Today I want to talk about something real and something I have been struggling with for the LONGEST time. I have never told anyone this (except pretty recent) that yes, I have a body image issue and that I have never felt pretty enough, skinny enough, fit enough, sexy enough. Or just enough.
My struggles with my body started 4 to 5 years ago when I started exercising and lost a lot of weight (I mean prior to that I did not work out AT ALL the only work out i did each day was walking from my house to the bus stop and the bus stop to my campus — so you can possibly imagine racking in 1–2 hours of cardio + light weights a day will cause weight loss). And when I lost a lot of weight, everyone around me said I looked great and this made me felt very good about myself. Suddenly I was not just the “smart and outgoing girl”, I was also the “good-looking and skinny” girl, and also guys actually wanted to hit on me (lol sorry I was 20ish what do you expect).
But I was afraid of one thing — of losing this, the new affirmation I have found for myself and that I would no longer be the “pretty girl”. I started obsessing over my food — and only strictly eat things that I considered as healthy (I later found out that the medical term for condition is called Orthorexia) and I would feel guilty for indulging in “cheat” meals, even though most of the times it could just a harmless piece of bread or a small bowl of rice that an average person would consider as healthy. I disliked going to social events because this meant that I would have to actually eat with people so I would always eat my meals at home and tell others that I have already eaten with the family and/or that I was trying to save money. I also had a weird-ass obsession with nutritional labels, that whatever I was putting into my body have to meet a certain Kcal or fit into my macros (unless it is whole foods like vegetables and chicken breast) or otherwise I would not eat them. (Fun Fact Ive gotten to this stage where i can tell you by heart now i know the healthiest yogurt / bread / peanut butter / cereals you can get in the local supermarkets). I eliminated fruits (yes sugar) and carbs entirely from my diet because they are evil and I would spend an excessive amount of time planning my meals. And on the days when I felt hungry despite having my regular meals, I would feel an immense sense of guilt and I would drink A LOT Of water just to make sure the hunger goes away. Then the purge came, I will eat and purge because food makes me feel miserable. I spent hours crying in the bathroom and yet I felt like it was all worth it because I got all these compliments about my looks.
But even when I was at my skinniest with a BMI of 17 and body fat of 16%, I was NOT happy. I was miserable and I felt fat all the time even though my friends started to tell me things like “hey Janelle you are losing your boobs / your butt” and you are getting thinner (as a matter of fact I wasn’t anorexic thin, which made it scarier because people would assume that I am still eating ironically I was but it wasn’t at all “healthy”). Back then I would look at fit instagram girls and tell myself — hey i want their butt, their abs and their muscles so I started lifting. Lifting gave me joy and it made me feel strong. Naturally my appetite went up, work started, booze started and I forgo all the strict diets that I used to have. My weight naturally swung back higher and this set me into a stage of yo-yo diets that comes and go. I’d starve myself if I have a sinful meal and tell myself “No I should not be eating because I had a big meal last night”. But you know what? Feeling guilty for eating is like feeling guilty for breathing — if breathing is a basic need, why do we fat-shame ourselves for eating?
“We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty smart, pretty strong."
Don’t get me wrong — I still feel bad for not being able to squeeze into clothes I used to be able to wear and I still feel bad for seeing rolls at places I never had — and its funny these days, I feel terrible when people compliment me “you have great curves, i love your ass and i love your boobs” I feel naked, exposed and I spent nights crying each time someone compliment me at an event or when I dressed up. Its almost as if I want to yell into their faces that I am struggling, I don’t appreciate myself the way you are praising me and I don’t want to obsess over my body the same way I used to. What if one day my ass no longer looks good? and my boobs gave way to time and it becomes saggy?
“If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”
For now — I’m working on this, to be gentle to my body, to take in nutrients that are beneficial for my health, to practice conscious eating, to not count my calories down to the number, to eat healthily and in moderation and most importantly, not feel bad for overeating and not step on the damn scales to let that judge how “healthy” i have been — you only have got one body the same way you have one heart, one pair of lungs and one liver — if you don’t love it, no amount of supplements and vitamins will help you. There is no magic cure, I will not wake up tomorrow and feel comfortable in my own skin right away, there will be days I will feel bad and fat but there will also be days when I feel that I’m no longer chained to the mirror and these small baby steps will help me get there.
I’ve spent the past 5 years destroying my body, starving myself and feeding the demons in my mind. I want to recover and I want to feel better, and I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am so much more than inches and pounds, that I am happy not because someone tells me I look great, that I am happy because I value myself for everything I am and not worry about everything I am not.
“And I said to my body, softy: I want to be your friend”. It took a long breath, and replied: I have been waiting my whole life for this.”