My anorexic brain.

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.

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So let’s all just give ourselves a freakin’ break, Mmm’kay?

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11 thoughts on “My anorexic brain.

  1. Pingback: How much of yourself should you share online? | Nessbow

  2. I’m really feeling this post. Lately I’ve been feeling a little uncomfortable about the weight I’ve gained over the years…particularly when other people criticise what I eat or point out that clothes are a little tighter than they once were.

    It’s frustrating because in a lot of ways I think I’m healthier than I ever have been before. I eat way more vegetables, I excercise more frequently….I’m just chubbier.

    Oh well. Like you said, we just need to be a little nicer to ourselves sometimes.

    • Bodies work in funny ways sometimes. As you said, I think that I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been before. I’m a lot more active and I eat a more balanced diet than I did in my teens or college years. For most of us though, our metabolism gets slower as we age, which sucks the big one.

      It is really hard when you’ve got other people pointing out the changes in your body or criticising your choices. I wish that I were confident enough to have a witty retort ready when this happens, but a lot of the time, I’m just to wounded to even respond.

      You’re lovely though. No need to worry about the way you look, because you’re totally gorgeous inside and out.

  3. Sending love. I know how hard body issues can be, and while I think I have a pretty good self image, I used to suffer from bulimia. It’s good that you’re opening up though and that you can notice the warning signs. That you know what is happening and that you do seem to understand it. ❤ ❤

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. It’s true that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at recognising when I’m in trouble. One thing I’m not so good at is opening up about the way I’m feeling, and being honest about the fact that I’m not doing so well. Just writing this post has really helped though, as have all the gorgeous comments I’ve received.

  4. You look beautiful and while I know that doesn’t help, I still am saying: you look beautiful. Every so often, I struggle with my weight. I have a big ego, which I don’t think is a bad thing because I don’t act like a jerk. I just find most of my features lovely. Jen also compliments me often and I know it’s from the heart. Honestly, it’s not even for a reason, it’s just her stating her mind which has really helped me. I grew up eating nothing but junk food and drinking nothing – not even water – but soda. I was extremely overweight. I dropped some lbs when I hit my teen years, but never many. When I started working seasonal jobs which involved lots of moving around and hiking and all sorts of blissful stuff, I lost a lot. Then I worked from home and now can’t work, so obviously, I’ve put on the lbs again. I can’t cook, so I mostly nosh on TV dinners and the like. I actually love healthy food, but sadly, junk food is easier to make and more readily available. I still have quite the addiction to soda and sugar-y drinks as well. Every so often, I look up anorexia, especially on photo sharing sites. Like somehow, that will help me lose weight. Even though I’m not anorexic myself, if anything, I’m a binge eater without the purging. I’ve literally had a week where I gained 10lbs.

    When I look up anorexia, instead of feeling motivated, I get extremely depressed. I’ve gotten better with NOT looking up that stuff, because I have an addictive personality. Likewise if I eat a LOT, I also feel depressed because I feel sick, sluggish and overall blah. So I go with a medium. Eat better, be more active and love myself.

    I talk about weight loss every now and then on my blog, and I’ve had people get upset. I really LOVE the self love movement that’s going on in the blogosphere, but a lot of people think losing weight is a bad thing. I’ve even lost friends because of my weight loss goals. To be, self love is about feeling your best. For me, that does mean losing weight so my frame isn’t so pressured and so I am healthier and can do more. Eating a salad, doing yoga, biking or jogging, watching my sugar intake, having a weight loss goal isn’t a bad thing and actually, it’s proving I DO have self love, because I care enough about my body to take care of it.

    I know what anorexia is, and I know what it’s about, but I’ve never actually BEEN anorexic. So I can’t and would never say I understand. However, you have my support and my respect. If you ever need me, you just e-mail me. ❤

    • Thankyou so much for your beautiful and thoughtful comment.

      Even though you’ve never been anorexic, I’m sure you (and many others) can relate to the feelings of self-hatred, scrutiny and worthlessness that come with it. It’s an awful way to view yourself. I don’t feel as though I can truly love myself until I get those feelings somewhat under control. I don’t think I’m going to ever be able to get rid of them altogether, because they ultimately crop up when I get really stressed or go through a rough patch. But I can do my best to be honest and kind to myself.

      That’s really what I’m focusing on right now: just looking after myself. I’m putting a lot of effort into behaving in a healthful way, but not beating myself up if I decide to have a lazy afternoon, or if I want to order a pizza instead of cooking dinner every once in a while. I just need to be nicer to myself, and part of that is being honest about the way I’m feeling.

      You’re a fantastic person, Ange. You’ve got my respect and support also.

  5. Don’t forget, as women, our bodies tend to “shift” weight much more easily (and frequently) than lucky men with all their testosterone. My favorite pants didn’t fit me this morning, but I thought about all the changes I’ve been going through: weightlifting regimen, I indulged in some gluten after being gluten-free for a while, I’m about to start my cycle, etc. Women fall into a trap where we feel “fat” if our clothes don’t fit us perfectly. My clothes fit me differently each time I wear them.
    Don’t be too rough on yourself. You have curves that I would commit a small felony for. 😉

    • You’re so right. My clothes also fit differently each time I wear them, depending on a range of factors: how often I’m exercising, how much salt I’ve eaten, whether I’ve drunk enough water, what point I am in my cycle. It’s so hard to judge your size based only on how your clothes fit. The funny thing is, I tried on my favourite jeans again today, and they fit just fine.

      And thanks for saying such lovely things. I really appreciate your compliment. You’re gorgeous!

  6. 😦 Sometimes I catch myself criticising other people’s bodies in my mind, but if I force myself to find things to compliment others on, it helps me be more accepting of myself. Does that even make sense? You’re lovely! Eat yummy food and stop looking in mirrors. Mirrors suck.

    • Thank you for your kind words.
      I can really relate to what you’ve said about how complimenting others helps you to accept yourself. I do the same thing. When I’m feeling low about my body, I make myself look for the beauty in others. It really does help me to see myself in a more positive light. It’s like training the part of your brain that dishes out compliments, rather than exercising the part that only knows how to be critical.

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