Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to make peace with my body. If I will ever be able to appreciate it for all its bumps and bulges and disproptions. I want to love every inch of it, but I often come away from a full-length mirror with more than hatred for its far-from-the-middle appearance. It is not that I am always disgusted by this mass of flesh that I try to hide beneath layers of clothing and tight-fighting girdles. In fact, I often feel sympathetic for all that it has been through over the years: starvation diets, brief bouts of bulimic-like binging and purging, constant aerobic exercises, cellophane wraps, harsh chemical diet pills, and a number of other caustic methods for getting the pounds off. Yet, even as I write this, I look down at my thigh flesh spread wide across my office chair and wish that the fat could be trimmed off with a carving knife, leaving only muscle and bone to fill the space inside my skin.
I wrote those words 15 years ago and felt them for at least 15 years before that. I loathed my body. I loathed my big thighs, the fat under my chin, my stomach rolls. I could not imagine a day–a moment–when I would love any part of it. But I was determined. As I say in the second paragraph:
At the center of my relationship with my body are contradictions, interior and exterior, that prevent me and propel me to try and become one with my body. As metaphysically philosophical as that sounds, I think that the only way I will ever be able to accept, love, adore, or just plain deal with my body is by seeing it as a part of me, myself, I. I have never been able to see it as more than an object that totes around my mind, and it is about time that I make it one and the same with my identity. Sorting out those contradictions might be a way of approaching this project that I am sure will take a lifetime to accomplish. Maybe I will not accomplish it at all.
Through determination and recovery from food addiction, I can truly say that I love my body.
Everyone has a day or two when they feel bloated or stuffed into their clothes. Some people call those days fat days because it is a feeling of excess, of too much. But that is quite different than the everyday dread that comes with body hatred.
I remember refusing to present a paper at a conference because I could find nothing to wear that would make me look thin enough.
I remember not wearing bathing suit in public without a cover up and short until I was 32 years old.
I remember being afraid to ride the city bus because I didn’t want my disgusting fat to ooze over into my neighbor’s seat.
The problem with all of those examples is that I was looking at my body, instead of living in it.
My body and mind split from early childhood trauma and again in my teens and again in adulthood. Each split took me away from my body by cleaving it from my mind.
I spent so many years looking at my reflection in disgust that I believed that that was all anyone else could see. In some ways, that was the ultimate act of narcism–thinking all eyes were on me–but in reality, it was a deep wound that I could not heal.
I started this process where I always begin–reading. I read feminist theory, body theory (yes, that is a thing!), and memoirs written by women who were struggling with body issues. And it helped. All of it helped, but there was something missing. Something deep. That something was my body.
I kept getting closer to it, then I would retreat like I’d been stung by a bee. It is as though I had no understanding of how to embrace myself fully.
- My body was an object of derision.
- My body was a number on a scale.
- My body was a pants size.
- My body was a sexual object for someone else’s pleasure or disgust.
- My body was my self worth.
Then, the dam broke. Nearly three years ago I entered recovery from binge eating disorder. Understanding and owning my food addiction can be the courage to embrace myself fully. Once the chemicals were out of my system, and I started living more fully in myself, in the present, in the now, I could finally appreciate my physical self.
Therapy helped that process immensely. Overcoming trauma and pulling my mind and body back together allowed me to begin to heal that long rift between what often seemed like two different selves.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, I encourage you to see yourself. Really look. You are not just a body. You are not just a mind. You are person who yearns to be whole. Put yourself back together. You deserve it.
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