Tag Archive for body image

Meet Molly

Hello! My name is Molly, and this is my recovery story!

First off, all my life, I had always been known as the “chubby kid”, and would get picked on quite a bit. I always struggled with the image of my body compared to girls much smaller than me, who were able to wear certain clothes, participate in certain (athletic) activities, etc. growing up. Making my way into middle/high school, it got much worse. Especially because I also had an issue with how much I ate. Food soon became my safe haven, or my “security blanket”, if you will. Whenever I was stressed, I would eat. Emotional, I would eat. Angry, scared, nervous, anything, I would eat. And it became more and more compulsive to a point, that by the time I graduated high school, I knew I needed to seek out help; but was still too scared and had no idea how to.

Stepping into college, I always was dealing with severe anxiety, depression, self-harm, and finally, bulimia nervosa. When I would get really low, I would rely on food to comfort me and make me feel okay. But suddenly, the satisfaction of a full stomach started to feel more like regret and disgust. I soon fell into an awful pattern of binging and purging multiple times a day. Coming clean to my mom and dad was not easy since they soon caught on to my behaviors, but it helped me to realize that I had people looking out for me, who wanted me to get help, and to recover from something that wasn’t who I was. I made it through two therapists and a grocery list of anti-anxiety medications over the course of about two years, and faced even more hardships time and time again. But now here I stand, free of self-harm, depression, and no longer a slave to my eating disorder.

No matter how you get there, or how long it takes, I think the idea of recovery is probably the most freeing feelings you could ever possibly experience. Knowing you’ve been torn down at one point, not knowing you were even capable of overcoming… and then standing tall, and realizing that you truly did it, all on your own. I’m so eager to help others who have faced the same struggles I have through these blogs, and to truly make a change.

 

*Visit our blog next week for Molly’s tips on practicing self-care!*

How I Broke the Cycle: Living Life Without Restriction

By Amy Hastie

Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I can vividly recall the first time I decided to restrict my food intake.

At 17, someone sat me down and told me that I should exercise more often and reconsider my food choices. I initially felt deflated, self-conscious and hurt, but those emotions soon turned into an overwhelming desire to change. I distinctly remember writing a letter to my best friend at school the very next day, excitedly boasting to her about this revelation regarding my lifestyle and how I was going to cut back on everything that I ate as part of a magical transformation. It was going to be amazing!

Looking back, it seems utterly frightening to me that I had been so determined and self-assured that I was doing the right thing, despite all of the potentially dangerous risks to my health. This particular teenage diet didn’t last longer than a week, but it instilled in me a lingering awareness of inadequacy in relation to the foods I chose to eat and how much I weighed. It’s like my eyes had been exposed to a horrific image that was etched in my mind and could never be erased.

A couple of years later…

When other things in my life seemed out of control, I made a few more attempts at diets. Again, nothing stuck until the year leading up to my 21st birthday when I fell, head first, down the dark and destructive hole of Anorexia. What followed was more than a decade of severe bouts of restriction, chronic dieting, and incredibly harmful physical behaviors.

There were months, sometimes years, within the past decade when I wasn’t being entirely controlled by Anorexia, but still being intensely dictated by diet culture. Physically, I may have looked “healthier” during those times, but in reality, I was still living a life full of rigid rules around what I could and couldn’t eat. It was exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and destroying me from the inside out.

I feel ashamed to admit this now, but up until recent times, I ate the same thing for dinner every week-night for about 10 years. Every single week-night. No deviations. No adjustments. No tweaks. The same. It was monotonous, a far from nourishing meal choice and a devastatingly obvious coping mechanism. Family and friends would often ask why my husband and I didn’t eat dinner together at home. I always used to brush it off by saying we had very different tastes. That wasn’t true at all as we actually shared many similar loves in food. However, the thought of deviating from my “safe” meal on a week-night scared me more than just about anything else in the world.

Then something finally changed for the better.

I had hit breaking point in the lead-up to our wedding. When it was all over, something began to shift in me, but in a good way this time. On my honeymoon, my husband and I ate a variety of exquisite food every day and every night. Part of me waited for a drastic change, something to go horribly wrong with my mind or body. Nothing did. In fact, with each delectable consumption, the better I seemed to feel mentally and physically. The only effect was the thrill of tuning into my hunger and honoring it fully.

amy longstaff

During the honeymoon, I realized I was beginning to create an infinite distance from restriction. I was at a coffee shop, and I ordered a delicious beverage. The friendly young guy taking my order gave me a nod as he was writing it down and said, “Yeah! It’s Friday! Why not, right??”. I think I nodded in agreement with the well-meaning gentlemen at the time, but as I walked away, I found myself marveling at my progress. I had, without thought or hesitation, just ordered the drink I wanted, having no reason to choose it above its scrumptious taste. I hadn’t selected it because it was the week-end or even considered it to be a treat in the first place. I just had it because I felt like it. It may sound simple, but this kind of mental progress is huge for anyone who has endured what I have.

