onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “body image disorders”

It may well be that “nobody wants to see that,” but they are going to have to take the initiative to stop looking for themselves.

I read something the other day that was rather interesting to me. It was an opinion about how fat shaming and skinny shaming are inherently different because of thin privilege. The gist of the article was basically that while it’s never OK to shame anyone, and certainly skinny people can, as individuals, be insecure about their bodies, being fat in modern western society is considered taboo, a sin, and in particular, everybody else’s business. That while individuals may shame a skinny individual, western society as a whole shames overweight people. As if there is a moral imperative to ostracize obese people.

If you have ever been fat, or even just chubby, you probably know that this is true. People will go out of their way to express their disgust for your body. They not only have opinions about your clothes, like how short, tight, or revealing they are, they feel at least entitled, and very often morally obligated, to make their disapproval clear.

Remember when Lady Gaga performed the Super Bowl halftime show? I don’t know about you, but there were a bunch of people on my social media feeds saying that she “looked fat” because her little belly occasionally hung over the top her glittery hot pants. Of course, in the following days, there were a bunch of articles and opinion pieces about how having skin that rolls and puckers is normal and natural. And rightfully so. And I would specifically like to point out that Lady Gaga is in no way, shape, or form fat. The idea that she did not look like airbrushed perfection while executing a spectacular stage show with costume changes, complicated choreography, and aerial stunts may be because she was not freakining airbrushed. She was working her ass off.

My point is that people that you know personally, and maybe you yourself, have almost no room for human bodies to deviate from the shape of “post-Photoshop underwear model.” And these people feel obliged to make sure that you know it, and Lady Gaga knows it, and everybody else knows it too.

Being bullied, tormented, humiliated, and generally made to feel ashamed of myself happened to me my whole life. I can still recall specific insults from people I knew and people I didn’t about my body at nearly every stage of my life: at 8, at 12, at 14, at 18, and all through my twenties. I can remember the way it was made abundantly clear to me that my body was disgusting. It was expressly said to me that looking at me made people sick. “Nobody wants to see that,” became something that I not only heard often, but eventually internalized and started to say about myself and my own body.

And I believed it. I did not believe any man would ever find me attractive. I did not believe that I would ever fall in love. I did not believe that I deserved to be respected. And it was strangers, friends, and even my family that instilled these beliefs in me.

I believe that thin privilege does exist. I am not saying that it’s kind, or friendly, or even acceptable to tell a skinny woman to “eat a cheeseburger.” It’s rude, and obnoxious, and quite frankly nobody else’s business. But I will say that whenever I have seen a picture of, or a story about a fat model in my social media feeds, there are pages and pages of comments about how fat models are setting a bad example, and companies that use them in their ads are sending a message that promotes unhealthy lifestyles. But there is not the same outcry when girls and women dying of anorexia are walking runways during fashion week. And that is not hyperbole, many of these girls are literally dying. Where is the outrage over the unhealthy lifestyles being promoted by every fashion house and magazine in the United States? (I mean besides my own outrage. Because yes, I am personally outraged.) We claim to be so worried about health (as opposed to aesthetics) unless the girl is skinny. Then we look the other way. Because we are not really worried about health. We are worried about how we can let the fat person know that we find them morally reprehensible, without looking like the assholes we’re being.

On a personal note, I would like to say that fat shaming and living in a world with thin privilege has done me a lot of psychological and emotional damage in my lifetime. And I have done a lot of work on myself, inside and out to deal with it. At 35 I first started to wear my bikini in public. And finally, at almost 40, I have started wearing shorts in public for the first time since I was probably 10 years old. I spent my whole life believing that my wearing shorts in public was an affront to “normal” people. And that belief was instilled in me by people who were eager to tell me that they disapproved of my body and that I should too. And even after losing an entire person worth of weight, it has still been a slow, years-long process that has brought me to the point where I feel like I deserve to be comfortable. Like I am allowed to show some portion of my thighs because I am a human with a body like any other body.

 

Let’s make normal the new normal

Let’s talk about “normalization.” It’s a buzzword right now, of course. And I understand why. For the past fifteen to twenty years, until quite recently, certain ideas about racial, religious, and gender superiority have been taboo. They were only ever uttered aloud by your crazy uncle, while drunk, at Thanksgiving, and nobody thought much about it except to roll their eyes, shake their heads, and (hopefully) send him home in a cab.

