When I eating compulsively I was willfully disconnected from my body. I hated my body. I blamed it for not being good enough. Mostly not pretty enough. But I didn’t really have an alternate way to relate to my body. Everyone made it clear that bodies were made to be beautiful, and that if mine was not, it was worthless.
That is a thing that happens in a fat-phobic society. We learn to internalize hatred for any body that is considered bad, mostly as a defense mechanism. To love your fat body is considered shameful. To be ashamed of your fat body shows that you are properly embarrassed by your shameful body. That you are on the “right side” of what is good and right and honorable.
I have spent the past few years actively shifting my view of fatness. It has nothing to do with my eating. At least, I am working consistently at disentangling my love of my body from its shape and size. I am an addict. I keep my addiction under control through the way I eat. I think of my eating as a way to honor my whole self, emotional, physical and spiritual, not just how pretty I am by societal standards.
So I have reconnected with my body over the years. I have learned to love it for all of the things that it has done for me, all of the ways it serves me. All of the things it wants to teach me. And it has taken a long time to get to understand it as well as I do. And I know that there is much more to learn.
One thing that I have come to understand over the past 15+ years, since I put boundaries around my eating, is that my body shows me how well I’m doing through my skin. I can feel “fine.” I can look on the outside like I am doing “fine.” I can seem to be managing everything just “fine.” But my skin can tell a whole different story. This is coming up this week because I am officially hive-free, for the first time in 4 months, since I started the very stressful job that I left this week.
In late July, I started a new job. And less than a week after I took it over, it got crazy, and I started to break out in hives. They were on my chest, in my armpits, and in my bellybutton.
And as I changed the job, personally developing and implementing structures and procedures that streamlined the process while still capturing all the necessary information and creating the needed output, some of those hives went away. First my chest cleared up. And then, eventually, after many weeks, my armpits cleared up. But my bellybutton has been hanging on to those hives the whole time.
But I left my job on Monday. And yesterday, for the first time in months, my skin, all of my skin, is clear. There are no more hives anywhere. And it makes me a little weepy to realize how unhappy I was, and how I was holding it together with pure willpower.
I can remember having had stress-related skin conditions as far back as high school, though I didn’t know it at the time. I could barely walk at graduation because of a terrible outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on the bottom of my feet, that at the time was misdiagnosed as athletes foot.
But when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body as little as possible. I just sort of suffered through. And I had lots of practice, since I avoided thinking about my fatness because it hurt my heart to be fat.
I want to acknowledge my body today, for always trying to look out for me, even when I treated it like the enemy. I want to be grateful for everything it has done for me, even when I was actively hating it, and sometimes trying to hurt it, with exercise bulimia, and good ol’ fashioned stick-things-down-my-throat-bulimia, and abusing laxatives, and drinking castor oil, and binging and starving. I want to be grateful that I have learned to listen to it, with love.
I am grateful to be in a place in my life where I can see that those hives were a defense mechanism against me harming myself. That my body was telling me that I was in the wrong place. That there was something wrong. And I am especially glad that instead of blaming my body for the hives, instead of treating them like one more way my body was broken and wrong, I could see them as a loving warning that something was wrong outside of myself, but within my control. And it took me a while, but I managed to listen and do something about it.