Decisions like what to order had not always been that natural. Menus were overwhelming, regardless of whether it was a day of “clean eating” or one where treats were “allowed”. While my friends and family would look at a menu in excitement (or simple indifference), Anorexia would sit with me and meticulously calculate the meal that would do the least “damage”. It was a consistently agonizing process, and one I certainly do not miss. After that day in the coffee shop, I started to perceive menus as lists filled with infinite possibilities of satisfaction, not rule books.

I told myself that when we returned from our trip, I would continue this new-found lifestyle … and I did. It was like that indignant feeling I had when I first decided to diet at 17, except this time, I took a stance on always eating exactly what I wanted. I vowed to never restrict again because this new way of eating (of living!) was far too liberating to give up on. I began reintroducing beloved old favorites or tasting entirely new ingredients. Foods I had once banned for making me feel “out of control” were no longer scary because they weren’t “off limits” anymore. I had legalized them indefinitely. It was all so wonderful and invigorating.

As I continue this intuitive eating journey, the next challenge is learning to cook...

Despite being 33 years old, I am well and truly back to basics, teaching myself how to prepare all kinds of new and gratifying meals. It’s certainly not easy, (I have already inadvertently created some minor kitchen fails!), but it is the power of choice over restriction that pushes me to persist with my culinary ventures.

The most life-changing aspect of my recovery has been the new-found belief that I am not only worthy of all foods today, but tomorrow and every day of my life. After so long, I have learned to listen to what my body instinctively wants, just like I used to as a little kid. Now, there are no “treats”, no “cheat days” no “naughty foods”. Anything and everything is quite literally on the table, and I am loving every single minute of it.

 

The Badge

*Trigger Warning: Some of the content shares graphic depictions of experiences regarding Anorexia, using size and body specific language. Please read at the discretion of your own mental health and emotional wellness.*

By Emily P.

For seven years, my ribs were a badge of honor. When they peeked through, I was powerful. As though the wars I fought with my body were worth the pain. Badge

I earned that badge by skipping meals, throwing up, and hiding my food. My stomach flattened and my ribs rose. Sometimes, I imagined them bursting past my skin, and that felt strangely comforting.

I didn’t care that I froze when the air conditioning switched on. I ignored the bulging wads of hair that fell from my scalp. I disregarded my stinking breath and the blurred vision when I stood up. As long as I saw those ribs, I was superb.

But during my second year of college, I slowly morphed out of counting calories and obsessing over portion-sizes. I grew tired of my brain’s daily acrobatics with food, and I changed my focus.

I focused on friendships, creative projects, school, hard work: anything that pushed the eating disorder out of my skull, little by little.

Today, I don’t obsess over that badge anymore. I eat until I’m full, and I’ve learned to mostly love my ever-changing body. But there’s always a meek question that protrudes through my thoughts: Will I ever relapse?

It’s frightening to think about.

I cried the first time my double zero jeans felt tight. My brain set off an internal hurricane when I couldn’t pull them past my thighs. Learning to love my health and myself, that was a strenuous fight. And I don’t want to fall back into my former mindset, to fall back into Anorexia.

But there are moments. Moments when I see a bit of my rib in the mirror and a glimmer of pride emerges.

That’s when awareness snaps over me and I push that pride aside, concentrating on self-love.

I used to view Anorexia as a lightswitch that you could click off. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

But there are moments. And maybe there will always be moments. Moments signaling that the fight’s not over. Moments that morph my ribs back into a badge of honor.

It helps to acknowledge moments like these. Understanding these mental changes and actively thinking about my health, that’s how I cope.

And while people deal with Anorexia in different ways, I wonder if the feeling of uncertainty is universal. As I fight and look past my former badge of honor, I accept that my mentality isn’t black and white. That while I am better, I’ll strive to work through the gray.

To look back on the badge as a distant memory. To develop a new badge of honor: my health.

Accepting My Body. Finally!

By Katy M.

Your body is remarkable and can do remarkable things.

Each body has a different figure, shape and size. Not one is the same, so cherish your body without comparison, and always remember there is no wrong way to have a body!

Since I’ve recovered from my eating disorder, I love sharing body positive words I’ve heard. Like many people, I struggled, but one thing I discovered through my recovery was yoga.

