Honestly, I didn’t really know how to start this post on “body-image” because the past couple days have been bad body-image days for me. On days like these, I tend to let my negative thoughts control me rather than try and face them. My struggle with body image has been the part of my eating disorder I’ve been least open about because I was in denial about it for so long.
I remember back in middle school one of the popular gifts to buy people from Bath and Body Works was the bath bomb. They were supposed to make a bath more relaxing by creating fizzy, colorful water and sweet-smelling scents. Despite their popularity, I never ended up using any of the bath bombs I received as gifts. Whenever anyone asked why I hadn’t tried the bath bomb they gave me I’d say, “I don’t have the time to take baths!”, and part of me believed that was true.
Deep down I was just afraid of my own naked body, and the thought of sitting in the bathtub made me incredibly uncomfortable, disgusted even.
Looking back now, it is clear that my struggle with body image started way before my eating disorder, as I had poor body image during middle school.
It’s a common assumption that people with Eds are vain and that they try to change their bodies just to please other people, but that is not always true. I believe poor body image has more to do with individual self-criticism rather than living up to other people’s standards. I didn’t want people to think I was vain for having an Ed so I denied struggling with body image.
I know for a fact that my close family and friends will love me and think I’m perfect no matter what my body looks like, yet I still feel the need to control the way my body looks. This makes me feel so incredibly frustrated. Is it really THAT hard to be OK with the way I look? Why can’t I just eat what I want and not worry about what my body looks like when it clearly doesn’t seem to bother anyone else?
Since my boyfriend also knows the Olympic lifts, we sometimes talk about form and technique. While he was explaining the motion of the clean, I noticed how strong his forearms were and I thought to myself, he must be able to lift so heavy because of his grip strength. I wish I had stronger forearms so I could lift heavier.
So, I asked him, “What did you do to get such strong forearms?” hoping I’d be able to do the same. “I didn’t do anything” he said, “I haven’t worked out in like 4 months. This is just the way I am.” I was surprised at first, but then I finally understood what he meant.
I can do the exact same workouts and eat the exact same foods as someone else, and our bodies will never look the same.
One of the main reasons our bodies look the way they do is because of genetics; something we have absolutely no control over. I spent so long comparing my body to the bodies of fitness influencers and other teenage girls my age, wishing my body looked like theirs. I overexercised and restricted food with the hope of reaching the “ideal” body, but in reality, that “ideal” body I wanted was something I’d never be able to obtain because my body just wasn’t meant to look that way.
I know that self-love can be daunting to anyone struggling with body image, I know it is for me, so instead I’ve started to learn self-acceptance. Learning to accept my body means allowing myself to eat what I want and rest when I need to because I no longer feel the need to control the way I look. If self-acceptance is possible for me, then I know self-love is too, even if it takes a while to get there.