Friday, July 5, 2013

Body Image & All That Jazz

This is a post I've been mulling over for a couple of days and thinking of how to approach. It's been prompted because people keep picking up on little nuggets in the blog and asking me questions, so I thought I might as well address everything here in an honest and factual manner. It's about to get real up in here, so grab a snuggie and some ice cream water and let's see what happens.

This may be a trigger post, so feel free to skip the red text below 
to the happier, more positive green text. =) 

I suppose the best place to start is with my eating disorder.

Well, "under control" eating disorder is more appropriate.

Anyone who's ever had an eating disorder of any variety knows that it never really goes away. You learn to overcome it 98% of the time, but with the occasional yearn for your former vice or the even more rare slip back into bad habits.

I became bulimic when I was about 16, and we had a fast and heavy kind of relationship. I remember watching a Lifetime movie starring Calista Flockhart and a binge/purge struggle which ended up killing a friend of hers in college. 

As a naive 16 year old who basically felt worthless and had 0 self-esteem, my first thought was, "Does that really work?". I traipsed into the bathroom and it started a downward spiral that culminated in a habit so crippling that I eventually couldn't keep a smoothie down. I was purging my food 9+ times a day, taking apple cider vinegar pills I'd purchased on the DL from GNC, and the food I was eating was along the lines of steamed cauliflower with spray butter or a pack of pop tarts that I would make last for breakfast and lunch.


I was a sick, sick little girl. 


My initial recovery attempt began at the end of an emotionally terrible relationship I was in, when I finally confessed to my mom what had been going on. She said her and my dad had been planning on asking me soon anyway. 

It's amazing how transparent you are when you think you're so sly.

I was then essentially put under a 24-hour watch. Well, let's be fair, I didn't feel watched when I was asleep, and I was never a girl that threw up into containers in her room, so it wasn't a necessary measure. I started therapy, I wasn't allowed to go places by myself anymore, I was forced to clean my plate at every meal, I would be yelled for every few seconds if I went to the upstairs bathroom and my family was downstairs. I hated* my parents for a little while, since I didn't really want help. I thought I did, but I was mad that this mechanism which worked so easily was taken away from me. I had lost ~35 lbs in a month. For a girl that had struggled with weight loss for 4+ years already, bulimia was a sweet release to a daily problem of being "too fat" and "unlovable" because she was overweight. 

Perpetual throwing up is gross. It really is. It ruins your body. It softens the enamel in your teeth, it can wreak havoc on your esophagus, your reproductive organs… My teeth are more sensitive to hot/cold where they weren't before. I didn't have my menstrual cycle for 5 years, and it's only been in the last year that it has started to regulate itself again. OK, not having "Aunt Flo" is awesome, but not when it's compounded by a doctor telling you that you may not be able to have children. 

So let's fast forward to college. My eating disorder wasn't as bad as it had been initially, but I still snuck "quickies" in when I could. However, having 5 roommates will make such things much harder. I talked to my RA, my RD, friends… But no one could help. I didn't want help. I wanted to be thin. 

Because being "thin" meant I'd be beautiful, worthy, that I would be sexy, and "most importantly", that guys would like me. Being "thin" meant I'd have guys cat-calling me instead of yelling insults like "fat a**" (this happened on multiple occasions), and that I wouldn't have to go to a separate section in the store from my friends. Being "thin" meant I wouldn't have snobby Macy's employees looking down their nose at me as I asked for their plus-size prom dresses, and that I could actually try on said prom dresses with my friends instead of being the requisite photog (this also happened). 

I'm not going to give you more details, because frankly you've got enough at this point, and I want to move to the positive side of what's happened since.


(Hey! Welcome back, for those of you that skipped the red. I don't blame you. Depressing crap up there.)

My bulimia was a product of an even deeper issue, which was my terrible self-esteem. I basically hated and resented my body from when I was 6 until, well, 21. 

Let that sink in for a second. 


I was in 1st grade when I learned to hate my body.

I only began to love myself at the end of yet another relationship. This guy wasn't emotionally abusive, he was actually quite nice, but we were just a terrible match for each other. Beyond that though, I'd spent 2.5 years of my life finding my identity in him and our relationship. My bulimia was a fluid thing at the time (ew, no pun intended); it came and went with good and bad days. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a key factor my faith in God has been in this. It's just the fact of the matter that I had to find my identity in God and who I was as a woman of faith.

I am happy to report that it never got to the 9+ times a day it had been at when I was in high school. 

So since 2007 I've been on an epic quest to love myself, and more importantly love my body. Rarely do I purge like I used to. Maybe once a year? Twice at most? As I said, it's rare, and I don't let those weak moments rule my life like they used to. I've learned that despite what the media will insist upon, there are no magic pills that will make me lose the weight I've carried for so long. There's nothing I can do, outside of lipo (which frankly is just too much money), to make this weight disappear as quickly as I may wish it would. 

For awhile I had resolved to just be fat and happy. Nothing wrong with that, right? 

Well, no, nothing wrong per se, but I still wanted to be healthy. There are "fat" people who are as healthy as they come. I wasn't healthy. I've been swing dancing now for 3.5 years, and that's been a great source of exercise. I've tried healthier lifestyles (vegan, vegetarian, no sugar/caffeine), I've tried different exercises. Regardless of what sticks I'm usually doing something. This time it's all healthy though; I'm not buying apple cider vinegar pills at GNC while looking over my shoulder to make sure my parents don't see me, or leaving a door to the bathroom unlocked in the event someone has to come find me. 

