending a solid year dieting. By June of 2016, I had developed binge eating disorder and a chronic illness that limited my mobility. By November of 2016, I weighed enough to classify me as obese according to my BMI. I still am. And now I’m a fat person with a pizza tattoo.

But — and if nothing else has sounded irrational to you yet, this might — I am not ashamed. I’m not ashamed of being a fat person with a pizza tattoo, and I’m not ashamed of being fat.

I mean, I haven’t reached the holy pinnacle of pure and perfect body positivity. I don’t think that exists. I still struggle to post pictures where my hair looks frizzy and I’m still too scared to participate in the #majesticsealselfie tag. Unfortunately, fatphobia has made me deeply ashamed of appearing to have a double chin. I still have some shame to shed.

But I’ll tell you this — I have finally made peace with food. I no longer binge. I no longer restrict. Food has no moral value to me. It doesn’t make me feel better or worse about myself. It just is. I eat it, sometimes a healthy amount, sometimes a little more or a little less, and I enjoy it. I’m not ashamed of anything I eat or don’t eat, and I’m not ashamed of myself. If you want this, I can tell you that the best thing I know of is to join the body positivity movement. Just like I brainwashed myself to hate fatness by consuming fatphobic media, you can train yourself love your body by consuming body positive media.

I made the decision to change how I thought about myself when I read the quote, “You will never make peace with food until you make peace with your body.” And I wanted so badly to make peace with food. I was binge eating multiple times a day. I was neglecting my adult responsibilities to spend more time eating or working out. I was a wreck. I hated myself.

I’m not saying body positivity will cure you. I’m sure someone out there can say, “Body positivity cured me of my disordered eating,” and if so, great for them. But it didn’t cure me. Therapy for depression, medication for binge eating disorder and body positivity were all pieces of the puzzle. Unfortunately, thanks to classism and capitalism, not everyone has access to therapy and medication. But everyone can have access to body positivity and I’m determined that my place in the world is to help make body positivity more accessible.

Stop being ashamed of yourself. Stop feeling guilty for eating. Food has no moral value. It’s not “right” or “wrong.” It just is.

Likewise, being fat has no moral value. Nothing about your weight, appearance, size, or physical abilities tells anyone anything about the content of your character.

Everyone has a body, and it is just a soft, beautiful, imperfect vehicle for your soul during your time in this universe. But your vehicle doesn’t tell anyone anything about the content of your character. Your soul is valuable, independent of its vehicle. There are all kinds of vehicles, and that’s OK! You can use fashion and interests like bumper stickers on your vehicle to tell other souls a little bit about your personality, but your vehicle itself — what it looks like, how big it is, how efficiently it runs, how many different things it can do — doesn’t tell anyone a single bit of information about your soul. We only get one vehicle to ride in during this lifetime, so love the one that carries you. Being ashamed of the physical body you have can never get you a new one.

Follow this journey here.

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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