Lately, I’ve been stressing out about my weight. I realise how ridiculous that must sound, but it’s the truth.
Most of the time, I feel pretty confident about the way I look. I’m fairly content with my shape and happy with my body. I try my best to be kind to myself, particularly when it comes to matters of body image.
A few weeks ago, something happened that threw me off the body-confidence wagon. I was putting on my favourite pair of jeans, and I had to really struggle to button them up. Although I finally got them fastened, they were so tight that I felt as though my insides were being squeezed out. I refused to admit defeat, and wore the jeans for an entire, very uncomfortable, afternoon. I had to take them off at dinner time though, because there was no way that I was going to be able to eat while I was wearing them. I had to face facts: my favourite jeans no longer fit me.
I feel ashamed to admit that this tiny event shot me into a spiral of self-hate and doubt. I started internally berating myself for eating so much takeaway food, and for not exercising every day. I found myself calculating the calorie-content of every thing that passed my lips, and I started to get a bit obsessed with choosing the ‘right’ foods . Every time I passed a mirror, I scrutinized myself, checking for new lumps and bumps and feeling disappointed with the figure staring mournfully back at me.
For the longest time, I didn’t even realise that I was doing this. Perhaps that’s because I’d fallen back into an old, familiar way of behaving. You see, for the bulk of my teen years, I struggled with anorexia. This pattern of self-hate and self-scrutiny was nothing new to me, because it was the way I lived my life every day between the ages of 13 and 17.
It’s hard for me to tell exactly when I got over my anorexia. I started to feel more confident in myself when I was about eighteen, and my destructive behaviour slowly settled down. In much the same way as my anorexia began, it left my life in a gradual fashion.
I went through many periods in my young adult life where my anorexic behaviours cropped up again. Sometimes it was the result of extreme stress or depression. Sometimes it was the result of comparing myself with others, and feeling as though I fell short. Sometimes I’d go through a rough patch, and I’d lose weight from sheer anxiety. At the moment I realised that the weight had come off, there was always the temptation to go back to those old starve-and-scrutinize habits. But I’ve always managed to convince myself that it wasn’t a good idea. During each of these times, common sense and self-esteem won out, and I managed to get myself back on the right track.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling really terrible about my body. I’ve been beating myself up for not being more vigilant about what I’ve been eating, for being too lazy to cook and relying on takeaway too often. I’ve been mad at myself for not making the time to work out. I’ve scrutinized my body to the point that I’m not even sure that I’m seeing it clearly any more. And this has to stop.
There are lots of reasons why I’ve put on weight lately. It’s perfectly normal for people to put on weight as they get older. Your metabolism and lifestyle change as you age. I’m 26 years old, and I can hardly expect my body to remain the way it was when I was 16. Also, I’ve gone through a major life-shift in the last year, as I’ve started living with my boyfriend. That has caused a major shake-up in the way I cook and shop. I’ve got a lot more demands on my time as well, which makes it more difficult for me to find time to exercise or cook. Finally, I’ve been battling with depression this year, and this has left me feeling drained. Often, I’ll find the task of cooking dinner far too daunting, so we’ll get takeaway. Over the past few weeks though, I’ve been making a much bigger effort to take better care of myself, and simply giving up takeaway food and making time for movement has really helped with my state of mind.
I need to be kinder to myself. I can’t keep beating myself up every time my body changes. I can’t see every pound gained as a failure, or feel weak if I can no longer fit into clothes I owned as a teen. I need to give myself a freakin’ break.
It does worry me though when I fall into these patterns. I worry that no matter how well I get, that although my body is no longer anorexic, I’ll always have an anorexic brain.
So, why am I writing this? There’s a few reasons:
1. To get some perspective. In the past, when I was feeling shitty about my body, I’d keep it inside and never tell anyone. I’d rely on myself to get over the bumps, which was totally unrealistic because I was in no state to provide sound advice to myself. If I tell someone else how I’m feeling, it helps to put it into perspective.
2. To make myself accountable. If I make a public statement to try to accept myself and to look after myself, then I’m a lot more likely to act on it.
3. To show you that just because someone seems confident and happy with their body, doesn’t mean that they always are. I get so many emails and comments from people who are unhappy with the way that they look, who commend me on my body confidence. In truth, although I am pretty confident about the way I look, I also go through periods of self-shattering doubt. Loving yourself isn’t an easy thing, and you don’t achieve it all in the blink of an eye. It’s O.K to fall down every now and again, as long as you pick yourself up and keep trying.
So let’s all just give ourselves a freakin’ break, Mmm’kay?