The reality of life is that people who fall on the fringes of society usually don’t feel safe, and because of that, they hide. At different periods in history it’s different groups hiding. For a long time in the United States, it was members of the LGBT community. Until about a year ago, it was the men’s rights movement, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.

I am not a fan of the movement to “stop the normalization” of hate and hate speech. I like my white supremacists to feel safe enough to show their true colors. I like my hate where I can see it. And I have a lot of room for free speech. I am not saying I will like you. I am not saying I will respect you. And if I am in a position to withhold my money from you, I will certainly not put it in your pocket. But I am saying that I believe in your right to be a repulsive, bigoted, disgusting excuse for a human being, as long as you do not harm, or infringe upon the rights of those you encounter in your travels.

But this is not a blog about politics, and this is not a political post in my eating disorder blog. I want to talk about using normalization in our own lives for our own benefit. I want to talk about the upside of normalization.

According to the article on Wikipedia entitled Normalization (sociology), Normalization refers to social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as ‘normal‘ and become taken-for-granted or ‘natural’ in everyday life.”

Every day, most of us see images that promote unattainable beauty goals. We are inundated with pictures of women and girls who are already thin, sometimes unhealthily so, and those images are altered to make these women look even thinner, not to mention that they are made to appear that their skin never puckers under straps, they have no hair except for their eyebrows, and a silky mane on the top of their heads, and that hair is thick, shiny, and can seemingly defy gravity. We, as a culture, have “normalized” women (and men) who do not even exist, while vilifying ourselves for being unable to meet these literally impossible standards.

The reality is, the more we see something, the more comfortable we are with it. That’s one beautiful, fascinating function of the human brain. The more ads we see of Photoshopped supermodels, the more that occurs to us as normal. But while that can be frustrating and sickening, I would like to say that we have the power to do something about it for ourselves in our daily lives. We can take control of our own ideas of normal. But we have to actually do something if we want to “do something about it.”

In October of 2010, I stopped wearing makeup. I have maybe worn it 3 times in the past 6 ½ years. Before that time, I would not, and in my own mind could not, go through my day without makeup. I had a million excuses. I had acne, or acne scars. I had dark circles. I was single and I needed to look my best in case the man of my dreams showed up next to me on the subway.

And the first few days were hard. I was particularly self-conscious. And I felt that I must certainly be missing the love of my life. How would my beauty captivate him if I was all cystic acne and eye bags?!?! The reality, however, was that I got hit on more than ever. And after that initial period of OH GOD! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?, I got used to my own face. And I started to recognize that there was nothing wrong with it exactly as it was. I understood that it didn’t need enhancement, and that the people telling me it did were the people who wanted to sell me concealer.

Now, I actively spend time normalizing myself to myself. For all of my eating and body image disorders, I recognize that I am way more well-adjusted than the average American woman, because I embrace myself, and look at my self in my natural state all the time. I don’t necessarily mean naked, though that too, because my body is just a body, like everybody else’s. I mean I still don’t wear makeup. I don’t dye my grey hair. I don’t wear shapewear. I don’t wear padded bras. I wear a bikini in public even though I have stretchmarks. I wear strapless and sleeveless tops even though I could probably glide a good distance if the hanging skin under my arms caught the wind just right. I don’t take pictures of myself, and then filter and adjust them until I look like a generic, washed-out, homogenized version of “woman.” I look at myself in natural states regularly and without judgment, and I look totally normal to me. Also, I avoid beauty and fitness industry ads with Photoshopped models as much as possible. (It’s hard. That sh*t is pervasive.)

So I recommend that we all start normalizing ourselves to ourselves. Let’s stop collectively averting our eyes from our bellies. Let’s stop putting on makeup to workout or walk the dog at 5 in the morning. Let’s stop untagging ourselves from every picture on social media that shows us with a double chin or a zit. Let’s start making normal, the new normal.

 

If I were good at it, I wouldn’t need boundaries in the first place.

The other day I was standing next to my husband when he looked at me and said, “skinny.” It was not a judgment (good or bad) so much as a mildly interesting observation.

