“Are you anorexic?” Taming Body Image

self-dissectionWhat does it all mean, the dips and grooves in our bodies? How do they define us? Some see stretch marks as beautiful scars of battle; others view them as embarrassing reminders of weight struggle, laziness, unattractiveness. Who is really to say what is most beautiful? Our personal definitions of beauty reach both ends of the spectrum, and some never can get a grasp on what they think they should be, and instead spend every morning in the mirror, bouncing helplessly between confidence and self-loathing.

I never recognized my weight until we were forced into the nurse’s office in the eighth grade. I was “chunky”, sure – so were several other classmates, thirteen and awkward in size, overindulging in candy and ice cream and still watching cartoons. We were a year away from high school and still ignorant to a world of tight skirts, sex and pure vanity.

I don’t remember the number, but I do remember the look of concern on the nurse’s face, and the warm tears that rolled down my face that afternoon as I drank Mountain Dew and buried my face in my mother’s shoulder. I had just been introduced to body image, and from the start I knew it’d be a disastrous relationship.

The summer between eighth grade and freshman year I ate cupcakes and pizza at sleepovers, drank my favorite soda and spent afternoons in the pool or on the trampoline. With no apparent reason other than some sort of growth spurt, I dropped about twenty pounds and was suddenly sharing jeans with my – previously – much thinner best friend. The weight had melted off of me so fast I looked tired and pale, but either way I was happy to be approaching fourteen a size three. Then my grandmother cornered me at a family BBQ in late August.

“Are you anorexic?” She was lucky I knew what the word meant.

I can’t remember my answer, although I can only guess it was “no” between bites of a hotdog.

As freshman year began I made plenty of new friends, who later confessed between giggles that they thought I was bulimic. The thought still twists my insides into a constrictor knot. Large or small, I found it impossible to escape from the judgment, both internal and external. From there the bedroom mirror became my best friend and my worst enemy, and with each morning came the unpredictability of how I’d view myself for the day. While I struggled, I remained somewhat of a social butterfly (even involved in chorus and theater), and had two boyfriends while in high school. My first told me my bra made my breasts look saggy. The second never judged my appearance. We lasted a bit beyond senior year.

In those four years I went from super thin back to plump, and in the beginnings of college I remained that way, camouflaging the insecurities with lots of black clothing and lots of piercings. (I still love black clothing and piercings, but my reasons for that love have somewhat evolved.) I weaved my way through a string of insignificant relationships that temporarily made me feel better about myself. Typical, is all I could, and do, think.

When I met my husband I was still thick, and while I worked my confidence in my own sexual prowess I was still scared and insecure. I knew he found me attractive, but as always I was terrified that with the first argument or the first pass from another woman, he’d be gone. The worst part of my own self-judgment is the thought that my own physical imperfections somehow make me intellectually inferior to others. I have managed to convince myself that my opinion is never quite the best, that my voice could never be heard over the voices of everyone else when I’m the girl in the corner with the chocolate in her hand; that without the perfect hourglass, there will always be someone better, no matter what someone sees in me. Ridiculous? Maybe. But never for a second will I think I’m the only one.

I’ve gotten better since, despite events in my life that completely tore down remnants of confidence I had to force myself to regain. A few years ago I joined a gym and unearthed a love of running, and while every day is a struggle, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I eat pretty well with the occasional indulgence. I drink too much. I scold myself for both. The mornings are still unpredictable, and sometimes I still want to smash that mirror to bits. But in the twelve years since thirteen year old me came face to face with a lifelong enemy, I’ve discovered ways to keep the beast at bay. But don’t ask me for pictures; I’d like to keep the past in the past.

Who has the right to judge us, but us? Let’s spend every day trying to feel good about who we are.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia, there is help.

xo

 

 

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30 Comments

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30 responses to ““Are you anorexic?” Taming Body Image

  1. You got me with this one. My body image issues are frighteningly monotonous – “You skinny shrimp, look at you! I can see every single one of your ribs, what is wrong with you, are you some kind of dope fiend?” These thoughts are not original to me, they were sold to me by relentless marketing; but they linger and echo with epic persistence – enough that, at one point, I decided to validate them by becoming a cocaine addict…and nearly dying in the process. I now “know” them to be false, but that doesn’t make them any less vocal or virulent. Getting serious about my lifestyle choices and my health…becoming a runner…watching my body transform through effort, discipline and determination..these things mark the way as I am “striding toward life,” (and the source of my blog’s title, so now you know). There is no end to this journey, but at least I have found a destination worth the trip…