As you've been on this journey with me, you've seen that I've been lifting and adding cardio in. I'm still swing dancing, I'm switching up my diet regularly to keep it interesting, and for the first time ever, I feel like a freaking awesome fat kid

I will confess, part of my crazy excitement over, well, myself, has been finding this blog earlier this week called The Militant Baker. I basically want to be this girl, but me, when I grow up. Well, and sans all the swear words**. Her name is Jes and she's fab-u-lous. She's all about breaking societal norms of beauty, and the girl even rocks a bikini. Oh, and she's a size 18. 

So what if you don't like how she looks in a crop top or bikini? She's got confidence out the wazoo, and she feels awesome. I may or may not have been bouncing around my house like a fool on Wednesday as my roommates stared at me with googly eyes. I was just so excited to have found such an awesome fat kid blogger who loves the crap out of herself and all body types. 

So here we are. I'm 26, on the cusp of getting married, learning to lift weights, doing cardio, eating all kinds of awesome [and healthy!] food, and darnit, I love me. I do. I love my eyes, my hair, my hourglass figure, my shapely legs (I've got awesome calves. It's true.), my badonka-donk***. All of it. It's mine, and I'll work with what I've got.

My fiance loves me in all my pasty glory, and really, what do I care what anyone outside of us thinks of me? Why should I let someone else's crappy philosophy on other people dictate my mood or opinion of myself? Why should I give a rip if you don't want to see my glow-in-the-dark self out on the beach in a bathing suit? It's hot outside, and my bathing suit is adorable and makes me look like a leprechaun. 

I even have my own cabana boy. True story. 
I'm feeling good. I'm not wearing sleeves today in fact. My flabby arms are hanging out, and I don't caaare! I went to the gym, I pumped some iron (BEAST MEEEE!), and ate a small and healthy lunch. I'll go swing dancing tonight to kick some cardio in the teeth, and I'll continue on this exciting journey I'm on. 


What's your favorite part of yourself?? Let's spread some love today!

<3
A Redhead

*Note: My parents are 2 of my best friends and biggest supporters. They are amazing and I wouldn't be where I am now if they hadn't taken care of me like they did when I was younger (and even now).
**Note pt. 2: No judgement, just not my thang. 
**Note pt. 3: Well, OK, I'm learning to love it. My posterior is quite large… 

12 comments:

  1. Ouch. That was hard to read (the red part). Love you boo-bear.

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  2. This makes me want to overcome my personal space issues and give you a HUGE HUG!!! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Well friend that means a lot coming from you! ;-)

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Touching, inspiring and well written. Go you!!

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  4. I love that you are on a journey of self-love first and health second. You've brought to light a lot of body issues that many girls/women struggle with that I never even thought to question. I just assumed it was all a part of being a girl or growing up. You've encouraged me to do a lot of research on weight, body image and healthy eating. You've encouraged me to love myself and my body as well as everyone else and their body.

    We are all created in God's image. We are all beautiful peple and we are all worther of love. No matter what shape we are or what we look like.

    Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey!!

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    1. Way to make me cry, jerk. ;-)

      But seriously I'm glad you feel so encouraged!! That's the whole reason I posted this. I feel like a lot of people just say "oh the bulimia is just a phase", or "oh the self-loathing is just because (s)he is a teenager". Well, that may all be true, but they're just manifestations & cries of help for something deeper.

      Love you friend! <3

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  5. Ashley, I haven't seen you in a while - I haven't made it out to Dulles for while as you know . My whole family has had weight issues all our lives- I weighed 216 at your age after giving birth to my son. You're on the right track but remember that your body established itself over the years to what it is (and may I say there is NOTHING WRONG WITH HOW YOU LOOK) so it will take time for you to change it. Most important is that you've found a better reason than "being thin" to change your body- and that is to be healthy.
    You are a lovely person and I've heard it said that God sends us lessons, the same lessons until we've learned them. Seems as though yours is to love yourself and others, which you always seem to do. And Adrian has adored you from the moment you met. You my dear girl, are a LUCKY person to have such love to give and have. So continue your quest for the right reason and you will be fine. Thin is relative- I've always thought you looked wonderful and love your personality. If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like you! Keep at it slow and steady, you'll have the results you want!
    Robin

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    1. Aw Robin! <3 You are way too sweet madame. It's a painfully slow process, but I'll regret not starting now, next year. I've lost 14" as of today- can you imagine where I'll be in 6 months?!

      Thank you thank you, sweet friend, for your wonderful encouragement. =)

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  6. Wonderful to hear your story!! Thank you for sharing!! I can tell you that you can have hope for 100% recovery...I struggled with anorexia, bulimia and obsessive exercising for over 6 years....(I was sooo sick and never thought in a million years that I would ever be completely free)...but with the Lord's help, then and continually, I can say I have honestly not even struggled with it since 2006!!! Praise the Lord!! He showed me who I am in him and that victory can be found in his strength alone!! Believing for 100% victory for you as well!!! :)

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  7. I'm still bulimic but there's no way in hell I'll ever recover. I guess reading this I see why. I don't have family or friends who care about me and will help me. The only friend I have is bulimia.

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