by Allison Brooks
Note: This post originally appeared on Go Elephant Warrior and has been cross-posted with permission.
You know what really frustrates the heck out of me? I have been in and out of treatment the past six years, been making an earnest attempt at recovery for the past year, and been eating disorder behavior free for the past three months yet I still struggle daily with my body image. So much so that I have been avoiding wearing pants that actually fit for the past several weeks. The words “I’m fat” constantly bombard me every few minutes. Body checking is an unconscious habit and I can’t pass by a mirror without staring into it, analyzing my body. Three months ago when I surrendered to recovery and became sober, my body image appears to get better. I bought new, stylish clothes that actually fit me properly and I felt beautiful and empowered when I wore them. But all that has disappeared. It seems the longer I am in recovery, the worse my body image gets. But shouldn’t it be the opposite?
The fact that it hasn’t gotten better has brought me much turmoil and frustration. I was at my wit’s end recently as my eating disorder was relentless in attacking me with negative thoughts about my body and as a result, my worth. It was particularly bad as I wore my “too tight jeans” and analyzed pictures my mom had just taken of me and my nephew. All I saw in those pictures was an ugly girl with a double chin and fat arms. That’s when I had an “ah ha!” moment. I was so focused on myself I completely ignored how adorable my nephew looked and how much joy I got out of holding him. It made me wonder what else I was missing during all the times I’m stuck in my head obsessing about my body.
I finally realized that it’s not worth it. My body is my body, and I don’t need to do anything to change it. I am a 31 year old woman. My body is not going to look like it did when I was 20 so I need to stop comparing myself to all these younger women. I’m just torturing myself doing that. I need to recognize that my weight has been stable for months; it has found its’ happy place. Only extreme amounts of exercise and restricting will change that, if at all. At one time in my life I would have looked at that as a challenge, but now I find the idea revolting. I do not want to put my body and my mind through hell just to lose a few pounds. It will not make me happier; in fact it will make me miserable. I’ve spent too much of my life obsessed with being thin and being sick. It has gotten me nowhere. I have achieved more in these past three months than I did in the 16 years I was in my eating disorder. I am happier and more fulfilled all the while I’ve been at a weight that used to terrify me. Yes, it’s been hard for me to accept that this is where my body wants to be and that I will never be stick thin again, but I have accepted that being sick is not an option for me anymore. I’ve experienced too much in these past three months to go back there again because I know it will all disappear the moment my eating disorder takes control again.
So instead of challenging myself to lose weight, I am going to challenge myself to accept and love my body. I must wear clothes that fit me rather than hide my body, but that will be difficult so I’ll start out small and commit to wearing my pairs of form fitting pants two days a week. I will cover up the mirror in my bathroom with positive affirmations and limit my exposure to other mirrors. I will become more aware of how often I body check and work with my therapist on how to stop doing it. I will not let my weight prevent me from living life and doing the things I want to do. This is my action plan for developing a better body image. What is yours?