Since I began writing this series, I’ve received some really lovely responses, but I’ve also been on the receiving end of some eye rolling as well. Recently someone even went so far as to tell me I don’t have a right to write about body image and disordered eating because I’ve never been “properly” overweight.
It’s true. Even at my heaviest my doctor refused to help me because my weight fell within the “normal” range. I tried explaining that my issues were more psychological than physiological; but the problem with the pain I was experiencing is it’s impossible to measure or monitor. My doctor advised me to focus on “more important” things, which made me feel worse.
I believe a lot of women are living in a secret hell, feeling ashamed of their bodies and eating habits, stuck in the cycle of yo-yo dieting, waiting to lose five, 10, 20 pounds before they truly live, whilst acting and appearing like they have it all together on the outside.
It’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this series, not to diminish those who suffer from recognized eating disorders or obesity, but because I hoped another “normal” woman who doesn’t fall into either of the above categories might find something of value. This series is personal and subjective and based on my experience. You’ll never find me feigning expert status, but I do believe my words have merit.
I’ve done a lot of incredible things with my life so far, but far less than I could have done had I not been constantly at war with myself. And whilst I mourn the loss of the time I’ve wasted, loathing my body or putting off doing certain things because I felt fat or it felt dangerous to be around food or because I believed I needed to lose weight first, my pain at the time was very real.
We need to stop dismissing one another’s feelings just because we don’t see a problem. At the heart of my pain was the weight of an unlived life, knowing I should have been able to walk out the door and be or do anything I wanted, yet unable to cross the threshold.
If this is you, then I see you. I know your pain is real. I’m not going to pretend I have the solution for you, only you can figure that out. I’m also not going to advise you to focus on supposedly more important things or tritely suggest reasons to be grateful. However, I do want to know if the pain you feel because you don’t have the body you want or eat the way you think you “should” is harder to bear than the weight of a life unlived? How long have you waited so far? How many years of this precious life do you think remain? In my next post I’ll share what did help me to cross the threshold.
And for the doubters, just because something doesn’t look heavy, doesn’t mean it’s not. Here are just a few examples of what the pain you cannot see looked like for me:
- Lived with a constant, overwhelming sense of failure
- Regularly woke up with food hangovers from bingeing the night before, which resulted in a permanently sore and swollen belly and yet another “fresh start”
- For almost 30 years I experienced a constant sense of shame with regards to my body
- Daily I would silently scream obscenities at my own flesh
- I constantly compared my body to other women’s and judged our respective “worth”
- Thought I’d feel worthless forever
- Regularly stayed in and avoided or skipped social events because I felt so unbelievably heavy in body, heart and soul
- Went through periods of desperately wanting to cover every inch of flesh, even if it was 100 degrees outside
- Cried in changing rooms because I couldn’t bear the sight of my own body
- Avoided sex
- Spent almost 30 years yo-yo dieting and feeling trapped in a cycle I wondered, daily, if I’d ever break
- Regularly denied myself happiness and joy and pleasure and self-care because I didn’t believe I deserved any of these things.