This world often tells us that smaller is better. That the ultimate goal in life is to live in a body that is perfect and ideal. One that is without flaws, rolls, stretch marks, dimples and any perceived imperfections. This sadly leads a lot of us down a path of self-destruction, self-hate and leaves us unable to see beauty in our perfectly imperfect bodies. This pursuit of a small body led me to an eating disorder with which I have had to fight so hard over many years. This is what my battle with disordered eating has taught me about self-care.
It seemed so simple in the beginning.
For the longest time, I assumed my weight and my worth went hand in hand. I truly believed that in some way the number on the scale determined the type of person I was. The smaller the body the more worthy I was. More worthy of love, laughter, friendship and all that is beautiful in life.
Here’s the thing, no one told me otherwise. Often, my beliefs were only reinforced by others. The smaller I was the more I was complimented and constantly I was told I must be doing something right. In a smaller body, I felt seen and wanted by others.
And so I chased after it. I became obsessed with working out and dieting. I tried it all. But the results were never fast enough. I would plateau and feel I was worthless because of it. When the pounds stopped dropping I worried I would no longer be as valued as when the weight was coming off quickly.
Self-Love was anything but easy
Looking back on these days, I can so clearly now that I lacked the inability to love myself and so I searched desperately for the validation of others. Maybe if they could love me I could come to love myself?
This desire to be seen and wanted soon turned into an unhealthy obsession. If the weight loss stopped I was afraid I would be left with this empty feeling that came from being unwanted. So I did anything and everything I could to keep the pounds dropping. There was no line I was afraid to cross when it came to weight loss. Days of not eating, trips to the bathroom became my normal.
When I realized I could control my weight loss that I could press on through the plateaus I felt powerful. I finally felt I had control. This sense of power became a way of coping for me. My eating disorder provided me with what I felt as validation, love and acceptance but also control over something in my life. My eating disorder was my way of coping with a life I felt I had no control over and was so unhappy in.
Often I was asked what are you doing to lose weight and “look so good”? To which I replied diet and exercise. This wasn’t a complete lie. I was doing those things… to the extreme. What I wasn’t saying though was just how extreme things had gotten. On the days I would praise myself for not eating or the trips to the bathroom that I made directly after each meal. Those were the things I kept hidden.
I kept up this truly unhealthy way of living for a long time. It became the only way I knew how to feel some sense of relief.
I Couldn’t Stop for myself
There was many times throughout my struggles with my eating disorder that I wanted to stop. But I could never bring myself to that point. I would always find myself in the grips of it after a bad day, when I had emotions I couldn’t understand or whatever other exuse would come up.
When I got pregnant with my son I decided it was time to stop or at least try to. Truly I wanted a healthy pregnancy and if that meant I gained a few pounds I figured I could always just resort back to this way of being after I had him.
So I stopped. Or at least I told myself I had stopped. It really isn’t just that simple. Struggling with body image and an unhealthy relationship with food isn’t something that can be easily solved. I would at times still take those trips to the bathroom on days I felt overwhelmed with emotions. Days when I just didn’t have the strength to love myself were days I found myself sick.
But slowly over time with positive reinforcement, I was able to stop.
A different approach
That was until after my son was born, and I got on the scale within days of having him and was shocked at the number. (why did I do that to myself?). I sadly resorted back to my old ways of dealing with my body image. but this time it was different but it wouldn’t last long this way. I was living in survival mode and so i just gave up completely. This wasn’t easy and in fact, sent me into a huge depression which made things even worse.
so here I was unable to love myself again and dealing with it in a completely different but yet still unhealthy way. Completely disassociating myself with my body and forgetting to take care of myself. So I gained the weight and became the biggest I had ever been. I just told myself I didn’t care and truly the way I treated my body reflected that.
Then one day I remembered those affirmations I had told my pregnant self. I remembered that I could stop myself from being sick so maybe I could stop myself from treating my body like an afterthought. Through this, I realized I had it wrong all along. Bigger bodies are not something to be ashamed of and smaller bodies are not something to be praised for. In fact, a body is just a body. My body is what has carried me through this life and it really is simple yet as complicated as that. What mattered was how I cared for myself as a whole human. Mind, body, and spirit.
Our bodies Our stories
Our bodies tell our stories and much like the season’s they change. There are times when you will hold the weight and there will be times when you let that weight go. But what doesn’t change is your worth. It is always there.
Our bodies have beautiful stories to tell. Those stretch marks I have because I grew two wonderful humans. Those laugh lines I have because of enjoying a beautiful life. My scars tell stories of how even though I may have fallen I still got back up.
So today I don’t weigh myself. In fact, I threw away that scale. I don’t see myself as just a number anymore. I am so much more.
Self-Care after disordered eating
That said, I would be lying if I said I love my body every day. I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes get insecure. I do. And I don’t think I will ever completely not. Old habits don’t ever completely die off. But I am stronger and wiser now. Those thoughts and insecurities get easier to deal with. Today I can realize when I feel those ways and look at why I might be feeling that way. I can take time to sit with it if I need. and then I move on.
I have come to learn that some days loving myself feels like an unachievable goal. And dare I say that’s ok? Instead I meet myself in a more neutral zone. A place where I neither force myself to love myself or embrace feelings of self hate. For me this means I stay more aware of the way I talk about myself. I don’t allow myself to disrepect myself. These days I simply allow myself to exist. I realize that while this body might get me through life, it’s still just a body and it’s not my whole life. You don’t have to be in love with yourself everyday to live a happy and fulfilled life. It’s ok to just be.
focus on the thing you like
After having lived in a state of self hate for so long it was hard to find things I could honestly say I liked about myself. I have since worked on this. I have found things I love about myself! It won’t always be easy. and there will be days where you just cant. but it will get easier to find things to compliment yourself on.
Find your why
What makes you want to get up in the morning? what do you truly care about? what are you passionate about? life is meant to be enjoyed. take time getting to know yourself and what drives you.
take the time to check in with yourself and see how you are really feeling. take time to explore your emotions and get comfortable feeling them. Ever emotion you feel is valid.
Perfection Isn’t real
it’s ok and completely normal to have good days, bad days and all sorts of inbetween days. It’s ok to have days where you eat super healthy and days where you treat yourself. Take it slowly, remember that you aren’t perfect and you arent expected to be. be forgiving of yourself.
My Body is Worthy
These days I can be found walking around my neighbourhood not because I want a smaller body but because it feels good to move and nourish my body. Gone are the days of being found walking to the bathroom because I couldn’t love myself enough to not punish myself for the food I had consumed.