This article was previously published on August 11, 2016
Ever since I can remember, I have been overly aware of my body image, and not in a positive way. I used to be a ballet dancer at the top ballet school in the United States. As if keeping your technique up wasn’t enough, there was a perfect ballet body mold to which you were required to fit in. Constantly. I not only danced nearly every day for several hours, but I went to the gym and did Pilates as well. I watched what I ate for every meal, counting calories and driving myself insane. As you all know, anorexia, bingeing and bulimia are life-threatening: eating disorders are not some light-hearted problems you should “just get over.”
Sometimes I hear people (especially women) saying, “Ugh, I hate my body, I’m so fat” casually thrown into a conversation. I myself am guilty of this even after the long journey I’ve been through to recover, but why? Is it really that difficult to love yourself? I know I’m not alone here: my friends say this line consistently, and it’s almost getting to the point that it’s infuriating to hear, and even more infuriating to say.
If you ever catch yourself saying or thinking these sort of self-hate things, what can you do about it? For me the following it what worked:
It’s simple yet complex. Just look in the mirror, and say, “I’m beautiful.” Coming from someone who has struggled with a plethora of eating disorders, this is by all means not a simple statement. Telling yourself you are beautiful when you feel chubby and disproportionate, when your clothes don’t fit, and you have no makeup on (or whatever it is that’s a trigger for you), is really a struggle. The first time I even thought of this concept of calling myself “beautiful,” I cried. Why? Because I simply couldn’t fathom saying this and ever meaning it. This was a really devastating realization for me, and brought more light on the fact that my eating disorder needed tending to, and quickly.
I, (somehow), overcame bulimia all on my own. I like to think it was sheer willpower that made it happen. I didn’t turn to anyone for help, because no one seemed to find it an issue (being in the dance world and all). I got used to people telling me I looked great, that I was so skinny, so this made it even harder to change. I loved everyone notice my thinning body, and I thought I was healthy, but the truth was the exact opposite. What I wasn’t linking together, several months into this disease, was that I was ruining my body. I got a back injury putting me out of dance for 8 months, because I was so frail my body couldn’t handle everything I was demanding from it. Here I sit, 40 lbs healthier than I was then, yet still can’t help but look at those pictures of myself and think that I looked great. How is this possible? And why do I think this way?
It’s hard to completely blame myself for this disease, when everywhere you look thinness is being advertised and highlighted as something beautiful. I still to this day struggle with bingeing, and sometimes eating scarcely and secretly, but I’m honestly in a place that I don’t know how to change that. Seeking help is always an option, and going to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings is as well. I have tried OA and wasn’t much of a fan for I felt I was reiterating that I had an issue rather than altering it, but it really works for some people.
Whenever you feel down about your body just know, you always have your strength, and you always have those two words, “I’m beautiful.” I am fully aware that this can sound corny, but try to get past that and think about what you are truly saying. It’s accepting yourself for who you are, and loving every bit of yourself. If you don’t believe yourself when you say it, say it anyway. And keep saying it. You’ll eventually believe it, and extraordinary change will come from it, I promise.
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Photo: DayRu, Liel Anapolsky on Unsplash (featured)