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From Surviving to Thriving: My 30+ Year Journey with Body Image and Disordered Eating

I’m a 50 year old woman who has struggled with body image issues for most of my life. It pretty much started when I went off to college as a dance major. I was on my first diet by the winter of my freshman year.

I tried every diet you could imagine throughout the years, constantly thinking I needed to be skinnier. I would lose a bunch of weight and then just gain it all back again and even more. I believed that the only way to be healthy was to restrict certain foods and exercise hard. This was a vicious cycle that went on and on for years! The more times I did it the more praise I got everytime I lost weight. I started to believe people liked me better if I was thinner.

I think of all the times I would go out for ice cream with my family and I wouldn’t get anything, or I would order a salad when everyone else was eating a burger and fries. All the times I skipped eating cake at my kids birthday parties or cookies I baked at Christmas time. If I was too busy to work out in the morning I would do it at 1am depriving myself of sleep because I had to get my workout in, there was no way I was missing the scheduled workout that day for the workout program I was on or I felt like a failure.

I would weigh myself every single morning naked so that the weight of my clothes didn’t show on the scale. If the scale didn’t maintain or go down, I would workout even harder or do 2 workouts that day. I always ate, but I would restrict certain foods with hopes that the scale would budge the next day. When I would lay in bed at night I would feel uncomfortable tossing and turning wishing I weighed less.

I started to not wear shorts, tank tops or even bathing suits. The more I could cover my body up the better I would feel about myself, even in the hottest of weather. I would take my kids to the beach wearing capri leggings and a t-shirt.

When my daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder last year was when my eyes were really opened to the fact that I myself had a lot of body image issues that I needed to work through. It also made me realize how toxic diet culture really was and how incredibly immersed I was in it for so long. At one point I even became a wellness coach wanting to help others lose weight, to achieve a goal that they thought would bring more happiness to their lives. But in reality for many it just caused the same cycle I was in.

This past year I learned that health wasn’t just about losing weight, that it was about a healthy positive home life, a good work environment, making time for me, getting enough sleep, managing my stress level when and where possible and so on. My stress level throughout a lot of my life has been very high, I tend to work several jobs at a time and for many years worked 7 days a week all while trying to raise a family. I certainly burnt the candle at both ends, and although I may have lost weight at times, and thought I was feeling better and healthier, in the end I always felt like I needed to lose more and work harder. In reality I never achieved overall health and because of that I was always getting sick. I wasn’t eating enough, I worked out way too much, I was deprived of sleep, I worked too many hours and I was extremely stressed all the time.

I felt stuck for a very long time, but now I’m really working on changing my mindset. I’m learning to accept my body for what it is, how strong I am and how capable I am. I skip workouts, I eat what I want and I’m starting to wear shorts and bathing suits again! My weight doesn’t define who I am! No matter what I weigh, I'm still me, no number on the scale is going to change that.

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