Some days, I look in the mirror, and I think I look too thin. Some days, I think I’ve lost control and gained a ton of weight. Rarely do I look in the mirror and enjoy what I see. Whenever I analyze my body, it’s never with a positive outcome. However, when I just roll with my day and not focus on my body, I feel good about myself. Having good or bad body image days are no longer relevant to my life because I’ve found that the more I stay away from observing my body, the better I feel. So I do just that. I try not to dwell on what I look like any more than I need to.
If you have struggled or are currently struggling with an eating disorder, there are is the chance that you might have body dysmorphia.
Aren’t sure? Here are some of the warning signs:
- frequently examining yourself in the mirror (upwards of 30 times a day or an accumulation of over an hour).
- constantly comparing yourself to others around you, calling out your imperfections and glorifying others’ bodies.
- avoiding social gatherings and functions.
- avoiding photos taken of you.
- experiencing high anxiety.
- engaging in compulsive behavior as a means of controlling your body.
If any of these symptoms sounds familiar to your own life experience, please take this free online screening that can help assess whether you might have body dysmorphic disorder. It’s only 9 questions. Fast, simple, and to the point. It can then lead you to multiple resources if necessary.
Recently, I had a streak of 3-4 days in a row of poor, poor body image. This is rare for me now. I felt disheartened. I’m 3 years into recovery now. Shouldn’t I be passed this?
Feeling a little concerned, I took the BDD screening. My score could show whether this bout of bad body image indicated something worse was going on. I wanted to know if this was a pattern. I wanted to know if this was serious, so I felt- better safe than sorry.
Out of a maximum total of 72 points, I scored a 29. According to the scale on the site, I fell into the category of “unlikely to have BDD.” However, had I scored one more point, giving me a total of 30, I would have fallen under the category of “may have BDD.” If I recall what I learned in my high school statistics course correctly, that one point is meaningless. I just as easily could have scored a 30.
In reflection, I don’t think I have BDD. Today, I feel perfectly fine! It comes and goes. It’s strange how our minds work. I do think I struggle with day that my body image is severely poor though, and that is not something I want to let continue while I stand idly by.
I am making a commitment to self-love and body positivity. Below are some steps I am implementing in my life, many of which I’ve already mentioned in separate posts here on the blog, but I’m consolidating them in this post to make it a clear, useful resource.
Any insults that come to mind, I want you to write them out on a piece of paper. Allow those thoughts to exist on the page. Acknowledge that those thoughts are illogical. Take as much time here as you need. Then, cross them out. Cross them out physically with a pen. Cross them out violently, voraciously, forcefully.
Replace these thoughts, these insults, these lies with a true compliment you believe in. That is the key. Don’t fill those gaps in with other lies because that will only devalue your self-worth further. You have to find something in yourself that you admire. Something that you like. Start small, but grow in that confidence.
It might sound like a time suck to take the time to write the thoughts out only to cross them out. But this extra step is why it works. You can’t just do this exercise in your head. It’s not enough. Writing it down makes it more real.
Talk About It
I don’t know about you, but rarely ever do I turn to my friends and say, “Hey, I feel like my stomach looks huge today.” Even though, oftentimes, that is precisely where my poor body image stems from. Why don’t I say something? I am SO open about my eating disorder, but I have a hard time verbalizing when I feel crapy about my body. Why is that?
To me, that statement sounds like I am fishing for a compliment. I know that’s not necessarily true, but that’s how I feel when that comment comes to mind. I’m trying to stop thinking in this way. I know, because my friends are wonderful, that they will immediately refute. So I figure, why bother?
Just like with the journal activity, you have to get the thoughts out of your head. Disordered thoughts only have power in your mind. Once said aloud, they have to fight against rationale. Here, they are weakened and subservient.
It’s okay to need reassurance from loved ones. You are recovering from an eating disorder. Let me rephrase that: You are recovering from a fatal mental illness. Please do not ever forget how incredible of a feat that is. Recovery will be one of the hardest and longest battles of your life. I know the majority of us tend to downplay our recovery in our lives offline, but I urge you to step out of that habit.
Dress for Yourself
I get it. Bodysuits are all the rage. Trust me. I live in San Diego, crop top capital of the world. Everyone here wears booty shorts. Me? Anytime after my first meal of the day I am vastly uncomfortable with displaying my midsection. I am not about to sacrifice my recovery to societal ideals. I’ll happily stick to my sundresses and flannel shirts.
Find your own personal style that’s a collaboration of comfort and fashion, if that’s important to you. Don’t let others dictate how you dress. You should always wear what feels good, mentally and physically. Don’t leave the house in an outfit that 1) doesn’t fit you and 2) doesn’t fit your personality. Wear the right size. Wear what is right for who you are.
Don’t Weigh Yourself
I haven’t weighed myself in about a year. The first month was rough. I felt tempted by the scale at the gym every time I was there. I stuck with it though. Now? It doesn’t even cross my mind.
If I really wanted, I could estimate my weight, but there is no need. I am menstruating. I am not restricting calories to maintain this weight. I feel good. There is no need to weigh myself.
Weighing myself used to cause me so much anxiety. Regardless of the number, good or bad, I felt obligated by this crutch of my disorder. Ridding myself of this unnecessary burden was, by far, one of the best hurdles for my recovery to overcome.
Smash your scale. Feel empowered. Don’t let a number decide your life. You’ll never find happiness here. Keep repeating that to yourself until you believe it. You will one day believe it. You will.
Feed Yourself Well
Eat healthy. Not restrictively, but just in a way that makes you feel good. If you hate spinach, don’t eat it. If you like carrots, eat them! If you want ice cream because it’s a glorious 82 degrees out and you’re in the mood for a treat, grab a scoop or two!
Eat well and eat enough. Eat a variety of foods. Don’t get stuck in food ruts. Pick out food that you both want and makes you feel good. Eat often. Keep your mood alive.
Respect your body. The first step in respecting your body is taking care of it. Honor and love your body. If you don’t love your body right now, that is okay. Make the commitment to start working toward that love today.
Contemplate your self-worth. What aspects of your identity do you value most that are irrelevant to your body. You are a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a friend, a parter. Focus on those identities by nurturing those relationships. Take time out to kindle those connections. Spend time with others. My bad days tend to happen for me on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, when I’m primarily by myself.
Are you a reader? Pick up a new novel- I will happily recommend a few. Are you a writer? Here are some creative writing prompts. Open up a draft on word doc and see where your mind takes you. Are you an artist? Sharpen those pencils and sketch the first thing that grabs your attention. Don’t know/have a particular hobby right now? Try gardening, geocaching, poetry, knitting, volunteer, advocate, take a new class, cook, yoga.
Remember, body image is something everyone grapples with. We all have to deal with it. No one is immune to the struggle of not liking what you see in the mirror. Eating disorders amplify the plaguing thoughts. We don’t have to succumb. We can fight back. We can stand up. We can heal.
Questions of the Day:
- Tell me something you LOVE about yourself?
- Describe your personal style in three words/phrases. <– for me, it’s sundresses, flannel shirts, and leggings.
- What’s your relationship like with the scale?