Before we go on, I want to say that this was particularly unusual. I was not in any way offended or upset, but my husband does not generally talk about my weight at all unless I ask him directly, and that is, I believe, as it should be. As long as my eating disorders are under control, there is nothing helpful about another person monitoring the size of my ass. It is absolutely nobody’s business but my own. And I have spent a lot of time and effort keeping my eating and body image disorders at bay, so the people I seek that kind of input from are people who, like me, have a history of compulsive eating and food addiction and who, also like me, keep boundaries around their eating.

So my husband said I looked skinny, but I have not been feeling skinny at all. In fact I have been feeling a little fat. And sometimes, very fat. I am not saying that I have been tormented by my weight. But if you asked me if I were on the higher end of my weight or the lower, I would guess higher.

But when I look at the evidence, he’s right. I may actually be the smallest that he has ever seen me. The size of the pants I wear and how they fit me indicates that I am relatively small for me.

Even at my thinnest, in fact, even when I have been underweight, I have never really been what Western Culture would call “skinny.” Even when my collarbones look like they might cut you if you get too close to me, I still have wide hips and round thighs and big calves. My thighs always rub together, no matter what my weight is. (Thank God I was a grownup with my eating disorders under control before the Internet became a place where having a thigh gap and the pictures to prove it was a thing.) You can call it curvy, or zaftig, or say I’m an endomorph, but I have never been the kind of skinny that graces runways. (I use the term “graces” loosely.)

It took a long time and hard look at reality to come to this understanding about my body, and to love it exactly as it is. As a culture, we particularly celebrate one kind of feminine beauty: that of the ectomorph. We honor the women who naturally don’t carry a lot of fat on their bodies. Perhaps you have seen the Zara ad that says “Love your curves,” and noticed that the two women in the photo did not have any to speak of. Were they beautiful? Absolutely. Are they real women (albeit young women) with real bodies? Hell yes they are! (Though I am not actually sure how real those two models happen to be. I tried to find if the image was Photoshopped, and could not find anything about it.) I am not shaming the models in the ad. Skinny women are real women, just like muscular, and chubby, and overweight, and zaftig women are real too. This is not about what each of us happens to be born. It is about what each of us are told we “should be,” without anyone ever telling us that there are things we “can’t be.” I cannot walk from Kentucky to Hawaii. It is not possible. And I cannot be “supermodel skinny.” I was not made that way.

But nobody told me that. Ever, really. I had to figure it out for myself, by having sane and functional eating practices, and doing all of the healthy things I could do, like drinking water and getting enough sleep and exercise, and then taking a serious look at the reality of my body.

The beauty, fashion, fitness, and diet industries didn’t want me to know that I don’t have it in me to be that skinny. Because if I knew, they couldn’t get me to buy their latest cream, shake, workout app subscription, prepared food service, or whatever it is they happen to be selling at the moment with the promise that if I am “good enough,” work hard enough, pay enough money, I will end up with the body of my favorite underwear model. (No. I don’t have a favorite underwear model.)

I don’t believe in vilifying skinny women. But I don’t believe they are the only incarnations of beauty in the world, as I have been told for as long as I have been alive. When my husband looked at me and said, “skinny,” he did not do so in triumph because he finally found me attractive. For him, my beauty is not about my weight. In fact, I wish I had as much love for my body at any size as he does. It was merely an observation on his part. And it served as a reminder to me that even after all of the work, and all of the commitment, and all of the times I kept my food boundaries, even though it was hard or inconvenient, my head is pretty messed up when it comes to the way I think about and view my body. And that what I see in the mirror, or think I look like, is not necessarily reality.

Even now that I have taken inventory and checked myself against the specific frame of reference of my clothes and how they fit, I still don’t feel very thin. Knowing that I am, perhaps, the thinnest I have been in 4 years doesn’t make me “feel” any thinner. It doesn’t make me “know” that I am relatively small.

The last thing I want to say about this is that even though my body image disorders are irrational, and knowing that doesn’t change the way I think and feel, knowing does help me take healthy actions. And it is in our actions that we impact ourselves, our world, and the people around us. I don’t have to feel “skinny enough” to keep my commitments to eat enough nutritious food and exercise moderately, rather than starve myself and exercise to exhaustion and injury. I don’t have to listen to my fears and my “feelings.” I just have to keep my boundaries. After all, that is literally what they are there for. If I already always made healthy decisions, boundaries would be redundant.

