I was on my way to meet a close friend for coffee at Caribou. As I parked and got out of my car I noticed this attractive lady walking on the sidewalk headed inside to the coffee shop. As I was walking from the car to go inside I had the following thoughts run through my head, “Oh, she’s so cute! I love her outfit, cute little dress with a denim button-up. Thin little legs, flat stomach, pretty hair. Ugh I wish I looked like that.” Fast forward to me standing at the counter adding Splenda to my iced coffee (real sugar has calories FYI) when I overhear this same woman I had just judged in my head silently, chatting with her friends. “Ugh, I wish I looked like I use to. I need to start working out. After kids things just haven’t bounced back the same.” I am stunned, shocked! How can this beautiful woman be standing here dissing herself right now especially after I had just put her on this pedestal?! I considered finishing stirring my coffee and sitting down with my friend but I just couldn’t walk away and let her continue beating herself up. I somehow found the courage and jumped into her conversation. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt but I overheard you and I just want you to know when I was parking my car I saw you walking in and thought to myself how adorable you were and fit looking. Now here you are putting yourself down, funny how perceptions can be so different isn’t it?” I could tell at first she was surprised I had spoken up but she then thanked me and giggled at the comment about perceptions. I sat down to finally enjoy my iced coffee with my friend and catch up, mostly to fill her in on my eating disorder (she is one of the few people who know about it).
But the point of this blog post isn’t about my lovely coffee date with my friend, it is about perception. How can I stare in the mirror and see a body that doesn’t really exist? At my lowest weight, the small part of my brain that was still in check with reality knew that I was nothing but brittle bones. I could feel my knobby knee caps, see my shins sticking out and feel my spine going down my back but that is not what I saw. I saw an overweight person with rolls on her stomach and more fat that needed to be diminished and burned off. Also when I was underweight and my brain couldn’t function properly, I saw other people’s bodies differently, not just my own. I would think another underweight girl was cute and beautiful and that someone fit, healthy and at their ideal weight was overweight. It is amazing to me that as I have regained weight, my brain has become nourished (who knew your brain also needed calories to work properly?!) which has affected my perception of others more positively. I am now able to see someone who is at their ideal weight and healthy as a beautiful living human being or that someone who is underweight is really screaming for help inside but does not know how to ask. Living is in bold for a reason, it is an important word because someone restricting is not living, they are slowly dying and avoiding life. Regaining weight to be at the healthy/ideal weight you are supposed to be at is teaching you how to actually live again!
Though there are the times when I look in the mirror and see a body that is too large for my liking, that is big and unattractive, and that will never be accepted or loved. Body image and learning to accept mine for what it is is the hardest part of recovery for me. I still close my eyes when I get out of the shower and reach for a towel. I still will not look at myself naked. I prefer to get dressed in the dark far away from any mirror. I only look at myself in the mirror to make sure my outfit, make-up and hair is intact before walking out the door. If I stand too long in front of the mirror that is when ED loves to pop-in and start the body shamming, “You’re fat! You’re ugly! You should be ashamed of yourself for allowing yourself to get this way! You must start restricting right now! What meal can be cut out next? How many calories can be burned today? How much exercise is there time for? Look at those fat legs with cellulite, that chubby stomach that can’t fit into the small jeans you use to be able to easily slip into. Your boobs have stretch marks and your butt isn’t firm enough!” These are the thoughts that I hear still to this day but I hope that one day I will be able to stand in front of the mirror and not hear ED trying to break me down.
A friend once told me “Beauty is when something is what it’s meant to be.” It took me awhile to understand that quote and for it to really sink in. I had her write it on a brown paper napkin which has been hanging on my bathroom mirror ever since. I read it every morning as I brush my teeth and every night before I go to bed. Your body is beautiful when it is at the weight it is supposed to be at, not what society or ED thinks it is supposed to be. Remember this quote, say it over and over again until you truly start to believe it. Help it change your perception of yourself because you are beautiful and you deserve to live the life that was intended for you!