On the journey towards loving myself
TW: body dysmorphia, disordered eating, talks of weight loss
First of all, I want to say thank you for the overwhelming support I received on my last post about learning to love myself. I am so sorry so many of you could resonate with my stories of bullying but I feel so honored that a few of you shared your stories with me. Bullying sucks and you’re all stronger than you know.
Okay, now let’s talk about where I am now: not anywhere close to learning to love myself the way I want to. That’s the truth but it’s also okay.
It’s okay to not totally be okay with who you are.
Ever since I opened up about my body dysmorphia last year, I have been taking baby steps in the right direction to recover from it. However, recovering from body dysmorphia isn’t like recovering from a cold or an injury. It’s rewiring your entire brain to stop thinking a certain way. I have to unlearn so many horrible lies that I’ve told myself since I was a child.
The most common lies that I often tell myself are as follows:
- Your worth relies entirely on the number on the scale
- You’re ugly
- You’re fat and no one will respect you because of it
- Everyone is staring at you because they think you’re disgusting
- Nothing looks good on you, ever
- If you tell people you enjoy food, they’ll be disgusted
- You don’t deserve to feel joy
When all you do is tell yourself these horrible things, it’s not easy to bounce back from it. It’s never been easy to love myself for exactly who I am.
When I was 17, I lost close to 100 pounds.
Before I knew what body dysmorphia was, my brain was swirling with self-hatred. I was constantly struggling with my weight. So, I went on a low-carb, 1000 calorie/a day diet that was a bit like if Keto and Atkins had a wretched little love child. I took appetite suppressants, ate burgers with no bun, and turned bread into my mortal enemy. Obviously, because I was barely eating enough, it worked. The weight practically melted off and I felt relieved that maybe now, people would stop talking about my body. There were some days where I began to hope no one would notice I had a body at all.
That isn’t what happened, of course. People were still discussing my body with me but the tone had shifted. It was “wow you look so much better now” and “how much more have you got to lose?” I often heard “you’re prettier than you’ve ever been” and “aren’t you so much happier?”
Being thin meant the world was kind to my current self and cruel to who I was before. I was the same girl, just 100 pounds lighter, and the world embraced me with open arms.
People who had never noticed me before were suddenly trying to be my friend. The guy who had spent years of our high school lives calling me Shrek behind my back finally apologized. I was turning heads everywhere I went.
I wanted to feel vindicated, but instead I just felt incredibly sad.
Because I had basically thrown myself into a world of disordered eating and never actually repaired my relationship with food, there was no way I could be happy with who I had become.
I still felt ugly. I still felt fat. My brain still whispered lies anytime I looked in the mirror. When I allowed myself pasta or a piece of cake, I’d punish myself for days after.
And because eating only 1,000 calories a day wasn’t sustainable, I gained most of the weight I’d lost back.
I’ve been in this vicious cycle for as long as I can remember. And it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
Where I am right now on the journey to loving myself:
I’ve gained weight during this pandemic, like many people. However, instead of being kind to myself, my body dysmorphia has spiraled a little out of control.
I think about my body as it stands and feel shame. I think negatively about myself almost every minute of the day.
I’m thankfully in therapy, but unlearning these patterns of behavior isn’t easy even if I have help. I’m trying not to focus on weight loss but instead focus on repairing my relationship with food.
Trying to venture into healthy eating when the only thing that worked before was giving myself an eating disorder is a struggle. I got a personal trainer to help me figure out the best way to get active, but stopped seeing him after he kept suggesting I cut out carbs. That’s a baby step: that I put my foot down when I saw someone trying to steer me down a path I’ve already walked. Carbs aren’t the enemy and I’m sick of diet-culture trying to perpetuate this stereotype that eating bread is a cardinal sin.
I don’t really know what my goals are right now because I’m too busy untangling the wires in my brain. I hope in the next installment in this series that I can share with you some actionable goals that aren’t so damn melancholy.
If we’re being honest, right now my only goal is to be able to look in the mirror and feel happy.
I’d do anything it takes to get there.