…its us. Its ourselves. I’ll start there.
I have grappled with a borderline eating disorder most of my life. There I said it. I was chubbier kid and even at a “thin” 130lbs in my early high school years I was heavier than most of the girls my age who weighed in closer to 105-110. I ate for comfort in many situations, ate when I was under a lot of stress, ate poorly because I was never taught as a child how to eat healthy and care for this body that I am in.
I am now 33 and have gained and lost 100 pounds before and all of which was mostly in my twenties. I am a size 4 on most days and a size 6 if I eat too much salt and don’t drink enough water. I have maintained the same weight within 5-15lbs for nearly five years. I dipped below that range when my ex-boyfriend and I split and I was so sick , exhausted, and feeling so low and poorly about myself (his modus operandi of control; make her feel like she could never do better than “pretty” him that she sunk so deeply into self-hatred that it permeated into everything she did. Yep. I sure knew how to pick them before my husband) that I was really incapable …. or not interested in… of eating. I have had plastic surgery not lipo but post-weight loss augmentation which I do not associate with my self esteem issues but more so to feel… proportionate?
This is my teenage daughter and I on the beach this week. I have obsessively reviewed and reviewed and reviewed these photos scrutinizing my body… probably five or six dozen times. I have zoomed in and out of the photo going… “How do you still look like this? You work out 4-5 times a week. You run regularly. You lift weights. You eat extremely healthy and monitor and track every morsel that goes into your mouth. Your blood work is *perfect*. Your blood pressure is *perfect*. Everything. How are you not “better” than this?” I have thyroid disease and even with the extreme regulation my thyroid hormones are under it is 5 times easier to gain weight and 10 times as hard as the average person to lose weight. I spin this web of self-breakdown… every. single. day. Any “nutrition expert” or “keyboard warrior” who tells you that simply eating less and moving more and the simple matter of “calories” will fix your problems – they are sorely incorrect if they haven’t looked at your genetics and your blood work.
This is the monologue that runs through my mind most days of my life and the primary reason that I am often behind the camera and rarely in front of it. I wonder what my children will have to look at once I am gone. Heavily filtered Snapchat photos? Is that it? People say to me “Well, you’re so tiny. How can you even say that?” … “What are you a size small?” or “Really? How can you even share that with people who are bigger than you?” (I know they do not mean it in any hurtful or offensive way) and I sink lower and lower and lower. I think “They are right. I shouldn’t feel poorly about myself because someone is always bigger and more unhealthy than me, right?”. Wrong. I literally almost *never* notice the bodies of other women. I only obsess about my own. Never. I never look at women’s bodies and think “She is fat.” or “She is too thin”. I virtually never recognize or acknowledge other women’s bodies and perhaps it is because I am too busy “worrying” over my own. Conversely, I do worry – “What is she thinking about my body?” How internally awful is that?!
Before going on this trip I had an appointment with my nutritionist to try to work through some of the psychology of the anxiety I have about going on vacation where the eating is really unstructured and I cannot track most of what I eat on my app. I have no access to a gym and I knew I would spend a lot of time circling the drain around guilt and shame over wanting to eat something I wouldn’t generally be able to get at home and not being able to weigh myself to gauge the impact. AND THEN having to be in a swim suit on the beach where all of these eyes may be looking at or noticing my body; male or female. Its exhausting. It is painful. It is never ending.
I recently read an article about how millennial women have a lot of really important stuff to worry about and virtually none of it has to do with how our bodies look in bikinis. And they were so very very right. So how do we stop it? How do we stop this? I see a lot of women leading with “This body is strong and amazing because it carried X number of babies.” Ok, great, me too. My body “gave life” to three kids – cool. But anyone can have babies and then post a photo of themselves as follows…
…And it only serves to make other women feel less-than. What *good* does this do but make working moms with two or three or more children feel awful about themselves? My “excuse”? I have thyroid disease and I am not sure I can work out anymore than I presently do – which is already a lot. And if I didn’t? So what? Yeah, I can definitely see how this mom became the most hated woman on the internet and then she divorced and she gained a whopping ten pounds and admitted she suffered from depression. Ok, cool, lay yourself bare and admit you are just like the rest of us. Whether that changed her position on how she viciously attacked an entire demographic of women… I do not truly know. But really – is she any different than the society that brought her up to be this way? The culture that tells moms and wives that we must DO. IT. ALL. ALL. THE. TIME… ? We must be thin, we must be social, we must be the room-mom and PTO president. We must “date” our husbands to keep the romance alive. We *must* pursue careers. We must be the managers of our households. We must be highly educated. We must be loving/empathetic/firm/strong/authoritarian/etc when raising children. We must be attractive and fit in the face of the wives of the friends of your spouse because if we don’t that reflects poorly on your spouse’s choice. We must be thin and attractive in the face of women who bullied you when you were younger and “chubbier” than them. Additionally, this is the very same culture that squarely pits women against one another in the worst of ways. We aren’t here to support one another – we are here to eliminate one another in a survival of the fittest fashion.
It. Is. Exhausting. It. Never. Ends.
In that moment, this photo, I was overwhelmed with anxiety – a pain that rocked me to the core wondering if I looked “OK” or if I looked “fat”. I felt this overwhelming need to cover myself and a crippling feeling of “Please don’t let him post this to social media without me vetting it.” I obsessed over the photo. Wrote this post and then allowed myself to be seen in my real, authentic, body and to try exceptionally hard to stop causing myself so much grief and learn, in pieces and bits, to accept this body because I work hard at it. How many of you need to cut yourself some slack, too? How many of you also have too much to “worry” about that this shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list?