Misogyny and the politicians who love it

I generally try to avoid political talk. I have opinions. I vote. I occasionally get riled up enough to speak up. But I find that most political “discussions” are just an opportunity for people to get their righteous anger up and running. And I make a concerted effort to maintain my personal peace. I actively avoid the kinds of situations that will cause me to feel rage and resentment. I know that they cannot always be avoided, but I don’t go looking for a fight. But today I want to touch on something that borders on political. I want to talk about misogyny. 
When I was fat, everyone and their brother thought they had a right to talk about my body. Strangers harassed me on the street. Men I went on dates with said things like “I bet you couldn’t give that shit away.” (That is a direct quote from a blind date I went on with a good friend’s cousin!) People compared me to elephants and hippopotamuses. Blew out their cheeks and put out their arms to mimic my big belly.
I didn’t really understand that it was inappropriate for people to do that because I was so ashamed of myself. I knew it hurt, but I did not have enough self-esteem to recognize that my body, my life choices, and my level of attractiveness were nobody else’s business.

When I lost weight, people (mostly men, though some women) still thought they had the right to talk about my body. They would yell on the street that I was sexy. They would tell me I was dressed like a whore. They would grab me by the arm and try to force me to talk to them. Men would touch my ass as I walked along minding my own business. Or masturbate next to me on the train.

If you live under a rock, you may be confused as to why I am bringing this up. Well, one of the U.S. Presidential candidates has a lot of things to say about women, and what he is saying is either about their weight, attractiveness, sexual viability, or about how he believes he can assault them because he’s famous.

So I want to take this time to remind all women of some very important things. (And gentlemen, you feel free to take this advice as well. Because I love you guys too!)
1) Your body is nobody else’s business, unless you request their support. 

I have people in my life that I talk about my body with. But I choose who they are. Nobody has that right unless I give it to them. Not my parents, or my relatives, or my friends, or even my husband. I need support to help with my eating and body image disorders, so I have a small (teeny tiny, frankly) loving circle of people with whom I speak openly and honestly about my weight. I welcome their opinions and honor their suggestions because I believe in facing reality head on. I am certainly not looking for anyone who is going to help me come up with excuses to eat cake, or tell me I haven’t gained weight when I have. I am looking for true friends who help me find peace around my food and body. That doesn’t mean I welcome any and all opinions and suggestions. I don’t.

2) You are not only valuable for what you can contribute to male pleasure. 

I love to wear beautiful clothes. I like to feel beautiful. But I am not doing it for the pleasure of men. Or even women for that matter. Please don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy respectful flirting. When a gentleman tells me in a gentlemanly way that I am looking nice, I very much enjoy it. I like that kind of friendly acknowledgement. I love seeing well dressed people feeling fine and walking with a spring in their step. I also really like being pretty. But I don’t owe being pretty to anyone. I lost 150 pounds because I hated being fat. I did it because eating was killing me. I did it because it was painful to live in a hard-to-get-around-in body. I’m saying I did it for me. Only me. Nobody else.

3) Your body is yours. Period.

I don’t care what you look like, what you are or aren’t wearing, how or if you have makeup on, or what time of day or night it is. Your body is yours and you have the right to your autonomy. There is nothing you can do to forfeit that. Nobody is allowed to touch you without your permission. 
4) You are your body, so love it no matter what size, shape, color, or age. And don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t love it until it’s “perfect” or “better.”

I used to pretend I was not my body. I was ashamed of it. But I was smart, clever, funny, and interesting. I liked to think that I was these things. I wanted be my mind alone. But the honest-to-god truth for all of us is that we cannot be separated from our bodies. Well, that’s not true. Of course we can, and eventually will be. It’s called death. But while we are alive, we are tied to the vessel we live in. So I decided to love my vessel. I love it with my stretch marks, and flab and so much extra skin. I love it with my crooked legs and squarish hips. I love it in spite of being bombarded with photoshopped images of impossible women. 

