I didn’t fully realize it at the time. But I totally hated my body.
I only really see it now, as I LOVE my body, fully and completely. Being on the other side of that feeling has helped me fully recognize where I once was and how far I’ve come.
I’ve talked openly before about how I used to workout twice a day (if not more) and track calories. But there’s a darker secret to those times I haven’t been fully honest about.
It all started when I was about 13 years old.
I stepped onto a scale for the first time with an awareness that that number meant something. As a child I know my parents weighed me at intervals to watch my growth. But at this tender adolescent age I stepped on the scale for the first time where I payed attention to the number myself – and got feedback from a friend on how “good” that number was. I weighed 108 pounds. This was apparently very good! Yay! Self esteem boosted and self value affirmed!
I later stepped on the scale when I was about 18 years old. That number had increased to 120. This was still good! I was a child that first time, so I was able to justify the increase and to see that this new number was relative to the fact that I was now all grown up. I imprinted this number into my mind as my adult weight. One I thought I’d have for the rest of my life. Oh to be young and naive!
The next time I stepped on a scale was only 4 years later. At that time I had some friends who were struggling with their weight. I was very aware of my mothers struggles over her life time with her weight. But I had always maintained a false impression of myself, that I weighed 120 pounds and that this number was very, very good.
My whole world shifted when the new number I saw was 145.
According to the BMI index, I was bordering on “overweight”.
This wasn’t good anymore. This was me slipping into being too heavy, and most certainly less of a person. I had identified with a young woman who was acceptable and even ideal in her physical presentation to the world. And now I was beginning to identify with shame towards the body I lived in. I didn’t want to be “fat”, I didn’t want to gain more weight.
So I joined Weight Watchers with my friends.
It was odd. I was still the thinnest woman in the room. But I had been gaining weight and it scared the crap out of me. So here I was now counting points and journaling everything I ate. I lost 20 pounds and became a Lifetime Member.
What no one knew, not my friends, not my Weight Watchers leaders, no one, was how I actually lost those 20 pounds, and so quickly.
I fell into a cycle of binge, then purge.
I would force myself to throw up at least once a day. I would restrict my calories all day long, sit down in front of the TV and eat a big bowl of frozen yogurt, then throw it all right back up. When I over ate, I purged. When I ate “bad” food, I purged. If I went over my points for the day, I purged (even if my last meal had been healthy).
When I met my now ex husband I was 23 years old and weighed 125 pounds. I was acceptable again! But I hated the lack of control I felt over food. I wanted to eat everything, but not gain any weight.
I didn’t know how to eat healthy without feeling restricted. I felt trapped.
Around that time I began to exercise. I had always done some yoga, and walked a lot, but the notion of sweating, and really working my body was new. The more I exercised, the less I purged.
But I was far from loving my body. I simply swapped one unhealthy cycle with another. Now I needed to burn enough calories to counter the calories I was putting into my body. I had an app on my phone and I would track everything, including every step I took, every run, every yoga class and every gym workout. I’d watch the clock to be sure I calculated every MINUTE of exercise, to award myself enough calories I could then eat – or drink. As it was around this time, while working out several times a day, that I began another unhealthy cycle.
With my ex husband we drank alcohol. I was working out to justify the calories that all that wine and beer represented.
I was now stuck in a miserable cycle.
I was still pretty thin. But I wanted to be thinner. With how much I worked out I thought I should be less curvy, more svelte. I wished I was stronger. More flexible. Faster. The cycle wasn’t just how I built my days.
The cycle I was stuck in was all about how I was simply never enough.
I would analyze my body in the mirror. I would covet smaller clothing sizes. I would injury my body as I worked out harder.
Then something changed. Something shifted. Around the same time that my marriage ultimately ended, I began to see myself in a very different way.
I began to see that I was worth more than this.
That this secret life I had was making me miserable. That I was tired of striving so hard to be someone else.
Stay tuned next week for more on my story as I pulled through to the other side to loving my body.
My home yoga studio, HappyTree Yoga, is hosting a really interesting workshop on Yoga, Food & Body Image with Chelsea Roff October 23-25th. If you’re in the Montreal area I highly recommend you check it out. Learn more and register here.
Please share with me your stories in the comments below!