Topic Tuesday: Body Image

“Bikinis, Body Image, and The Beach” (By: Anonymous)

2 years ago.

That was the last time I walked across the sandy shores of the beach in Destin, Florida.

It was also only a couple of months after I started treatment for my eating disorder.

When I think back to that trip, I honestly don’t remember much. My mind was still very much consumed by my eating disorder, counting calories, and manipulating my weight.

I don’t remember what we did during our days at the beach, what the water was like, what movies we watched, what games we played, what restaurants we went to…nothing. I spent a week with my family and cannot remember most of what we did together–that’s a hard pill to swallow.

That’s what eating disorders do, they take away your life from you.

I do very specifically remember feeling incredibly lonely and unlovable on that trip.

I was unable to separate myself from my eating disorder. Everything felt like it was my fault, and I didn’t know how to break free from it. I felt a lot of shame about the situation that I was in, and guilt about how much treatment was costing my family. I wanted to recover, for everything to go back to normal. Yet at the same time, I didn’t. I didn’t want to restore any weight. I didn’t want to eat a normal amount of food. I wanted to exercise again for hours upon end. I felt like no one I personally knew was facing this battle, and that others couldn’t possibly understand what was going on in my head. I wanted to hold on to my eating disorder without facing any of the negative physical and psychological consequences that accompanied it – which I now know is impossible.

I was a few sizes smaller than I am now but my body image was severely damaged. Funny how that works, isn’t it? One would think that the smaller/more “socially acceptable” one’s body is, the easier it would be to have self-confidence. That’s not the case.

I constantly thought about what I wanted to change, how I was going to change it, and what I needed to do to make it happen. I restricted my intake and overexercised to maintain a weight that my body was never intended to be – and I was completely miserable.

I now know that body image isn’t based on what you look like on the outside. I thought that if I lost weight and changed my body that I would be happier – but it was the opposite. Instead, I was lonely, insecure, and fixated on losing more weight. Enough was never enough. The body that I desperately wanted was stealing my peace and costing me a lot.

It’s impossible to cultivate a positive body image while simultaneously dieting and engaging in eating disorder behaviors.

It takes gratitude, self-compassion, and time to get to a place where you accept your body for what it is and trust that it will do it’s best to take care of you – regardless of what your weight is.

After two years of solid recovery, painful progress, cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, growth, victory, and transformation, I am now in a much better place.

Last week I ventured off to a beach town just outside of Destin with my husband and his side of our family.

This trip was different.

I didn’t feel the constant urge to body check in the mirror and criticize my body.

I ate what I wanted when I wanted it – honoring my hunger and fullness while still enjoying a wide variety of foods, from chips and burgers on the grill to freshly cut watermelon.

I was able to incorporate mindful, joyful movement – from walking on the beach to playing volleyball.

I was able to be still and relax.

But most importantly, I was able to be fully present with my family – fully free from my eating disorder. And that is something I won’t ever forget.