    Can I say I love you, for bringing these confessions out of myself? Because I do…but try to explain to the Husband that I am no threat – my wife would kill me 🙂

    • Nick, thank you so much for sharing that with me. So amazing that you found a healthy outlet to enjoy and keep you on track for the rest of your life. I am so glad this post could remind you of how you’ve overcome such a past. And I love YOU for sharing, and I don’t think our significant others will be bothered. 😉 Let’s keep running – further and further away from the things we don’t like about ourselves.

      xoxo

  2. Very good article…although I don’t personally know anyone suffering by this, but Ive heard how destructive it can be.
    I love how you were able to turn it around..not completely maybe…but its a start at least !
    Good luck. My best wishes are with you! 🙂

  3. Great post, and ‘amen’ to your last line.

  4. This is a very interesting post. You barely hear people talk about being too skinny, or being seen as too skinny. When I was younger, and still now but less, I was really skinny. I did eat, I’ve never had problems with food in my entire life. And yet, people quite often told me I was anorexic. We also went to that nurse thing when we were 12, and she asked me ‘Are you happy with your body?’. I was 12 for god’s sake. I ate when I was hungry and I didn’t think about that.
    It does affect you more than people might think. No one wants to look anorexic, but when people say stuff like this, yeah, it doesn’t make you feel pretty. I also started feeling watched. Like they’re keeping an eye on me, because they thought I didn’t eat.
    By now I started appreciating my skinny body. It’s something so many girls crave for and it’s the thing I just get because of luck. But it doesn’t mean I always love the mirror.
    God no.

    • Interesting to see body image from the other end, isn’t it? I wish I could be naturally thin, but then I remember (and briefly experienced at fourteen), that being thin has its problems too. Is anything ever good enough? I’m happy YOU are happy being you, at least most of the time. 🙂

  5. can i make a request? no, wait. of course i can make a request. i can ask anything i want. i can ask you to tap dance, and you really can’t stop me. not in person anyway, but here, you can alway delete the comm – *ow!*

    okay. here’s the last sentence:

    “Let’s spend every day trying to feel good about who we are.”

    would you consider adding four words to the end? it would look like this:

    “Let’s spend every day trying to feel good about who we are and what we do.”

    thanks. happy tuesday.

  6. Nicole,
    “Who has the right to judge us, but us?” I love everything you said here. I’ve known many people that start every conversation with a comment/judgement about someone else. For reasons known only to them, they avoid introspection and focus on tearing others down. Respecting other people will always begin with respecting yourself. People that judge do so because they are too afraid or lazy to take care of their own business.
    This is a beautiful post. Thank you for writing and sharing.
    John

  7. You have nailed it on this one; it is who we are not who we other’s see us.
    This post should live in all of those fashion magazines.

  8. In the end, as long as you’re happy being you, you’ll be alright.
    Simultaneously the simplest and hardest thing to do.

    Rock on, Nicole Marie.

  9. Twindaddy

    Nicole, you are beautiful both inside and out. Having said that, it is what’s inside of you that really radiates and make you the special person you are. Don’t ever change.

  10. I love you. (And your chubby big toe.) Just the way you are.
    (And all the ways you will be.)
    Beautiful!
    C-

  11. Beautiful post, Nicole. I struggled with my body image as a kid because I was into gymnastics and dance. I remembered a little girl, a gymnast, who used to always tell me I was too skinny. I was pretty skinny. After our workouts, I would pile on the ice cream. Not like a real sob story here, but I did let her get to me. I have no idea why I let her do that. Good for you to take up running and feel good about yourself. Good reminder for all of us that no one should judge us, but us.

  12. I think your experience is probably mirrored by every single girl/woman out there. My sister-in-law is an eating disorder dietician and she sees so many girls who seem way too young to be thinking about these things, and yet I can remember going on my first “diet” when I was in 2nd grade. Craziness.

    • That IS crazy! It’s such a shame, the way the majority of females feel about themselves, but some never speak out about it. By plastering it up here I thought it may make some others feel a bit more comfortable, knowing they aren’t the only ones with these ridiculous thoughts.

  13. I have always had a love / hate relationship with food. I was an emotional eater as a kid and have spent many moments hating every piece of food I put in my mouth. I lost 50 lbs a few years ago and, although I still tip the scales with a larger number than I should, I am happy with my body image. I will never be skinny and I’m okay with that. Thanks for writing this.

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