There is no perfect body.

I can pick a subjective flaw in every human body, and yet, I carry this distorted ideal that it is possible to achieve physical perfection.

There is no perfect body.

And even if I did achieve perfection- like in some metaphysical sense, in some kind of alternative universe where we could agree upon a universal definition of perfection, I WOULD STILL WANT TO CHANGE/IMPROVE/FIX SOMETHING. Because that’s how we are hardwired. Acceptance is twelve times harder than changing (statistic I just made up). And contentment is twenty times harder than fighting.

If I had a perfect body, I’d find a reason to make it more perfect. We can’t sit at the top for very long without getting bored, angry, or depressed. We can’t sit with success for very long without itching for more.

Everyone knows we live in a society that basically blasts us with mixed messages. On one hand, the message that thinner is better has been drilled into my head almost with the same permanence and absolution as 2 x 2 = 4. On the other hand, we’re living in this new-age, high-peak fitness era, where women are also supposed to be sculpted, toned, and muscled into sleek goddesses. Somehow, we are supposed to be able to do it all.

But there still needs to be an ass (WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FUCKING SONGS ABOUT BUTTS THESE DAYS), and there still needs to be boobs.

And no matter what, there’s gonna be some fat. Or some cellulite or stretch marks or imperfections or anything. Because that’s HUMANITY.

Do I think I’m somehow immune to this? Do I think that my body will somehow look entirely different if it weighted 5, 10, 15 pounds less? Would everything be beautiful and rainbows and sunshine and shitting unicorns?

Um no. That’s called a delusion.

A body is a body is a body. I never saw more beauty in bodies at a nude beach over the summer. Easily the youngest person there (by maybe 40 years?), there was everything hanging out for all the world to see. And nobody gave two fucks. They flaunted, they lived, they were comfortable with themselves.

I was too. I’m comfortable with my naked body. I always have been. Which is sometimes why the eating disorder thing is confusing to me…shouldn’t I hate to be naked around others? Shouldn’t I want to hide and shield my body in layers? Neither have ever applied to me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always known that my body was beautiful…that deep down, even those days when I thought I was too fat or too this or too (insert derogatory adjective here), it was all just the inner reel spinning inside my head.

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the purpose of a body.

Dear Bee, 

Nobody has ever hated my body more than I have. It’s a painstaking realization most of us experience at some point in our lives. My lovers have gotten more pleasure from my body than I have. My body has the ability to not only walk but to run long distances, escalate mountains, jump on trampolines, swim, roller-skate. My body houses insane metaphysical sensations, including, but not limited to: goes-without-saying-joy of orgasm, the amazing feeling after a sneeze, ability to cuddle with another, fabulous pleasure derived from yoga…my body will hopefully be the developmental womb of LIFE one day.  Eating disorder recovery, unfortunately, extends further than body love. A misconception in mental health is that body-positive talk CURES the pathology. It doesn’t. I mostly like my body. Would I like my legs to be slimmer and stomach to be flatter? Yes. Find me a red-blooded woman that doesn’t. Eating disorders go beyond that. The weight is just a symptom, really.

The stereotypical skinniness isn’t what I’m aiming for. I don’t like the emaciated look, and my shape will not allow me to get there. I don’t have an ultimate weight loss goal. There isn’t a NUMBER that can cure it. I know that. I’m far enough in recovery to realize that there is no number too low (or for that matter, too high) to actually stop me from engaging in self-destructive behaviors. There is no PERFECT BODY. My stomach may get flatter, and my legs may get slimmer- but really, that’s not going to make much of a difference.

The scale doesn’t fuel the disorder, though it can be a catalyst for perpetuating a reaction of anger, shame, and anxiety. THOSE feelings are what propel the disorder. It’s not a neutral object such as food or a scale. I wish it were. That’s why changing destructive behavior is MUCH easier than changing destructive thoughts.

I have been kind to myself today. It hasn’t been easy. But I woke up early and worked out with my mama and it felt wonderful. I had an amazing therapy session with one of my favorite clients. And I holed up in a coffeeshop for several hours and read an incredible book. I ate a good lunch. Now, I’m going to class.

I feel huge in my body, but that’s only due to the bloated of recent bingeing. It’s maddening, but I have to accept it. I’m not perfect.

I have a couple choices here. I can sit and dwell over the mistakes of my yesterday or worry about the potential mistakes of my tomorrow.

Or I can just accept this moment, although it’s a moment full of anxiety and heaviness and discomfort, for being a necessary moment in my life, for having purpose and reason, for taking me somewhere I need to go.  

 

What happens when you are more than just a body?

Dear Bee, 

When we are valued for our bodies, our worth depends on the size of our thighs, the shape of our breasts, and the curves in our butts. We are measured by the flatness of our stomachs, the colors and textures of our hair, the straightness of our teeth, the polish on our nails, the complexion of our faces. We become succinct categories measured by numbers and colors. We are objectified. Society chooses which traits are superior, and most of us spend our entire lives chasing after those traits, no matter how unattainable they may be. We can always improve. We can always be prettier, skinnier, younger-looking, whatever. Society makes billions of dollars sending this message to individuals everywhere. They are doing a damn good job at making us feel inferior. We are completely under the illusion that the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our appearances.

From time to time, we need to be validated to feel appreciated and secure. To feel confident and loved. You, Bee, love those appearance-related comments. From the compliments about my straight, white teeth (thanks to 5 years of orthodontic care) to the breathless adoration for my body, specifically my breasts, in a bikini, I revel in the attention. At times, I need it to feel good about myself. To feel loved and worthy. To feel special. Yes, I used to equate beauty with superiority. Subconsciously, I still fall into this trap. Most of us do. We rank people immediately based on what they look like. We draw conclusions.  When I hear these compliments, you remind me that it was your presence and hard work that made this possible. You deserve the credit. Without you, I would be ugly and worthless. Without you, my fears would become my reality. 

Today, my therapist told me, you are more than a body. More than a body. 

I was expressing how much compliments on my appearance can trigger me. Over the weekend, I felt overwhelmed with praise.  I felt confused why I didn’t feel flattered. I could understand feeling upset if people were insulting me, but complimenting me? Why would I spend seven years agonizing almost every meal if I didn’t want the praise? Wasn’t this how it all started? To lose weight? To be beautiful? To be adored and loved? Wasn’t I fucking chasing those compliments?

I thought so. 

With this disease, there isn’t a low enough number to make us feel beautiful. There isn’t enough food to fill a void of emptiness or enough exercise to burn away self-loathing. We cannot starve your way to happiness. It’s recovery or death: It’s a black-and-white. One may not die right away, sure, but the life, the fire, the passion has been stolen and replaced with compulsion, distortion, and exhaustion. The world becomes a string of numbers and calculations. I don’t think that’s life. Not the life I want to live, anyway. And I would bet most don’t want to live that way, either. 

You never made me feel beautiful. Ever. No matter how little I ate. No matter how many times people complimented me. No matter what number I weighed. You promised me that when I weighed this much or when I ate thatI would be beautiful. I would be happy. I just needed to hold on a little bit…you were always talking in future-terms. The future you promised never arrived. You were a fallacy. Such a future does not come in sickness. When you hate who you are and what you do, how can you possibly expect beauty and self-love to emerge? How can a stupid number of amount of food give you that love? 

I only now see glimpses of beauty and gratitude for who I am now that I have chosen the future that goes against every single damn thing you stand for. I see the future you promised only when I chose recovery. Twisted, isn’t it?  

I love my body, but it is just my shell. I love my mind more. I love my personality. My quirkiness. My compassion. My intuition. My creativity. Those are the things I want to be remembered for; those are the things that make an impact on my relationships; those are the things that make me happy. My body is just the vessel holding all that in. 

I don’t really care.

Dear Bee,

Today, you’ve been very present, and I don’t like it. I’ve eaten more than I wanted to, and I don’t like it. I engaged in an unhealthy behavior (bingeing) this afternoon, and I don’t like it. I feel anxious, scared, and irritated. I want to know why, if I believe my life is so good and exactly where I want it to be, I still feel some kind of dire need to hold onto your vicious force? When are you gone, and I mean really gone? Do I always have to be anticipating that you can and will come back at any given time? Or does such anticipation just precipitate a destructive self-fulfilling prophecy?

I’ve lost weight this summer, and I notice the changes on my body and also on the scale. I was trying on work clothes the other day, standing in front of the three-way mirror, observing every curve and tone in my frame. I am thin. I looked thin in those clothes. I liked how I looked. I honestly did. 

I know it’s probably counterintuitive to weigh myself in recovery, and, for a long time I had abstained from it, but now I notice myself checking that number more and more often. It’s a source of comfort, I suppose. Bullshit comfort. How can a number be comfort? Well, because I substitute comfort with having control, and it’s a distortion I need to work through. 

Interestingly, I’ve lost weight despite eating more normally and exercising less than I have in years. I’m at a number I like. I’m at a number that I once restricted for three months to reach. In my mind, this is a pretty number. It sounds cute, and it sounds small. But who the fuck cares? Why do I care? I have so much bigger and more exciting things in my life than that number.

I ate a lot this afternoon, and it sucked. I hate doing that. I just didn’t care. I wanted the food. There wasn’t really a point where I felt needed to stop eating. Until, of course, I couldn’t eat anymore. I felt so sick afterwards, and to be honest, it didn’t faze me all that much. I I took a nap to sleep it off, and now I’m getting ready to see some friends. We’re having a bonfire. I’ll be at the beach, my favorite place in the world. I have no motivation to go, but that’s because you want to keep me isolated and wrapped in my own shame. Still, I’m going. 

I feel like I’m supposed to care about what I did this afternoon more. At the beginning stages of recovery, I would lie down, laden with guilt, unable to forgive myself for days for committing such a horrible sin. I would bitch to my therapist and read a bunch of literature and write on and on about how hopeless and scary it all felt. Now, I’m in some kind don’t-give-a-fuck mode. Is this progress, an indication that I’m able to let things go and recognize that I’m human? Or am I being too easy on myself and enabling intolerable behavior? Life is so much bigger than my eating disorder, but I only have realized that in recent months. I have five therapy sessions with new clients next week. I’m not as nervous as I expected- I’m working with some issues and disorders that I want to specialize in (i.e Borderline Personality Disorder, couples counseling, and adolescents)- but it’s still surreal that I’m going to be aiding these individuals into their own processes of recovery and healing. We all have our baggage, and yet, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one struggling in this world. 

I don’t know what the issue is. I don’t have any body shame. In fact, I’m proud of my body. I’ve been eating normally, at least trying to. Yes, there are times I still have a raging, insatiable sweet tooth or a desire to skip lunch depending on what end of the spectrum I lie on. Yet, food has been on my mind, and I think this happens when I feel out-of-control with other things happening in my life. Because, of course, food is one thing I can control. And, as we all know, I like having control. 

I don’t know. I don’t feel like analyzing my day anymore. Moving on now. In the scheme of life, this one setback doesn’t define me or my recovery. It just shows that I still have a way to go, that I’m still learning, that I still face obstacles and hurdles on my journey towards healing. This is normal. I’m letting it go. By doing that, I’m choosing to let you go. 

My pretty friends and me

Dear Bee,

Leave me alone, please 🙂 I don’t want you around right now. It’s been a good day so far, and yes, I just overrate at dinner, but that doesn’t mean we have to hang out! I’m saying goodbye to you right now…I have things to do! I have a night to get ready for.

I have pretty friends. I really do. And I love them to pieces. Not because they are pretty, of course, but because they are wonderful people and we have such great times together.

 But when you’re around my friends and me, you really tamper with my mind and sense of self in relation to others. You point at my friends and marvel over their beauty, all while reminding me that they are so much better than me.

I hate feeling so image-conscious. I hate that I feel more comfortable around people of average appearances than those who society has deemed as “dead-drop” gorgeous. I have friends all over the spectrum, of course, and most of the time, I can overlook their external looks and enjoy our friendship.

I guess I only become distressed when we go out…when we’re suddenly thrust into an unspoken competition for the opposite sex’s attention. Who’s going to get approached first? Who’s going to get lucky tonight? And seriously, why do I feel so uncomfortable in my skin? And of course, of course, my favorite logic: my friends are the ones the guys want, and I’m just the “friend” in the way.

Did we ever escape junior high?

Of course, I am not unloveable. I am not just a hideous creature my friends choose to hang out with to make themselves look better. I know that. But somehow, the insecurity still seeps through, and when this happens, I feel bad for feeling insecure. At my worst, I believe that a night out with my pretty friends is just a waste of time, as I’ll be so focused on my own flaws that I won’t be able to relax and enjoy the night.

This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I know that confidence is the most attractive quality in a person (of either sex), and yet I struggle to carry it well. I may mask myself behind the huge smiles and hugs, but deep down, I grapple with inferiority and jealousy. Afterwards, when I look through pictures of my friends and me, I sigh and wonder if it’s obvious to the world that I’m obviously the ugliest one.

But, the truth is, I’m not ugly.

And here’s another kicker: I rarely compete for the good-looking men. My friends are much pickier on this standard than I am. Despite my own image obsession, I have never dated a guy solely based on his looks. I am so much less critical on them! In fact, I’ve been with some downright bad-looking dudes…is this to boost my own ego? To feel like I have more control in our relationship? So I can feel good when they compliment my appearance and comment how lucky they are to be with me? Am I too insecure to get with a really good-looking person out of the fear that he will leave me for someone more attractive? Because I will always feel like I am in an unspoken population with the beautiful female sex?

I know that my thoughts are irrational, but my feelings of inadequacy are often real, and I need to overcome this in order to overcome my eating disorder and regain self-confidence, balance, and a sense of personal worth. I need to stop the comparison game with my friends and with the world; we are each different and unique, and I must remember that even the most beautiful faces can carry the ugliest secrets

Almonds, nudity, and accepting my legs

Dear Bee,

Hey, pretty girl. How are you doing today? Thanks for the little visit during my afternoon snack. For some reason, the combination of almonds, cashews, and pecans triggered you to come push me around a bit and ignite some strong negative self-talk. I listened to you berate and abuse me for a couple minutes before deciding I had better issues to address.

Oh yeah. You came by again when I was enjoying some coffee during a study break. Made me drink it a little too fast. Sounds strange, but you like me to chug beverages. You want me to experience that tight feeling of “fullness” as fast as I can…because when I am full, I think of you, and you always want me thinking of you.

 It’s cool. I understand. You’re a jealous girl. And I was codependent on your jealousy for years. I am flattered that you still pine over me, despite the fact that I have NO INTEREST whatsoever in taking you back.

Oh, you tried to criticize me again last night too. Your words stung. What happened? I let myself stare at my naked body, really, really stare at it, for several moments. You instantly showed me everything that was “wrong.” You laughed at me, belittled my alleged progress, and told me that my body revealed no indication of recovery. I let you hurt me. Just like old times. You reminded me why I cannot ever trust your grandiose, fake kindness.

Since I let go of weighing myself, I forced myself to put on a pair of old shorts to gauge any changes. These are my “skinny” shorts. We all have our thin and fat clothes. You caught me in the heat of the moment.

They fit. Actually, they were looser than usual. But my legs have always been my least favorite part of my body. And you wanted me to feel bad, so of course, that was the area you targeted! Smart, smart girl. Although many people have complimented my legs, I have never really believed such praise. When I think of my legs, I see too much muscle and thickness. I see the cellulite and stretch marks, the visible markers of imperfection and growth.

Today, I decide to accept my legs. Why? Because I love to walk and run. I love to ride my bike and swim in the ocean. I love to stretch and practice yoga and karate and dance. I love to hike mountains and jump on trampolines. 

My legs are the source of so many outlets of happiness, and how could I hate the culprit that brings me so much pleasure? 

I took a shower after my private nude moment/pity party, where you left me to sort through my own intrinsic and dangerous feelings.  I instantly felt guilty for my body bashing, because this is something I do not often do. I feel ashamed whenever I criticize the way I look, believing my image-conscious woes are vain and insignificant. This goes back to my difficulty in accepting that my problems are just as real and important as anyone else’s, and until I honor my true feelings, I cannot be of full service to helping anyone else.

Final thoughts for the day?

Before accepting the life of recovery, I had two feelings: okay and fine.

Today, I am learning to experience the rainbow of emotions, whether they are good, bad, boring, terrifying, or all of the above.

You robbed me of the primal need to feel and experience life in the present moment. But don’t worry. I plan to gain that insight back.

Disease of the mind, not the body

Dear Bee,

Sometimes, I think having you, as frustrating as that can be, is so much easier to deal with than actual problems. Naturally, that is YOU talking, because i know that is completely illogical thinking. This, of course, explains why eating disorder recovery is so difficult!
Stopping the behaviors is one tier; changing the compelling, dichotomous thoughts is another.

Disordered eating is simply the sprinkles on top of a lopsided sundae scooped with flavors of anxiety, depression, fear, and anger.

I often wonder why I hold onto you. Why does anyone cling onto abuse?
Because abuse is familiar, and when one seeks control, familiarity beats the terrifying prospects of the unknown.

Sometimes, it is hardest to let go of the things and people who cause us the most pain. Why? Because doing so requires us to accept that we deserve better treatment! And when we have low self-esteem and misconceptions about our worth, this can be highly skewed.

Anyone who had ever gone a diet has heard the quote, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I guarantee anyone who has suffered from compulsive overeating would agree that nothing tastes as good as a binge…and nothing tastes worse than a binge.

A binge is never mindless, despite its seductive numbing sensations. A binge is so much more than the type of food and how good it tastes. I have binged on vegetables, on coffee, on gum, I have binged on breath mints and calcium chews. I have binged on diet soda and on alcohol, believing that I could excuse this compulsory behavior because, well, hey I wasn’t gorging on unhealthy food.

I must stop rationalizing these “binges” just because they are low or calorie-free. A binge is about attitude, not intake. I must remember that eating two cookies can feel just as disordered as eating twenty.

I compare myself to others all the time. Therefore, I compare my eating habits to everyone else’s eating habits. Especially with those struggling from eating disorders. As of now, I no longer relate or feel triggered by the anorexic mentality, but I strongly empathize with bulimic and binge-eating behavior. This can be a slippery slope, as I will often automatically judge the severity of one’s problem by their caloric intake, weight, or quantity and quality of their food. With concerns to anorexia, I sometimes feel envious that they have obtained such control over their bodies and food. Then, I remember the absolute self-hatred I felt when I restricted…there was never enough control and certainly never any sense of pride or achievement, no matter how low my intake or weight dropped.

I must remember that eating disorders are diseases of the mind, not the body.