5) Love is not something you earn.
Love is a gift. If it is not a gift, freely given, then it’s not love. You are worthy of love, right now, exactly as you are. I didn’t feel worthy of love for a long time. And it was all tied up with being fat. So in a lot of ways, I felt unloved. But when I put down the sugar and got some clarity and self-esteem, I realized that I had been loved all along. Not by everyone. And often not by society. But by the people who mattered.

Obviously, I am a woman who lost 150 pounds, so I am a proponent of weight loss for people who are overweight. But not because I think they are lacking. I wish it for them because I know first hand that life is so much easier. I wish it because I wish everyone the kind of peace and joy and self-love that I have. I don’t want people to choose it for me, or for their potential (or current) mates, or for society. I want them to choose it as a form of self-care. And if they don’t, I hold no judgment. I have love. And I wish peace. That’s all.

The kind of stuff I want to buy

I will admit that I have a terrible click-bait problem. Ok, it’s not that bad. But I have a morbid fascination with plastic surgery before and afters and “no makeup” selfies. I swear I do it just to get myself riled up….Did you notice how I put “no makeup” in quotes? Yeah. Because more than half of these “no makeup” selfies are really makeup-that-is-meant-to-look-like-you-are-not-wearing-any-makeup selfies. Which, frankly, pisses me off.

I know that this is an eating disorder blog. But part of my having eating disorders is having these fun and exciting body image disorders. You know, the kind where you don’t really know what you look like, and perceive yourself as deeply flawed because you don’t look like the imaginary women in advertising. And how even knowing this intellectually, and being a highly intelligent woman doesn’t make it any better. Right. Those kinds of body image disorders.

If you don’t already know, I have a HUGE problem with the beauty industry. And with us as consumers. I am angry that we collectively agree that what is really beautiful is this elusive woman who can’t possibly fit all of her internal organs into her torso. The unicorn woman who doesn’t exist. Even underwear models get their images “fixed” by eliminating things like puckered skin under a bikini strap, or slimming down their thighs. Seriously! Slimming down supermodel thighs!

And if you also don’t know, I have a (slightly less huge, but still pretty darn) huge problem with internet culture and the way so many people only show the best sides of themselves, or in the case of trolls, the worst sides of themselves, because they feel protected by anonymity. 

That never impresses me. I know better. I mean, I have a pretty darn spectacular life in ways that I cannot begin to explain. And still there are so many things that go wrong, ways I get upset, times I am miserable for no reason. Or for some reason. It’s not all trophies and accolades. Nobody’s life is. And anyone who says differently is selling something. (Yes, I know that is a Princess Bride quote.) Selling something like no-makeup makeup. Like a meal replacement shake. Like an album. Like themselves. Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter! I’m going to make my Snapchat public!

So I look at the fake “no makeup” selfie, and I think “What a bunch of a**holes!” See, I thought the point of the no makeup selfie is to say “I’m imperfect too! You can’t be perfect because nobody is perfect!” But instead, it has become just another trophy. “Look! I’m the unicorn woman who wakes up looking like a supermodel. Too bad you can’t be like me. But you can worship me! And buy all of the things I am selling!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I, personally, do not wear makeup. I think I have worn it twice in the past in the past 5+ years. Both times to other people’s weddings. (I was conspicuously, yet unselfconsciously bare-faced at my own wedding.) But this is not about makeup. I have no problem with makeup, or women who wear it. I wore makeup for many many years. And I did not stop because I have some sort of moral issue with makeup. I still wear nice clothes and get my hair cut, and pluck my Groucho Marx eyebrows and Italian woman chin hairs. (I am an Italian woman, so I come by the chin hair honestly.) I really stopped because I was single and I noticed that I got hit on way more without makeup. And very early in our relationship, my husband said that he, too, liked the fact that I didn’t wear makeup. 

So this is not about makeup, it’s about lying. Deceit. This is about yet another way that we as women judge and disparage one another so that somebody can make money off of our insecurities. 

But I want to end with a shoutout to all of the women who post pictures of themselves with really no makeup! (Tyra Banks and Teri Hatcher, I’m high-fiving in your direction!) 

I know that these women are selling something too. But what they are selling is authenticity! Honesty! Womanly solidarity. And that’s the kind of stuff I want to buy. 

