Recently, I've been in a body image funk. The term "recently" being used loosely, I guess you could say this funk goes back to when I was first diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in the summer of 2015, but can even be traced back to times much earlier than the official diagnosis.
While this funk is a lot less funky now and I'm in a much better place than I was in 2015, I continue to and will probably always struggle with body image. Unfortunately, millions of other people are also experiencing this internal conflict.
One of the reasons I frequently write about body positivity is because I, myself, need to be reminded of the messages I'm attempting to spread to others. By translating the empowering thoughts that I recite to myself into words on paper and eventually articles, I hope to prevent others from experiencing the self-hate and insecurities that I have experienced.
So here's a glimpse into my recent funk and how I'm working to combat it.
Prior to my eating disorder, I was constantly comparing myself to other people. Whether it be models in magazines, celebrities on TV, or even friends on Instagram — I never felt like my body was adequate enough in relation to others. Now, in my recovery, I've surrendered the war on other people and declared it on myself.
I am undoubtedly my own worst enemy when it comes to body image. I continuously compare my body to where it was two or three years ago, even if I wasn't in the healthiest mental state then.
I'm constantly placing my body under a microscope and searching for any minor imperfection, then attacking those self-diagnosed imperfections with words of hate and ridicule. And those words of hate and ridicule end up taking a major toll.
After continually comparing myself to how I used to look or how I wish I looked, I then force unrealistic expectations upon myself. These expectations usually come in the form of time restrictions, like "I just need to lose 10 pounds by _____ and then I'll be more confident," or "I need to get a beach body by the time the pool opens in two weeks" — all unnecessary and unrealistic constraints that I'm basing my self-worth off of.
Is anybody really going to notice whether I lose those 10 pounds or not?
But are people going to notice if I sacrifice my mental and physical well-being to lose those 10 pounds?
Yes. And that sacrifice is 100 percent not worth it.
Luckily, these thoughts are fleeting and I'm strong enough in my recovery to avoid falling into those traps, but often times habits like that can lead to very vicious and dangerous cycles.
Maybe it's time I dust off the microscope I place myself under and find some clarity.
While I may not like the way my body looks right now, I'm in the best shape athletically that I've probably ever been in. Instead of hating my body for what it isn't, I need to appreciate my body for what it is.
I ran a half marathon this past spring. Going into the race, I had already convinced myself that my time was going to be slower than my time from last year, given the fact that I was 15 pounds lighter then. I went into the race with low expectations and full of doubt, trying to assure myself that no matter my time, I just had to finish the race. Despite these negative thoughts, I emerged pleasantly surprised, as I finished the race with a personal record and feeling great.
This was just the reminder that I needed.
Those 15 pounds weren't just pounds of fat. Those 15 pounds were pounds of strength. Those 15 pounds were pounds of happiness. Those 15 pounds were pounds of love, courage, and determination.
This is in no way a call for praise on my behalf, but rather something to prompt you to search for your own reminders, emphasizing the amazing things you're capable of regardless of the number on the scale.
While my realization was prompted by a physical victory, there are many other ways we can remind ourselves of how amazing our bodies truly are, and the importance of nourishing them so we can continue to accomplish such amazing things.
These realizations can come in many different forms. For example, you ace the accounting midterm you've been studying your ass off for. Without the proper nourishment, you may not have been as successful. Our brains and bodies simply cannot function without adequate nutrition — so why do we deprive them of that just to look a certain way?
The capabilities of our bodies cannot be confined to a number on the scale. You can still compete in that marathon whether you lose those ten pounds or not. You can still master the moves in your barre class whether you lose those ten pounds or not. You can still be happy whether you lose those ten pounds or not.
You are still worth it whether you lose those ten pounds or not.
While I still have moments when I see a picture of myself from a couple of years ago and think, "Damn, if only I could look the way I did then," I wouldn't trade where I am now mentally for anything.
I am undoubtedly my own worst enemy when it comes to body image, but I am finally surrendering the war on myself.