Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Body Image

I measure my thighs no less than twice a day. I step on the scale 3-4 times or more, watching every ounce gained or lost. I am trying desperately to lose that last ten pounds I know I need to in order to be the "skinny girl" I was.

I used to field comments all day long on my thinness, but after my baby was born, that all stopped. I gained 50 pounds and struggled with losing 20 more after, only to settle in at 10 pounds heavier than before I got pregnant.

I scour the internet for pics of women my height and weight, constantly comparing myself to others, trying to assess just how "fat" I am and what I really look like to other people. Did I gain that much weight? Do I really look that much different? Who am I, really, and why does weight have so much to do with my sense of self-worth?

I know for a fact that I am not "fat," however, I am not model-thin either. I come in at 22% body fat for my athletic 5'7" frame. It is considered "Ideal" (not "Thin"), "Fit" and not actually "Athletic." But I want to be skinny, I want to be told I am skinny, I want people to buy me the right size clothes when they gift me them, not getting me size large or whatever because they think I am fat.

I am obsessed. I know that I am, and I am secretly hoping this obsession will get me to my goal weight, wherein I can stop obsessing and start focusing on other things, right? Like my art studio, which I haven't worked in for nearly two months. Or organizing my house. Or actually even exercising (which I loathe). But I can't. I just want to watch my thighs go from 22" to 19" overnight and my waist from 29" to 26." And the only way I know how to do that is by dieting.

But not like when I was 16 and anorexic. Yes, this body image complex comes with a history, this obsession has roots in my adolescence and my 6-year struggle with anorexia and bulimia. I spent years starving and vomiting my way to ever-elusive goal weights and a body I would never have. I have big bones and tons of muscle that I would gladly change for the waif-like shapelessness of a typical supermodel, even now. But it's not healthy. And I know it.

So why do I insist on trying to re-adopt the known ways of dysfunction in order to achieve what I know can never be? Pure psychosis, I tell you. I want to be loved for being skinny and looking like a model, not for my brain or talents, but for something incredibly vain and superficial. I don't even know why I insist on allowing this thinking to control me. It is a compulsive addiction. And I am not alone, as the 10-20 million Americans with eating disorders can tell you.

I am confused and I know it. I want to be clear on my body image. I want to be able to say with confidence that I am fit, that I am okay, that I know I was skinnier in my youth, but as a 34 year old with a 4 year old daughter, I look pretty good.

But most of all, I want it to not matter at all. I want to not waste precious blog space with my ramblings on a topic far less important than mercy killings in Pakistan or the fact that domestic violence kills more women than smoking, heart disease and terrorist attacks combined. THESE are important issues to obsess over. But I remain vain, petty, and easy to hate for posting on such a ridiculously pointless topic.

So I apologize. I also extend my gratitude for this space allowing me to explore the complexities of my own body image issues, in the context of a society where women are encouraged to despise their natural state in order to be impossibly thin.

I just read an article by Allison Epstein, found here: http://www.adiosbarbie.com/2014/05/why-im-a-body-image-activist/ on why she is a body-image activist. One of the reasons she lists, other than 108 million Americans being on a diet, is the 470% increase between 2006-07 of pro-eating disorder websites. She receives hate mail for being a body image activist because it's "not important."

But it is. When 20 million or more people risk their lives to be thin, when body hatred consumes the daily lives of countless millions of others, affecting their work, relationships, and mental health, does that not profoundly affect society at some level? So kudos to you, Ms. Epstein and your activism. Your article stirred me to action, leading me to start a conversation with myself on my own remnants of disorder and self hatred.

All I know is that have to stop hating my body. For the sake of my daughter's self image, for the sake of my mental wellness, for the sake of society at large. We need a major shift in our thinking. And it starts with each one of us body-hating-shaming women AND men learning how to love themselves, even if through rambling, ultimately pointless blog-sharing.

2 comments:

  1. I have so much respect for you and your struggles, and I wish you all the best in your continued journey. You are not alone, as the article you cite states - far too many people are locked in a constant war with their own bodies. And you are so right: any issue that causes pain, suffering, and health is important.
    As an aside, the article that you cite from Adios Barbie is in fact written by Melissa A. Fabello, body image activist and sex educator. As an editor of the site, I uploaded the piece, but much as I'd love to claim it as my own, I can't do that :)

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