I go moderate so I don’t have to go home

We all have at least one person on social media who is a fitness enthusiast. And there is a culture around fitness (at least in the U.S.) that is about leveling up, so to speak. It’s about getting better, faster, stronger. It’s about pushing yourself harder and harder. Every time. It’s about never being satisfied.I believe there is a place for this. I do not have a judgment about people who do this. I think it is beautiful. I love when people have a thing. And I have known, and have respect for, many people in the fitness industry. (A fat girl trying to be a skinny girl makes a lot of those kinds of friends.) 

But I think there is a conversation that we should be having that we are not. And it’s this:

Not everyone needs to be a beast in the fitness arena. I want to be in shape. I want to have a healthy body. But I am not interested in leveling up. Because constantly leveling up as the only way to exercise is not sustainable in my life. And that doesn’t make me any less admirable than the people who are constantly pushing themselves.

For me, and I think for a lot of people, this all or nothing attitude is overwhelming. And destructive. The idea that, if you are not continuously improving, you are some how going backwards, is prevalent in our fitness culture. Which is another aspect of our beauty culture. And it keeps you buying fitness gear, personal trainer sessions and gym memberships. 

Again, I am not knocking those things. I am suggesting that maybe having a commitment to work out consistently for your own health and peace of mind, without the need to “go big or go home,” or answer questions about “if you even lift” might be worth more to you in six months or a year, or 10 years, when you are still doing it. I am suggesting that maybe if you went moderate, or even small, you wouldn’t need to go home. Because I am going to tell you a secret I learned about commitment: 

Sometimes, in order to keep a commitment long term, you have to half-ass it. 

I’m telling you, sometimes I phone it in.

I am thinking about this today, because I half-assed my run today. The truth is, it’s cold here, especially in the mornings. And the wind is brutal. Yesterday morning, there were 25 mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph. And at certain points on my path, I have to run directly into it. And it ticks me off! I actually swore out loud at the wind yesterday.

So you can imagine that this morning, when it was 37 degrees, felt like 28, with 14 mph winds, I did not want to go.

I jog a 2 mile path that runs around my house, so that at one point close to the end of my run, but NOT the end, there is a little sidewalk that shoots off basically to my door. And today, I sure did want to go right there and skip the last quarter mile or so. But I didn’t. 

What I did do was slow down. Not to a walk. I was still jogging. My commitment to myself says that I only walk if I am injured or fear I will injure myself If I continue to run. What I did was take it easy. 

Today, I added over a minute to the time I ran just Tuesday. But I don’t care. I am not angry, frustrated or ready to quit, like I would be if my run were always about leveling up. Like I would be if it weren’t OK to take it easy.

The truth is, that I am improving. Naturally. Without trying. Without pushing. Without beating myself up. I’m sure not as much as the ones who are pushing. But I’m not them. I’m me. And I am making sure I can go on to jog another day.

Now, keep your fingers crossed for me that spring comes to Kentucky soon, and Running Against The Wind can go back to just being a Bob Seger song. (Darn it! Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.)

The willingness to be willing is the beginning of change 

I used to weigh myself once a month, on the first. Only on the first. Because it was a good way to keep an eye on my weight, without the obsession of getting on the scale every day. Or multiple times a day. People with eating and body image disorders can become obsessed with the scale. I was one of them before I put boundaries around my eating. I would get on the scale constantly, looking for the secret recipe for weight loss. Was I down a pound in the last 2 hours? What had I done? Could I replicate it? 

It was insanity. I was treating it like science and wishing for it to work like magic. Needless to say, it was neither.

When I quit smoking, I gained at least 30 pounds. Almost certainly more, but I stopped weighing myself. It was devastating to me. I lived in fear of stepping on the scale. It haunted me constantly. Not just around the first, but for the whole month. I started to obsess about how I could stop the weight gain, and lose what I had gained, within days of weighing myself. It was never over.

I started to feel the same crazy I had when I was eating compulsively. I wanted something to work. Anything! I wanted some sort of magic.

So my friend who helps me make decisions about my food and my weight told me to stop weighing myself. She didn’t want me to make myself miserable. My job was to keep my food boundaries, and not focus on my weight. 

