6 months ago I was the lightest I’d been in years. Everyone was commenting and telling me how “pretty” I looked.
But I had a secret, only a few knew was that for months I had been meticulously cutting meal portions and isolating “bad” foods from my diet. I’d exercised every day and stopped treating myself at all. I felt a sense of fulfillment and control. I’d dropped almost 10 kilos and I couldn’t wait to knock more numbers from the scales.
I felt accepted more, people encouraged me and complimented me on my slender new look. They seemed to like me more – in reality it was probably just that I seemed more confident. Confident people always seem to be more accepted.
I still could not accept myself though, instead often standing in front of the mirror pinching at my chin or waist and feeling “fat” – that is the nature of body dysmorphia, no matter how you really look, your mind will play tricks and hide how you are from the mirror. I enjoyed the control and sense of power though, power I’d felt before in the midst of eating disorders, control that was so sweet.
Then I got a big wake up call from a worried husband and a concerned doctor. Words like “orthorexia”, “developing anorexia (again)”, “unbalanced”, “must stop”, and “very concerned” were used. Over several weeks the expressions became more forthright, more urgent and insistent. I felt the familiar sense of dread, the one that tells me that I’m worrying or disappointing others, the dread of knowing I’m going to have to change my actions so I can ease their fears.
I did not want to openly accept that a problem had/was developing. It was a big struggle to acknowledge it, but I did, with help and persistence. I made a promise and I stopped my rigid diet and tried my best to balance my food options, including foods I’d not allowed myself in months – “treats” like apples, yes, apples had become a very special treat in the disordered thinking of my mind.
Sounds ridiculously simple doesn’t it, just making a promise and just stopping disordered eating behavior – I’m sure there are those who would scoff at such a notion. It isn’t easy at all, but those who know me well also would know that when I make a promise, I will stick to it through thick and thin, my own discomfort at being unable to control my diet rigidly paled in comparison to the commitment I had made to other people.
It is a struggle, without the uncompromising routine of restricted food, I find myself gaining the weight I had lost again – I’m back where I started, back at the weight my body likes to be. For me that is slightly over weight by the BMI scale – decidedly curvy, soft and squishy. Certainly not “fashionably thin” any more, the lack of compliments tells me that, as does the mirror and the scales. My face is rounded and my cheeks full, my belly is soft, and my thighs touch.
Here I am, fighting my warped view of myself in the mirror every day. It is painful, there are days when I truly hate myself and what I find in my reflection. There are days I avoid looking at a mirror at all because I am scared of what I’ll see there. There are days when the panic over my weight gain makes me question if I can keep the promise I made months ago.
I’m focusing on putting into practice all that I’ve learned in my recovery journey about self acceptance. Do I need to fit others perceptions of beauty by starving myself or by restrictive diets? No, I don’t!!!! Will being smaller make me more confident, happier, more self accepting? Probably not!!!
And I am learning to at least pay respect to my body, although I am unsure if I’ll ever love it. My husband assures me that he loves me exactly how I am. My children think I am beautiful, they see the person I am beyond the outside appearance too. That is something I focus on and remind myself of regularly.
It was important for me to come to realise that the willpower that I expended on weight loss was draining my already fragile body and mind of any energy they had left – energy that is better put towards learning how to recover from my depression and anxiety. To heal it is important to nourish your body and soul, giving them what they need to find the strength to fight.
I am more than a set of numbers on a scale, I am worth more than that.