The first step in promoting a healthy body image is developing one.
I’ve been either underweight or in the lower range of normal BMI for most of my life, and while I’ve several female friends who are naturally skinny and know that for some maintaining a low weight really is natural and effortless, for me that was never natural nor effortless. Most of my relatives are overweight and if I didn’t watch what I eat, I’d be gaining weight all the time. Following a paleo diet consisting of only unprocessed food and all carbohydrates coming from berries and vegetables makes it easy for me to maintain a normal healthy weight these days though, and I think for the first time in my life I’m a natural weight for my body… the weight my body seems to go to naturally when I eat healthy and don’t keep myself in hunger (which I’ve done for most of my life, so not having to be hungry all the time is luxury to me).
I know I can have the body I’d ideally want to have – I’ve achieved and maintained it in the past. But the way to get that body is just insanity – here’s one example day of my food and exercise journal from the time I had the body I’d still prefer to have:
In the morning:
HIIT (running intervals) 20 minutes
pilates class 60 minutes
During the day:
rollerblading 120 minutes
In the evening:
biking 40 minutes
show jumping 120 minutes
1277 kcals – carbs 42 g, fats 60 g, proteins 120 g
I had exactly the body I wanted… and had chronic insomnia because of hunger, was constantly daydreaming of food, and didn’t have my periods. I’m sure that kind of a body is natural for some people… but obviously it isn’t for me.
This is a much bigger and deeper problem for me than the usual body image issues almost every teenager typically goes through – I had those too and I’m over them. The issues I still have are something I’ve had since I was around three years old – and I’ll soon be 24. They have nothing to do with fashion, models, celebrities, or anything like that… but I have to figure out what they are about. I have to start embracing the way my body is naturally instead of forcing it to be something that is unhealthy for me.
This is not just to help myself… if I’m ever to have children of my own, or otherwise have a close relationship with children, I know from experience that it doesn’t matter what I tell them but what I show them. My mother had an extremely unhealthy relationship with her body and I think I largely copied it from her and it didn’t make a difference what she spoke aloud… only what kind of an example she set and how she treated herself and her body. I’ve no doubts that my children would copy this from me too no matter how hard I’d try to hide it and tell them to love their bodies and themselves. It just doesn’t work that way.
I’m more relieved and happier than I can express to be able to say that I don’t have anorexia anymore – there were times beating it seemed completely insurmountable and I didn’t think I could do it, yet I did it. In all honesty I don’t know how I’m going to overcome the rest of the issues I still have left, but I’m sure I’ll find a way even though I don’t see it clearly right now… seeing where I am right now is the first step and I don’t need to know yet how to get where I want to be.
I know it must sound silly to 99,9% of other people, but this is seriously the biggest psychological barrier I’ve ever had to overcome. Things like my mother’s death and my own health issues (and because of them having to overcome my fear of death) have felt easier to deal with, in a way, than this. But I need to finally deal with this and leave it behind once and for all.