News flash, I’m not as thin as I used to be, mostly because I no longer take handfuls of laxatives with my meals. What? That’s why I was so thin? Yes, that’s why. I started taking them when I was 11 and didn’t stop until my late 20’s. The reasons don’t really matter now, the lasting damage and the continued battle do, my calendar looks something like this:
- January and February – Completely disgusted with myself for being fat and not sticking with diet or exercise. Realize I wished another year away in the hopes of finding myself thinner than I was last year. Avoid the mirror as much as possible.
- March through May – Wake up every day and promise myself I will lose the 20 pounds I’ve wanted to lose for the last 10 years. Spend the mornings drinking green tea, skipping breakfast and doing squats while I dry my hair. Spend the evenings binge eating because I am hungry and stressed from not eating during the day.
- June – Same as May but even worse knowing that I should be wearing shorts. Wear long pants as much as possible and try to visualize myself thin before I need to wear a bathing suit. Promise myself that no matter what, I will get in the pictures with my kids. It’s time to stop worrying about looking fat in pictures and worry about having pictures to look at.
- July and August – Tell myself how fat I am every day. Stress out because I waited until the last-minute to buy a bathing suit and there aren’t any good ones left. The only suits available are size 2. Vow to myself that I will stop eating for an entire month so I can be a size 2, then worry about my health after I am thin again.
- September – The month of relief and mental respite. Summer is over, now have 9 month to lose that 20 pounds! I know I can do it! By next summer I will look great! I will shed all excuses and make the time to exercise and lose weight. I will stop binge eating! I know I can do it!
- October – Realize that there are some really fabulous sweaters that look so cute with boots but I am too fat to wear jeans and boots. Berate myself because I didn’t lose 20 pounds last year and I am stupid enough to think I am going to do it this year.
- November and December – Holiday season, nothing I can do about it now, I am going to gain 10 pounds and need to lose 30 once the new year rolls around. Wear lots of loose clothes since it’s winter and no one will notice. Avoid all the people I don’t want to see me. Including close friends.
Vicious cycle, huh? It sure is. I deal with it every single day and I hate it. So why am I telling you this now? Because I spent the last 2 weeks going through this on a much more compressed schedule. Today is September in my world and not February, in another day or two, I’ll revert back to February but I want to enjoy the temporary respite.
The worst thing a fat girl from New England can do is go to Florida in February, the land of the bathing suit. That’s where I was last week. Why do I care what a bunch of strangers think of my body? I don’t. It was the people I knew in Florida that I was more concerned with. I know a lot of people in Florida, and all the states in between.
Here’s the thing, I wanted to stop and see everyone along the way. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our schedule didn’t have the time for it. Once I was in Florida, there was no reason I couldn’t see the 5 or 6 people who were easily within visiting distance. I spent the entire time hoping for a hurricane, or something, so I wouldn’t have to see anyone and they wouldn’t have to see that I am not the size 2 I was in college. I can’t even say what size I am now for fear of hyperventilating. I’ll try to by the end of this post.
Every time I worried about someone seeing me, a scene played itself over and over in my head. You know those episodes in your life that leave an incredible imprint on your brain? Here’s one of mine –
I was 25 and had attempted suicide for the 3rd, and last, time. While lying on a table in the ER having a tube shoved down my throat, I gained consciousness long enough to hear this – “Why would someone so pretty and thin want to kill herself?” That’s what the ER nurses said. They saw a pretty and thin girl lying on that table. That’s all they saw, that was my worth.
When I spiral into the body image issues like I did last week, I hear them talking about me over and over. I tell myself I don’t want to be that girl on the table and I don’t want to be those nurses. I want to be measured by my intelligence, sense of humor, compassion and the happiness of my children. Yet every day, I wake up and struggle with what I am going to see when I look below my neck.
About 2 years ago I started running again, I felt and looked great – no muffin top, no big fat thighs, just a toner body and I loved it. I was able to fit into a size 8 and hoping for a 6. I’d be happy at a 6. After falling a few times, because I am such a knucklehead, I stopped to recover and never quite picked it up again. I plan to this month. I hope. After the trip to Florida I realized I have to accept my body for what it is or get back into running, or something.
Do I think people see me the same way I see myself? I don’t know and don’t want to know, what if they do? They surely don’t see my self-loathing, I think I hide it pretty well which brings me back to Florida. I decided to pick up the phone and call my friends. I decided I would see them if they had time. Most importantly, I decided I wouldn’t apologize in advance for not being thin anymore. I kept replaying the words “My weight is not my worth, don’t be those nurses” over and over in my head.
So what’s the big secret? What size am I? I went to Express today and bought 3 new pairs of Editor pants, all in a size 10. My head is throbbing from writing that. Yes, I know it’s not that bad. But it is that bad to me. There’s no use in trying to diagnose me, I know I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The weird thing about it? I see people that are obviously bigger than me and think they look better than me. I wish had their bodies because they look so well proportioned compared to mine. Girls that are thinner than me? Don’t get me started, that just spirals me into crazy.
As for living in a society that values beauty, I don’t even see the air-brushed bodies on magazines that are blamed for our desire to be thin. They mean nothing to me. My issues began well before I was old enough to read the magazines. It’s easy to blame the media, because it’s so much harder to blame ourselves, our families or anyone we have loved. Movie stars and models don’t bother me, they don’t put pressure on me to look a certain way. My pressure comes from inside, that pressure was put there long ago and models had nothing to do with it.
March begins in 5 days, I am laughing now because I just realized I bought 3 boxes of green tea today. Subconsciously, I know the routine. If nothing else, my trip to Florida made me realize that I want to break this cycle. Picking up the phone and calling my friends to see if they were free was a huge step in that direction. My willingness to see them despite my large thighs was a tremendous breakthrough for me. I’m hoping I have the presence of mind to continue to break my bad habits one at a time.
I know I am not alone in this, I know there are millions of women out there just like me. How comfortable are you with your body? How do you cope? Do you blame the media or is it something deeper than that?