For years I’ve spent countless hours thinking about food, counting calories, skipping meals, working out to make up for what I had eaten, hating my body, hating myself, I’ve gone days without eating nothing but a granola bar and lettuce with no dressing. The hospital trips, the panic attacks, passing out, feeling weak, sick, lethargic, irritable, I told myself this was the journey towards self-acceptance. I thought I was on my way. I thought by changing my body I could finally love and accept myself. I put my body over my mind, over my well-being. I didn’t care how I felt, only how I looked. We live in a society that tells us to do so. Its importance on physical health rather than mental health only further reinforces that notion. Rather than focusing on how we feel, we focus on how we look. We are told if we are not happy with our bodies, change them. Shrinking your body will not shrink your insecurities or self-doubt, in fact, it will only expand them.
If you restrict, binge, purge, over exercise, or engage in any other related behaviors, then this blog is for you. You don’t have to have a diagnosis to seek help, you don’t have to look a certain way, or be sick enough to want to improve your life. Just by reading this blog, you are taking steps towards a journey of self-discovery and self-love. I am starting this blog to write about my own personal experiences with an eating disorder. I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite some time, now is as good a time as any, especially during this difficult time.
In this blog, I will talk about mental illness, how to keep fighting, how to reach out, how to challenge thoughts around food, shape, and weight. I am still learning and fighting. This is the best way I know how to continue to get better. I don’t know why we are all going through what we are going through right now. All I know is, I’m here to help, to share my story, my thoughts, my experiences, my insight, to give a voice to many who are ashamed to speak. We are rooted in the beliefs that speaking up about our struggles is shameful and embarrassing. It leaves us vulnerable, true, but it also shapes us into who we need to become. I will also discuss how to not lose hope, how to fight the battles before you, how to deal with your most harmful enemy, yourself.
Being Over Body is not just a blog but a mantra to live by. We are conditioned to believe our physical body is more important than who we truly are, our being — that is our laugh, our talents, what makes us, essentially us. Sure, physical health is important but not at the risk of our sanity, of our mental health. We’re so focused on our bodies, what they look like, how much they should weigh, it all means so much to us because we’ve been taught that it should. What about our love for travel, our affinity for art, the way our eyes light up when we talk about our passions? I want to explore the myths surrounding losing weight, challenge the “Thin Ideal”, ambivalence towards change, body acceptance, Health at Every Size (HAES), how our society views people in larger bodies, diet culture, and much more.
Christy Harrison, host of the podcast, Food Psych® refers to diet culture as the “life thief”. Think of all the hours spent agonizing about how many pieces of bread you had at dinner, instead of the fun you had with your friends. These thoughts take you away from your experiences, essentially robbing you of the joy you deserve to have. In light of recent conditions, this is especially important to remember, now that we are under quarantine and unable to leave our homes, I can’t help but think about all those times I allowed my eating disorder to control me, to steal my joy, and the missed opportunities in fear of eating food, in fear of gaining weight, and getting fat. I missed parties, dinners, precious time with loved ones that I will never get back. I spent time in the bathrooms of restaurants, of people’s homes, in my own home, “compensating” for what I just ate. Instead of laughing and enjoying myself with my family and friends, all I could think of was how fat I was and how I’d get even more fat if I didn’t throw up the food I’d just eaten. If I didn’t “make up” for it in some way. Those thoughts consume you if you allow them to. Imagine how different you would be if you didn’t have those thoughts surrounding food and weight, if it wasn’t the most important thing in your life, if you had more time, space, and energy for the things you truly love.
Initially, I lost weight because I thought it would make me happy. I thought for once, I’d finally feel comfortable in my own body. I couldn’t have gotten further from obtaining that. Being thin = happiness right? Thinness = success, attractiveness, desirability, etc. “If I just lose x amount of pounds, I will be pretty, I will be happy, my life will finally make sense… Losing weight will help me keep things in order. I can’t control how I feel, but I can control how much I eat. Eating less/restricting/starving myself makes me feel powerful, special even, I’m not good at anything but this, so why give it up? It’s not that bad. I’m not anorexic. There are others far worse than I am, so why stop? This is my life and I just have to accept that. I’m not thin enough. I’m not sick enough. How can I even claim this as my struggle? Who would even listen? No one understands. I am alone in this. I don’t look like those other girls so I don’t warrant that kind of worry. I don’t deserve food. I am fat. Everyone who tells me I’m not is lying”. The list goes on and on, these thoughts impinge every facet of your life, every facet of your thinking, in turn they affect your feelings. The self-loathing continues and is in no way mitigated by losing weight, which only makes you feel worse and makes you want to lose even more weight and so the disastrous cycle continues.
How do you make it stop? You can’t control your thoughts, right? It’s not like you want to be this way but you can’t help it, so why bother trying to change things? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret, just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. All of these feelings of unworthiness, guilt, shame, disgust, they are all valid. Allow yourself to feel them. However, these thoughts, you can challenge them. Your brain runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it doesn’t mean every single thought is fact. In fact, a lot of them aren’t. We will use tools to combat those types of cognitive distortions (and we’ll get more into what cognitive distortions are exactly). An eating disorder does not promise hope, only pain and sickness. Again, you may be thinking “I’m not sick enough, so this can’t be that harmful, right?” If it is not destroying you physically, it will destroy you mentally. This is by no means an easy or short journey, but it is a rewarding one. So stick with it and I’ll be here to guide you along the way.