Now, it’s almost 4 years since I quit smoking. And I have lost what seems to be most of the weight I gained. I don’t know, because I haven’t gotten on a scale in 2 1/2 years. 

It makes sense for me to get back on the scale. But I’m scared. The truth is, that experience scarred me. 

I was angry at life. I was angry that I did the “right” thing by quitting smoking, and I was punished with the worst possible thing that could happen to a former fat girl. I gained weight with no relation to what I was eating or how much I was moving. It made me feel crazy and desperate. It triggered all of my body image disorders. It was hell.

But now, I think I should start weighing myself again monthly. And that means having a conversation with my friend about it. And I don’t want to. I’m worried. And it makes me feel a little nauseous. 

The truth is, what if it’s not enough? What if the number just makes me feel fat and gross? What if I hate myself all over again?

But I guess I am telling you this so I can keep moving forward. When I put it out there, I can be responsible for it. I need to out myself so I take some action. And so I don’t keep all if this fear bouncing around in my head. 

I don’t know when I will have this conversation with my friend. I don’t know when I will be ready. The point, I guess, is I’m getting ready. And it’s that, the willingness to be willing, that is the beginning of change. 

The complexities of body image and wearing a slinky dress anyway

Body image disorders are a trip, I tell you. So lately, it’s not about my weight. It’s about the shape of my body. 
The truth is, I’m small right now. In fact, my boyfriend has never seen me this small. So it’s not about my weight. It’s about my knock-knees, and the sort of square shape of my hips, how big my belly is, how my arms jiggle. It’s about what bulges and what sags. It’s always about not being pretty enough. 

It’s not that I’m not beautiful, or that I don’t know that I am. It’s complicated. It’s more about obsessing and worrying. It’s more about focusing on the aspects of my body that are not photoshop perfect. 

I know I’m not the only one. And I also know that “perfect” is just a bill of goods we have collectively been sold. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. Sometimes obsessively.

We are going to Florida next week. So there’s wearing the bikini. And I bought a new dress to wear on the beach and it’s what you might call “slinky.” And I keep thinking “did I make a mistake? Should I buy a different dress? Is my body not perfect enough for the one I bought?”

Sometimes, when I am disconnected from something, it doesn’t occur to me as “painful” but it affects my life to a greater extent than I am aware of. For example, when I used to have a personal trainer years ago, he would give me fitness tests from time to time, and ask me to rate my pain/discomfort level from 1-10. As I got into better shape, my levels rose. When I was out of shape, I was so disconnected from my body that I was almost numb to the pain of living in that body. So even though in reality it was easier to do the exercise as time went on, it registered as more painful because I was actually living in my body.

I have a similar experience with my body image disorders. Over the years, the more accepting and loving I am of my body, the more my disorders are right there in my face.

So I may be less numb to my fears and my judgements, but at the same time, I’m more likely to wear what I want to wear. There was a time I would never wear a bikini in public. And I would have opted for a more loose-fitting dress.

But now I wear what I want. And I love it. And if I worry about how big my thighs are…well, moments pass.

It’s not the salad, so much as the principle…

I have been eating a lot more raw vegetables for several weeks. I have been having big salads at least once, and often twice a day. Colorful, delicious arugula salads with radishes, onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, and a handful of steamed broccoli and canned artichoke hearts.

I haven’t generally thought much about raw versus cooked vegetables, but I have noticed that my body dysmorphia is in what seems to be a dormant phase. And it makes me wonder if the two are connected.

I eat my vegetables every day. I have done so for over 9 years. I have been regularly consuming fresh produce like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, bok choi, Swiss chard, cabbage and green beans. Mostly roasted or sautéed. But since I have started eating so much salad, I have been feeling significantly calmer about what I look like.

And I have not lost weight. That’s what makes it interesting.

I have questions about why. Is it chemical, and physiological? Is it all psychological? Is it a combination? Or is the whole thing just coincidence? Am I just in a good phase regarding my body image issues?

There is a part of me that wants to say that it doesn’t matter if the two are connected. What matters is that I am mostly well now. But ultimately, it does matter. It is the difference between peace and torment. And I need to admit that I do not believe it is a coincidence. But I don’t want to, because I love eating lots of cooked vegetables. And if I admit that is having an effect on my mood or my happiness, it means I will have to moderate how much of my food is cooked.

