Hey there! A number of issues (ok excuses) have kept me from posting for a bit but I’m getting back into the swing of things.
My biggest hope for this blog is to help other people, whether through practical advice or letting them know they’re not alone. That may sound a bit cliche, but I have often felt a tremendous amount of relief knowing that “it’s not just me.”
So today I want to open up and talk about weight and body image.
I’ve never really talked about my weight issues online, primarily because I didn’t want to seem like I was looking for compliments or attention. Quite frankly, I know I’ve put on unhealthy weight and I don’t want people to try to reassure me otherwise. I guess to some extent I’ve also felt embarrassed. While I don’t believe anyone should be embarrassed about their weight or how they look, it’s hard to apply the same courtesy to myself.
But if I want to promote authenticity and transparency, I can’t avoid talking about something that’s been an issue throughout my life. I’m learning how to take better care of myself, and I want to be able to share that journey with others and encourage them to be healthy as well. I know so many girls who have struggled with these things in some capacity. So I’m going to start from the beginning and be really frank with you about the different ways I’ve struggled with my weight and body image, even if it feels a little scary to me.
As a teen, I felt guilty for eating.
Like so many other girls, I developed a distorted body image pretty early on. My mom told me once that as young as 9-10 years old I starting thinking I was fat. I wasn’t, but all my friends were skinnier. In high school it only got worse. I felt like my friends were half my size. A couple of boys I dated went on to date much skinnier girls, which I used to confirm my suspicion that I was “too fat.” Again, I wasn’t. But I lost a lot of weight sophomore year because I was heartbroken and sickly and had no appetite.
When I eventually got over the heartbreak, I tried to keep up the bad habits. I was never “fully” anorexic or bulimic, and I don’t want to equate what I went through to the pain that comes with severe eating disorders. But from ages 17-21 I would try my best to avoid eating too much; at various times using things like sleep, energy drinks, or cigarettes to try to suppress or ignore my appetite. If I “messed up” and felt particularly guilty about it, I occasionally tried to make myself sick.
In my 20s, I started turning to food to deal with my emotions.
At 21 I started taking birth control to try to stop my monthly panic attacks and severe PMS, and it began to change my appetite. I was studying in England and had planned to eat no more than the two free meals offered each day, but I started getting more and more hungry. Without a scale, I stopped obsessing over my weight. I met Joe, who thought I was beautiful – not fat – and I gained more confidence. While I still wanted to lose weight and tried to “diet,” I slowly stopped feeling so much guilt over eating food.
Eventually though I started eating even more when I was stressed, sad, angry, or feeling down. Which happened a lot. At 22 I started taking antidepressants, again trying to deal with my constant anxiety. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I gained about 20 pounds during the 6 months I was on them. (I quit taking them for other reasons.) Although I lost some of it for my wedding, afterwards it started creeping back. For 5 months I felt depressed, barely able to get out of bed; first as I waited for my visa and then after moving to England. It was much harder than I expected, and food like Dominos pizza or Burger King comforted me. I think in some way it reminded me of home. I had gone from feeling guilty about eating to using food as a coping mechanism.
I’m really glad that I learned to stop feeling guilty about eating, and realized that my value has nothing to do with my weight. I learned that a person who truly loves you won’t change their mind because of what your body goes through.
Unfortunately in that process I also became really unhealthy, or rather a different kind of unhealthy.
Even when I was thinner, I didn’t eat many fruits and vegetables. I’d go as long as possible without eating and then eat fast food or processed foods. I’m sure the anxiety and depression and fatigue I’ve felt for years has been at least partially due to the fact that I’ve refused to give my body the proper nutrients. But constantly eating junk for the short-term happiness it brought me wasn’t healthy either. Not only did it make me feel bad internally, but I started hating what I look like again.
A couple months ago I decided it was time to change the bad habits. I decided to focus on adding good foods to my diet, rather than obsessing over what I needed to remove from it. I’ve started looking at the macronutrients on MyFitnessPal instead of just making sure I’m under the calorie count. I’ve lost 15 pounds already, but more importantly have genuinely started to feel better.
I wish I could say it was 100% health motivated, but honestly I do still care about the weight. I ended up sobbing over some especially unflattering pictures taken of me on holiday this year, and it gave me more resolve to get in shape. But I’m no longer using whatever means necessary to change a number on the scale. I’m focusing on the food, exercise, vitamins, sleep, and habits my body needs to truly be healthy. Because I want to feel happy and energetic, and I don’t want to end up with a preventable illness simply because I didn’t take care of myself.
The reason I’ve written this really long, possibly too much info post is because I want to encourage other people who are going through body image and weight issues on either side of the spectrum.
Whether it’s under-eating, over-eating, purging, or even over-exercising, there are so many ways we can harm our bodies. I know my one blog post won’t solve any of those issues. However I do want to encourage people to take it seriously and to talk about it. We shouldn’t have to hide our struggles in this area, feeling ashamed or worried that people will think we’re just doing it for attention.
I want to remind people that our worth is not dependent on what we look like. It doesn’t matter how thin or pretty we are. It’s not always inherently bad to care about those things, but we have to remember that we have so much more to offer the world than just looking pretty.
We shouldn’t feel guilty for eating; calories and carbs are not evil. On the flip side, body positivity doesn’t have to be at the expense of your health. Your body needs a lot of different things to survive and be healthy. Give it those things! No matter what your size, you will feel better and happier if you put the right things into your body.
If you haven’t experienced these things but know someone who has, be positive and encouraging. It’s a good thing to want to help others be healthy! But don’t make fun of them, be condescending, or try to guilt them into changing their habits. It will hurt them more than it will help them.
I hope to write about practical ways to make healthy choices, but first I wanted to tell my story. I think being open about our struggles is the first step towards improvement, even if it’s hard to do.
As always, please feel free to send me a message if you want to talk or ask any questions.