Bringing up the body

(I shouldn’t quote things I haven’t read, but I think it works.)

It’s too late to be writing, but this is important for the next phase. I will preface the following by saying that I firmly believe in health at every size. Everyone should be able to feel proud of their bodies. Everyone deserves fair treatment and respect. Body acceptance is beautiful and vital. None of this is a judgment about how anyone else looks. This is about my relationship with myself.

I think the way to say this without sounding like an insufferable twat is just to get straight to the point. Talking about bodies is risky enough as it is, but I do it for a reason.

I am naturally slender. For a few years now, I have subconsciously been pushing my figure away because I have felt I didn’t deserve it. When I have lost weight (that I gained through binge-eating) I have freaked out and binged more to put it back on. On some level, I’ve been worried that someone would discover my unworthiness and tell me as much, and somehow take my nature-given body away from me. I’ve been afraid that someone would take it away, so I took it away from myself? None of this makes sense, but that’s my brain.

When I was 22, I was just starting to find myself as a newly single woman and proper grown-up. I felt tentative but excited. Quietly electric. And then my mind began to tell me lies, and they frightened me so much that I believed them. I was starting to feel good about myself and it was taken away.

I can see that I live in fear of that happening again, in so many areas of my life. I’m perpetually poised for the axe to drop.

And it’s cultural. In the society I live in, slim body = good. I’m not saying I agree, but this is the message we are bombarded with. And a meek and misguided and hurting part of me has wondered, ‘Well, if I’m unworthy, why would I deserve something that is so prized and exalted?’ (Bullshit beauty standards are not good for any of us.) This is complicated stuff, and it ties into my almost-lifelong inferiority complex. I’m fairly sure I developed that in an attempt to address a familial imbalance that I perceived when I was a kid. And hurting myself with food has been my way of atoning. Self-flagellation via excessive Tim Tams and KFC.

But my eating disorder is no less than soul-destroying. Binge-eating makes me good for nothing other than sitting on my bed all weekend in shock, as though I’ve been electrocuted. I cancel plans with friends. I freeze. I squander my time as the minutes tick by. Try making that sound appealing to your colleagues at the office on a Monday morning.

Pretty much all the ED lit advises sufferers to stop focusing on body size, because eating disorders are rarely about the food. Lord knows, I am trying to stop. I have an obsessive brain so I do obsess about my weight, but I am trying to let it go and focus on building lasting fulfilment that does not hinge on my thigh circumference.

At the end of the day, if my body wants to stay at this size, it’s fine. I look fine. I look good. I can easily ditch my (many) clothes and get/sew new ones. Honestly… I just want to stop hurting myself. I am so tired of hurting myself. I need to give myself permission to stop. If I start to lose weight, which tends to happen when I eat normally… somehow I need to make my brain see that it’s OK. I need to accept the freak-out, breathe and calmly move through it.

I don’t know why treating myself well, consistently, feels like the scariest proposition in the world. I am not exaggerating; it is terrifying. But I have to be allowed to do it. If I don’t treat myself well, I am not much good for anything.

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