Trigger warnings: disordered eating, food, weight
Throughout the past few years, I’ve dealt with a lot of insecurity about my body, which has led to some bad habits I’m still struggling to break. While I know this is far from uncommon, especially at my age, it’s important for me to talk about this. I personally found the courage to acknowledge my problem when I learned about Demi Lovato’s battle with body image and eating disorders, so I want to share my story because I want to help other people who might be struggling with similar issues.
Seriously, we’ve had a pretty rocky relationship over the past few years. I’m pretty sure Taylor Swift has written a dozen songs about us already. There were times when I hated every inch of you and wanted to throw you over a cliff, like Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame. There were times when I didn’t really care and didn’t think about you at all. There were times when I just missed how you used to be.
I know I am fine. I am a perfectly healthy weight for someone of my height and age. I will not get any health complications from being in this body. I will continue to exist. But something twists inside my brain and distorts the truth until I can’t see it so clearly anymore.
This feeling comes and goes. I haven’t been diagnosed with an eating disorder because my symptoms haven’t been constant over the required period of time. But for me, many days are still consumed by anxiety over mini Milky Ways and excessive trips to the scale. Since I don’t have a diagnosis, it’s hard to get treatment. Most of the therapists I’ve seen think I’m just a normal, self-conscious teenage girl who should go watch a few body positivity videos.
The problem is nothing new. When I look back on eighth grade, I see spurts of intense dieting, pacing my room after midnight to burn off the Kit-Kat I had at lunch, and standing in front of the mirror for half an hour, trying to find an angle that didn’t make my butt stick out. Even when I was stick-skinny, I stressed out over the smallest fluctuation in my weight and went to extreme measures to control it.
I know I’m doing better than that now. I’ve been at a healthy weight for almost two years now, and I’ve given up many of my unhealthy habits. But now I’m faced with a new challenge: taking care of my body using normal methods now that I’m no longer underweight. Right now, I’m going through a spot in my life where I’m gaining some weight. Honestly, I’m just feeling too lazy to work out lately, and I’ve been eating more desserts than I usually do. Weight fluctuates for a lot of people, and I know I’m still within a normal range, but it triggers those habits. When I’m thin and my brain tells me I need to lose weight, I can process that it’s irrational. But when I’m heavier and can actually afford to slim down, it’s harder to convince myself that skipping breakfast and lunch to drop a few pounds fast isn’t a good idea.
I know that starving myself is a form of cheating. I’m pretty sure that if God wanted me to be skinny right now, I would be. Instead of putting in the work to get fit, my brain is telling me to take a shortcut that’ll hurt me in the long run. I know all this, but sometimes I forget.
I hear the same things over and over. Weight is just a number. You’re beautiful no matter what size you are. You look fine to me. It’s normal to fluctuate. It’s just your hormones making you hungry all the time – you can’t control that. Think of all the amazing things your body does for you every day. In the moment, those things offer a little comfort. But all of this goes out the window when I’m sitting in the car, feeling the waistband of my jeans dig into my stomach when I know they fit fine last month.
It’s not that I’m afraid of being not enough for someone else. I know the world doesn’t really care how much I weigh. But sometimes, I’m not enough for me. I’m a perfectionist. When something feels wrong, I obsess about it until it’s the only thing I can think of. When I’m looking at myself, I’m like Gordon Ramsay critiquing a contestant’s cooking on Hell’s Kitchen.
And maybe I am scared of what people will see. Maybe I’m afraid they all notice, but are too polite to say anything. I mean, my uncle must be able to tell I gained 15 pounds since the last time he saw me. That’s not something you can hide. My doctor must have thoughts when she sees that my weight spiked since my last appointment. It would be different if I had always been this size. It’s the change that scares me. If I was a size 6 my whole life, I’d feel like I was killing it. But when I’m a size 2 in the summer and a 6 in the winter, I freak out – even though I know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a size 6.
When people look at me, they think I look fine, because I do. But my brain doesn’t see what they see. My brain only sees how much “finer” I could look. My stomach was flatter a couple years ago. My thighs were slimmer. And somehow, even though I know that bodies change every day, it feels like a failure. I’ve been that way before – why can’t I be like that now?
It’s so much more than just being “afraid of being fat”. I can think of several friends and celebrities who are heavier than me and gorgeous af. But when I look at myself, I don’t see a “hot thick girl”. I see a skinny girl who didn’t have enough willpower to manage her weight. I blame myself because I know this could’ve been prevented. My brain runs through a dozen ifs: If I hadn’t eaten that cupcake, I would be better. If I had gone for a run instead of taking a nap yesterday, I would be better. If I had just skipped that extra soda…if I hadn’t ordered those onion rings…It’s an endless cycle that just makes me feel worse by the minute.
I know it’s all in my head and the only person who really cares is me. I keep reminding myself every day that it’s going to be fine. Lately, I’ve been trying to wear clothes that make me feel good and find fun ways to get exercise. It’s helping, but there are still some days when I feel like trash no matter what I do. And that’s okay. Acceptance is a slow process, and I don’t need to think about accepting myself for life. Right now, I just need to accept where I am today.
Take a deep breath. Yes, my thighs are a little thicker than they were last summer. Yes, my belly is sticking out today. Yes, I wish I looked and felt different. But I can still go about my day and slay it. My geometry exam doesn’t care that my weight is two pounds higher than it was yesterday. My stories don’t care if I ate too much at dinner last night. My blog doesn’t care that I didn’t go for that walk this morning. And slowly, I’m learning to care less too.