It’s fascinating when you experience what your body can do. 
katy yogaWhat I loved most was how everyone in my class was different yet all beautiful while throwing themselves into different poses. Now I practice yoga every week because it makes me appreciate my body, and helps me recognize the strength that I have physically and mentally.

 

 

There are so many ways you can appreciate and enjoy your body! 

These are some rules I personally follow that help me:

  • Be your body’s best friend – I repeat positive affirmations and quotes to myself like, “your body is unique and special and gorgeous!”
  • Listen to music – I listen to certain music that helps lift my spirits on a down day, like Ed Sheeran’s lyrics: “Just remember life’s not about fitting in your jeans; it’s loving and understanding and positivity.”
  • Focus on what your body can do – How it moves and how lucky we are to have our body!
  • Don’t read celeb magazines – They are filled with people saying that you are too thin or too fat – we are all beautiful and different.
  • Avoid stepping on the scale – There was a time in my life when I stepped on the scale 6/7 times a day. This is such a waste of my time. If I am happy in myself and my body, weight doesn’t matter. Remember, “You are much more than a number. The scale says you are the numerical value of your gravitational pull. It will not tell you how beautiful you are, and how much your family loves you.”
  • Write down motivational words – I created a book filled with positive affirmations, quotes, and lyrics I find inspirational, repeating them to myself when I need to. Here are a few quotes from my book I’d like to leave you with:
“Don’t let the past dictate your future, create a life that brings you health and happiness.”all bodies are good bodies

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

and finally…

YOUR BODY, YOUR RULES! <3

Reflecting Body Positivity with BodyPosiPanda

By Caroline K.

I wasn’t put in the world just to be

looked at or to fit a societal standard of

beauty.

The body positive movement encourages people to accept and respect their bodies, as well as others’ bodies. It is also recognizing that our self-worth is not dependent on how we look, and that everyone is worthy of love.

One day when I was researching body positivity, I came across Megan Jayne Crabbe on Instagram. Megan has recovered from anorexia, and now has the mission to spread body positivity. Her confidence, strength, and wisdom was inspiring to me.

posipandaI reached out to Megan and asked her some questions about her journey to body positivity, advice she has for those struggling with body positivity, and how body positivity has changed her life. I want to share her answers with you!

With how pervasive unrealistic body ideals are in our culture, how did you begin by shutting those out?

Megan: “I think the first step in learning how to combat unrealistic body ideals is recognizing how damaging they are, and questioning where they come from in the first place. Once we realize that these ideals are things that we’ve been taught in order to proliferate industries that profit from our insecurities, we can see how hollow they are. They are quite literally made up. Should we continue to sacrifice our mental health and well-being trying to attain a fabricated image? Keep questioning, question everything that you’ve been taught about beauty, worth, and happiness.”

How have you kept your body positive mindset in moments where you have felt shame about your body?

Megan: “It’s essential that in learning body acceptance we don’t just stop at learning to feel confident with how we look. We also have to learn that we are so much more than how we look. So even if I’m having a day where I don’t feel totally in love with my body, I can remind myself that how my body looks is such a small part of who I am, and I wasn’t put in the world just to be looked at or to fit a societal standard of beauty. We are more than our bodies.”

How has body positivity changed your life?

Megan: “Body positivity gave me a life back that I didn’t believe I was worthy of living. I spent so many years believing that my real life would start happening once I’d lost weight, but since there was always more weight to lose and new ways to hate my body, it never did start. Now I’m not waiting for my body to change in order to experience life, I’m just experiencing it. I realize now that my body was never the problem, only my mindset.

Pursuing a body positive mindset can be difficult at times. With the societal messages we have been sent every day of our lives about bodies, it is understandable to find the transition to body positivity challenging. For those who are wanting to be body positive, but still struggle with negative body image, Megan has a great post on her website titled “What To Do If You Just Can’t Love Your Body” and you can read it here.

Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda) is one of many body positive figures on Instagram. Instagram can be a toxic place for those struggling with body image. If you want to begin the journey to body positivity, I highly recommend following Megan and other body positive Instagrammers. In addition, unfollow people who make you feel that your body isn’t good enough. You can begin by searching #bodypositive and #BoPo. The journey to body positivity isn’t always easy, and you will have bad days. Beginning to realize that you are worthy of love no matter how you look is a great way to start your journey.

megan bodyposipanda

Thank you Megan for your inspiring words, advocacy, and willingness to share with us!

Books that helped Megan shift her mindset and learn about body positivity:

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Losing It by Laura Fraser

Body of Truth by Harriet Brown

Fat! So? by Marilyn Wann

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon