Wow – I cannot believe the reaction and responses to my last post about my struggles with body image issues.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude by how many people truly related to my story. I got many requests to go deeper into my recovery so here we are. Please note this post may be triggering.
Before we get started I have to be very honest with you all and tell you that I am definitely not fully recovered, but I have gotten very far from where I was in high school. And although many people go to doctors, therapists, and support groups in addition to trying other ways to work through their disordered eating struggles, my story is a little different. I feel lucky to say I was able to make a lot of improvements on my own without getting professional help, but please, if you are struggling with similar issues and don’t feel like you can do this on your own, please seek professional help. This is just MY story and I know everyone’s is different so what worked for me may not work for everyone else. Having said that, I’m going to start where I left off. For reference, here is the original post I wrote.
I have to say, I still struggle to this day with the way I feel I look sometimes and I think that will always be something I struggle with, but I would take where I’m at today ANY day over being miserable while starving myself and being terrified of food like I once was.
I think the first step and the biggest turning point for me was realizing why I was doing what I was doing and who I was doing it for. After high school, I moved to Paris where I let loose a little bit more in what I ate because I was in Paris, duh…! But then I would feel guilty and not eat for a few days after I would have something bad. It became an ongoing cycle I couldn’t stop.
My friends at the time and the people I was hanging out with were all very thin, tall and beautiful and I always felt insecure and like I needed to catch up to them. And by no means am I blaming them for this, but for some reason I had it in my head and felt like they wouldn’t accept me if I didn’t look like them.
Thinking back, this was the first of many signs I was not in the right friend group. No one should ever feel like they aren’t good enough to be with their friends. It’s not like my friends would flat out say anything about me and it was probably my insecurities taking over but it was truly the way I felt about myself around them and I couldn’t change it. Of course, my mom told me that she did not like my friend group at the time but I wouldn’t listen. Moms ALWAYS know! And this is a great reminder that if you feel like you have to change yourself for the crowd you’re with, you’re not in the right crowd.
Eventually I stopped being friends with these people, left school and then my grandma passed away and I was in a rut with my life. It was a really difficult time for me and I started to gain a lot of weight. It turns out, I am an emotional eater. Some people can’t eat at all when they are sad, but I do the opposite. Especially at this point in my life. As you can imagine, with everything going on, this was a particularly emotional time for me and I was gaining weight before I knew it. My metabolism was wrecked from years of messing with my body and it seemed like even when I wasn’t overdoing it, I was gaining weight. After a while, I started getting more into my photography and freelanced a lot and overall did everything I could to keep busy. I was trying to get on a healthier path, both with my eating habits and my life in general.
Once I started working more and meeting new people, I began to not feel so wrapped up about the way I looked, which was finally so liberating. I cared more about the work that I was doing and my photography, way more than anything else that used to hold me back. At this time in my life, I stopped letting food and eating habits control me. I stopped thinking about food every second of every day, which was the complete opposite to how I used to be in high school. In high school, food and ways to curb my appetite were all I thought about. When I started taking my life into my own hands, food wasn’t top of mind anymore. I was more focused on building my career and realized I don’t have anyone else to impress but myself.
I know that is not the answer anyone wants to hear, the “oh it just happened” response. The truth is, getting into my personal recovery didn’t just happen. I had to struggle for a really long time, but one day after going through some rough things, I stopped caring about my appearance in the unhealthy ways like I used to. I stopped obsessing over something that never made me happy in the first place. No matter what I was never happy with the result and I think finally realizing that really took me away from that sick lifestyle.
I also realized how easy it is to gain weight back once you lose it. This scared me a lot and was a big indicator of how harmful my old habits were. I knew that it was not a good path to be on for the long run and starving myself would never last. I envied the people who had a normal healthy lifestyle and a positive relationship with food. I vowed to never take the easy way out with my health again. I knew how skinny I could get, but also knew starving myself was not the way to achieve it. It was time to feel normal again. I probably should’ve gotten help earlier but I was stubborn and didn’t believe I had a problem. I am also the type of person who wants to fix everything for myself. Even when I have a headache, I don’t take Advil because I convince myself it will pass, that’s just who I am. I hope others who are deep into unhealthy eating habits like I was ask for help instead of trying to fix it themselves. Although I made it out on my own, I do wish I sought out help earlier.
To give you a life update, today I still fluctuate a lot. I go in and out of my healthy lifestyle, I become obsessed with working out and will lose a bunch of weight by eating healthy and the right portions, but then I give up and cheat for a little. While I always find it hard to get out of that hole, the “oh I already ate bad, so I can keep doing it” cycle, it catches up to me.
The problem I really struggle with now is getting my body back to healthy habits. Because I ruined my body for so long with starvation tactics, now anytime I eat anything unhealthy, I gain weight instantly. It is so so easy for me to gain weight now that I really can’t have cheat days yet (even though I do!). As of now, I really am trying to nurse my body back to normal so that I don’t have to be scared of cheat days… it’s really hard! But with all that said, I am very proud to say that I have not gone back to my old habits since 2016 and for me that is a prize in itself. May this year be the next step in my journey to love myself and my body and get a stable healthy lifestyle. And to anyone else dealing with similar issues, I hope you can find a lifestyle that works for you, too.
Feel free to ask my any questions in the comments and I will do a Q and A soon!