EVER since I can remember, I’ve been aware of my appearance. Weight, spots, boobs, wobbly bits- by the age of 12, I had very set ideas and opinions on it all. And from then, something in my brain told me bigger was badder and I should aspire to be slim.
My mother has always been slim, and I don’t know why, but weight and diet has always been a current topic of discussion in my family. I still can’t help think that they spoke about it to me because they believed I needed to lose weight.
It’s ED that makes me think that, y’know. Oh right, you don’t know ED (believe me, you aren’t missing out). My familiar acquaintance ED is otherwise, and more formally known as, eating disorder. An individual who lacks a physical presence, yet is able to completely consume an individual, like it did me.
Eating disorders are a pretty scary word. Unless you’re skinny, it’s pretty much assumed you’re making yourself sick. But that’s offensively naïve and although people are just ignorant to it, I believe the world needs to be educated on these mental disorders- much like any other illness.
Flick of a switch
In the past 12 months, I have experienced the most excruciating mental torture. ED knows how to make his mark, and just like flicking on a light switch, August 2013 was the start of months of self-inflicted abuse, injury and damage of which the catalyst was ED.
Nearly a year later, through harmful eating disorder behaviours such as binging, restricting and purging, I have managed to get a grip on my problems and realised what my problems really are. You will often hear from eating disorder sufferers that it isn’t food that is the problem- there’s another problem that is coming out through your approach to food.
For me, it’s become blindingly obvious that my eating disorder stemmed from a hateful and disapproving attitude towards my body. Crippling body image issues have prevented me from doing so many things. Pushing those closest to me away, losing my social life, losing positivity and disappearing into a black hole temporarily put my life on hold.
Everybody has insecurities about their bodies- I refuse to believe anyone is 100% happy with their body. But imagine not being able to leave the house because you can’t find anything you think fits, or disposing of clothes and buying new ones three sizes too big to hide your ‘fat’.
I was referred to my local eating disorder support service for group therapy, to which I was horrendously opposed; I mean, in a room of thin girls who don’t eat, when I can’t stop myself eating and purging? But it only took one session to realize this wasn’t the case; one session to realize that I really was sick enough to have a problem.
Having kept a journal, it makes me tearful to read words from only 6-8 months ago which spoke about self-harm, depression and not wanting to wake up. All this because I hated my body…
I wouldn’t say that I am eating disorder-free, far from it! I am in recovery- on the journey and it’s a daily battle. In fact, an eating disorder definitely has parallels to addiction. But what it’s made me realize is just how much body image, to me, ruled my life.
Many things have contributed to a lifetime build up of explosive and hateful feelings towards my body. I was told to lose weight by a modeling agency; I was constantly being reminded by family about how much I ate, and I got into a bad habit of body comparison from a distressingly young age.
I wouldn’t say that the media is the sole source of promulgation of the thin ideal. Yes, it places the idea in people’s heads- I mean men and women, but retail adverts, food companies and diet clubs. They all, in my opinion, cloak their thin ideals in messages about healthy living. It’s all bullsh*t in my opinion.
And I definitely feel that as an individual who knows ED inside out, my opinion counts. It’s important to remember that you can’t tell who has an eating disorder. They don’t have to be skinny, and it’s time people stopped seeing body size as a determinant of that person.
I am not recovered- I have to try hard every single day to work to not hate my reflection, or become self-hating when I see an advert of a ‘plus-sized’ model who happens to be even smaller than me. I hate that body image issues are so complex and so much has to be written about them.
We are all people. We come in different shapes and sizes, but as long as we are healthy, we deserve to be happy. We deserve to have more in our lives than an obsession with weight and shape, and this is something I strive for everyday.
Our bodies grow and produce children; they defeat cancer and illness; they mend broken bones and they help us move and have a life. They do so much, and I feel sorry everyday for hating it like I do.
I pray that my younger sisters can grow up with a simple appreciation of what a body should be admired for- not what it has grown to be despised for.