Let me preface this by saying that the last thing I am looking for is pity. In fact, the idea of anybody actually approaching me after reading this to comment on it might send me into cardiac arrest. That being said, I hope this finds somebody who can find comfort in my words.
In the eleventh grade I had been walking down the school hallway when I overheard an upperclassmen make a comment “covertly” about my body. Almost refusing to believe anybody could be insensitive enough to actually shame another human being’s body type, I had a friend confirm what she had said.
The perpetrator, a year ahead of me in school, was tall and thin and had what I idolized my entire life as “the perfect body” and she just so happened to make a comment on something I was already self conscious about: the size of my hips. Whereas I had only thought them to be slightly larger than those of most girls my age, she likened them to the size of woman who was ready to give birth. For anyone struggling with this image, hips have to be pretty large for a woman to perform such an act.
It’s safe to say that with an already shaky self-esteem, I spiraled into severe bouts of self-hatred. I knew I wasn’t overweight, but my body had prevented me from receiving the acceptance of other people, and in high school, that was everything.
Being the foodie that I am, I refused to starve myself or “diet.” No, I took a much more unconventional route in order to feel better about my body. Little did I know that this route would lead to health implications and a shattered sense of self worth.
So I continued to eat and on the days that I felt particularly bad, I would eat even more. Although, “eat” might not be the correct term. I binged. I would come home after an awful day and eat a day’s worth of calories in 10 minutes. My pantry had slowly become a place of worship. It was the only place where I felt I had control of a situation. It was something I knew. I knew food and thus, I developed a false confidence.
It would be later on in the night that I would fidget with guilt. Standing in front of my mirror, usually only half dressed because clothes could cover up a lot of insecurities, I’d remember what the girl had said. I’d remember that people only saw what they thought of you – and what was I, if all people like her saw were my big hips?
My value was directly embedded in the size of my body and I was too big. I took up too much space. After a few months I was introduced to laxatives. If you’re easily squeamish or just judgmental, I suggest you stop reading.
It became a routine. Come home, binge, feel sick with guilt, take a pill, go to sleep, wake up in agony, wipe away any frustrated tears and get ready for school the next day, only to be exposed to the same cohort who had inspired such behavior in me.
But of course, nothing was actually wrong with me. I had been educated on anorexia and this wasn’t it. I had been educated on bulimia, but I didn’t make myself throw up. It wasn’t until I came to college that someone looked me in the eye and informed me that any form of bingeing and purging was something to be worried about.
It hadn’t been covered in health class. They never explained that if I looked into the mirror and felt the way I did, body dysmorphia was most likely at fault.
I thought it was normal to feel that you needed to shrink yourself in order to be liked. Shrink your body, shrink your impact, be perfect. It was simple.
I’ve come a long way in the matter of a few months. I know with absolute certainty that body image and self love are topics that have yet to be prioritized by the education system. I know that my body shouldn’t be valued on how it looks but how it operates, how it encapsulates the greatest parts of my being. I know that my body is merely the vessel that carries my mind and if I fuel it correctly, there’s nothing I cannot put my mind to.
So how did I come to that conclusion? Well, I can assure you, no healing process is easy or even comfortable, for that matter. You need to begin with who you surround yourself with. Re-evaluate how your friends talk about themselves. If they are constantly talking about image, maybe take a break from them. Find people who want to know the inner corners of your mind rather than the circumference of your thighs.
Manage your portion sizes, not because you should restrict yourself, but because some foods will fuel you best in certain doses. Indulge in self love and know that pride, in the right amount, can do a world of good.
I know that it’s okay to speak up and that it’s okay to ask questions. I know that people can begin to love themselves, and I know I’m on my way there.