Many of you may be experiencing a knee-jerk reaction to say:
- "No, you're not!"
- "You're perfect the way you are!"
- "It's only temporary!"
***TRIGGER WARNING: DETAILED DISCUSSION OF BINGE-EATING DISORDER AND BULIMIA***
This is new for me. I have hidden (or at least attempted to) my weight and weight issues as long as I can remember. In middle and high school, I wore baggy jeans and large tops to hide my stomach-the FORMER bane of my existence. Thank goodness I came of age in the grunge era!
It was in middle school I unknowingly started what would become a lifelong battle of eating disorders, namely Non-purging Bulimia and Binge-Eating Disorder (BED). My first "paycheck" from babysitting at age 12 was eagerly spent on three packages of Pepperidge Farm cookies and crackers. I excitedly raced home on foot, the anticipatory high fueling me, making a 20-minute walk fly by. I closed and locked my bedroom door and spread the packages out in front of me before ravenously attacking, shoving handfuls of carbs into my mouth. The immediate sugar rush and excitement of doing something "taboo" was enough to sell me. Proving, to me, that food addiction is as serious as any other. Needless to say, I was hooked for life.
From that pivotal moment, my dysfunctional relationship with food took many forms:
- Ages 12-17; compulsive overeating/excessive exercise (i.e. Non-purging Bulimia) interspersed with just plain compulsive overeating (i.e. BED).
- Ages 17-21; compulsive overeating; weight fluctuates between 135 lbs and 200 lbs/size 6-18.
- Ages 21-28; very little compulsive overeating; weight settles between 145 lbs and 160 lbs/size 8-12.
- Ages 28-present; spike in compulsive overeating; weight steadily increasing from 140 lbs/size 8 to 200 lbs/size 18.
At age 21, I experienced a turning point in my disorder, one that I've lost track of in recent years. The turning point came upon me by accident. I was perusing Amazon.com for books on diets and the latest fads, when I came across a book that offered me insight to my disease, but more importantly insight to something called self-empowerment.
I am not a paid sponsor for Amazon.com or the authors of this book, BUT if you want to purchase this gem, you can do so here. This book encourages those who suffer from Binge-Eating Disorder, to say a big "Fuck You" to the insatiable diet industry and reclaim our bodies. It was revolutionary to me. This book allowed me to eat again. The authors gave me the permission I was so desperately craving (pun intended). These women were telling me to eat WHATEVER I WANTED and assured me, in time, my body would naturally find its way back to its original and comfortable state. And it did.
This book, coupled with the slew of women's and media studies courses I took my last year of college, made me recognize my inner feminist. That fat was a feminist issue. Thank you, Susie Orbach!
Taking control back reminded me that I was in charge of my body image and what it said about and to me. But, like everyone, I hit tough times in my late 20's and my disease is an opportunistic bitch. She is cunning, permitting me one pint of Ben & Jerry's to ease the pain of heartache or quiet the anxiety of career uncertainty. She held on through failed attempts to "diet myself" into a jump-start. To trick my body into remembering how free it was not thinking about food constantly. To encourage my excessive exercising in an effort to compensate for my binges.
This setback was a blow to the progress I had made as a feminist and "ex-dieter." I was shocked at how quickly I could revert old habits, thinking I was somehow "above that." It was humbling, to say the least. My body image took a plunge, my self-esteem nose-dived, and I was practically back where I had started.
Having the past month to reflect, has granted me time to take stock of the things that matter most. Family, friends, travel, adventure, love, kissing, books, water, strawberries, cook-outs, parades, hugs. And guess what? It doesn't matter if I am a size 6 or 26, I can (and will!) enjoy life. It's not easy getting out of the "I'll do that when I lose 20 lbs" mindset. It's not easy, BUT it's not impossible. I am reclaiming my body, my voice, and my feminism (with a side of wit and sarcasm!).
While this has been my journey, I realize many others have successfully come to the same conclusion while choosing diet or lifestyle changes, whether it be a food or fitness plan. I commend and applaud those who are able to travel that road and maintain their sense of self and positive body image along the way. Though there are many roads to empowering ourselves, the end result is essentially the same: self-love, self-care, and self-respect.
Unfortunately, my brain (from experience) has permanently enmeshed dieting/weight loss plans with immediate rebellion and binging. I am even super careful not to use the empowering self idea as a way to "trick" my brain into losing weight. I am 12 years older from the first time I chose body acceptance and I may not garner the same physical results. Truthfully, I don't really care! If I never lose another pound, but I can face myself in the mirror everyday and say I love who I am, I love how I treat myself (my WHOLE self), then that is fucking fabulous.
I leave you with a song I listen to every single day. It is my anthem. It is my support group. It is my therapy. This song reminds me that NOW is the time I should be concerned with and that "20 lbs from now" is not a date I can circle on the calendar.
*Title creditL: Song "In My Mind" released by Amanda Palmer feat. Brian Viglione in 2011