I am a compulsive eater. I might have my eating under control, but I will never be neutral around food. If I ever had the ability to be indifferent, that ship has sailed. And then it sank. I like my food, and I like it decadent.

It’s not that my big salads are not delicious. They are wonderful. I love every bite. But I can often forget how much I will enjoy them when I am not in the actual process of eating one. There is a kind of mental block I have around salad. And I know that I am not the only one. I have talked about this with lots of other people.

And there is that part of me that doesn’t want any more limits. Whenever I think it might be time to make a change, my first reaction is always to be a crybaby-whiner. But I already gave up sugar and grains, and I quit smoking, and I limit my coffee, and severely limit my diet soda. Don’t take anything else away from me! I mean, they are just sautéed Brussels sprouts? Can you really find fault with Brussels sprouts? Seriously?! (Can you hear the whining?)

The first thing I have to remember is that moderation does not have to mean The End. I do not have to give up my Brussels sprouts forever and always. I can limit them to, say, three or four times a week. But the more important thing I have to remember is that I don’t have to do anything. It’s one of my Jedi Mind Tricks. It takes away a lot of my initial instinct to rebel when I remind myself that I’m a big girl who lives her own life and makes her own decisions. If I want to fight and make a fuss, I can eat cooked vegetables every day on principle. Who is going to stop me? But just like every other action I take, I will reap what I sow. There is no escaping that.

In the end, I always want the gifts. If limiting my cooked vegetables means more days of peace and sanity, I will choose that. It’s how I roll. But I don’t always choose that first. Sometimes I take longer to get out of my own way than others. But ultimately, I want what I want. And I have learned over the years that I want sustainable happiness more than I want instant gratification.

I am still interested in the ways you take care of yourself and the gifts you get from not harming yourself with food. Use the hashtag #betterthanchocolate and share your experiences. I want to hear from you!

Also, follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5.

And please feel free to follow, share and repost my blog!

I prefer shopping alone, but my body dysmorphia insists on tagging along.

Today was my cousin’s wedding shower. It was a lot of fun! And I love celebrating love! I am a huge fan of love!


I got a new dress for the shower. Nothing too fancy. A sleeveless linen dress with a tasteful abstract pattern. Very flattering. Very spring-bridal-shower-appropriate.

But when I was shopping for it, I was terrified. Of what, you ask? Of being a size 14 (American).

This is a very specific, very strange fear. 

First, I want to say that there would be nothing wrong with being a size 14. It is a perfectly lovely size. 

But I am not a size 14. I am a size 10. And I can’t seem to grasp it. Even when I am looking at my body in the mirror. Even when I have just tried on a size 10 dress and it fit. And looked great! I even brought two of the same dress into the dressing room, one a 10 and one a 12, thinking that the 10 surely wouldn’t fit. And then I worried that even the 12 would be too small.

I also ordered a dress online for another upcoming wedding, and they gave measurements in the description to determine what size to buy. My measurements coincided with a size Large. And yet I really wanted to order the X-Large. Because I was positive that a Large would be too small on me. And when it came, I still tried it on expecting it to be too small for me. They gave me the measurements! I didn’t believe them!

This is body dysmorphia. This is how sick I can be with my body image disorders. There is nothing wrong with my body. But my head is a disaster area!

I am grateful to have my eating under control. If I didn’t, I can’t imagine the kinds of torture I would be putting myself through. At least right now I don’t have to obsess over what to eat, when to eat it, where to eat and in front of whom. Especially in order to fit into a dress I already fit into. After all, with all the clarity I have because I am not high on sugar or preoccupied with the next thing I will put in my mouth (or refrain from putting in my mouth), I still don’t know what size I am. Even when I am actually wearing that size at the moment.

My body dysmorphia is one of the things I have agreed to make friends with. Not good friends, mind you. But I choose to tolerate it. Because I am pretty sure it will never go away. (Though I am always grateful when it is in a dormant phase.) So I will take too many clothes into the dressing room. And I will be afraid of being sizes I am not. And I will not believe the measurements posted in the description. But I will still look just as good in the dress, once I manage to get it on. So there’s that. 

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