We are born and raised in a society where we all have the same vision of beauty and of the perfect body. We strive to conform to that picture, and when we are unsuccessful, we become extremely hard on ourselves and attempt many different strategies to reach it — exercise, diet, make-up, even surgery.
It all began when my physique transformed from skin and bones to curves and muscles. Pants began fitting snugger, and my inner thigh gap gradually turned from existent to nonexistent. It seemed I became an expert at doing the “jean dance” to work the stiff denim up my legs. Shopping for clothes went from being a favorite pastime to becoming an unenjoyable and depressing chore. It didn’t help that the stores mannequin displays stood tall with perfect features, accentuating long limbs, and extreme thinness.
I cursed at the sight of anything that depicted the thin ideal—whether that was a mannequin or a real person. I was straight up jealous to be quite honest. I only dreamt of grabbing a pair of jeans to take into the fitting room, look in the mirror, and have them look as good on me as they do the mannequin. How could I not develop body image issues? My legs are short, my thighs are muscular (a nicer way of saying bigger), and I have a butt.
Not only did I equate thinness with health, but worse, I equated it with happiness. I used to see someone who I deemed thin and attractive, and declare them as happy. How could they not be? The one thing I always seemed distressed about was my figure; and if it was attractive and desirable to others. I used to say that my one wish would be to be taller and skinny for just one day. I wouldn’t have to worry about my thighs rubbing together, which clothing pieces were “flattering,” and I would just be beautiful and carefree.
Well, I didn’t grow taller, but, I definitely dwindled in weight. Though my initial intent was just to reach my potential in physical fitness for my sport, it developed into an eating disorder. I, ultimately, starved myself, exercised excessively, and washed away pounds by the day. Needless to say, I attained thinness; but lacked body, richness, and strength. Perceived happiness based on body type proved to be an illusion, after all.
I’m not saying that all skinny people have an eating disorder, and, therefore, are not happy. But, what I learned from having an eating disorder is that thinness does not necessarily parallel bliss. When I was underweight, I was able to wear jeans in a size I had only ever dreamt. I found it easier to shop because shirts conformed to my bony, skeletal body, and the array of styles that were flattering seemed endless.
I was miserable. Depressed. Irritable. Withdrawn. Uncomfortably cold. And, all I was able to think about was food, my body, and exercise. Clearly, being thin did not result in what I imagined.
I soon came to the realization that I was significantly happier and healthier at a higher weight and more athletic look than the mannequins. Depriving myself of food and losing a great deal of weight didn’t get me anywhere except to an unhealthy and unhappy state of mind. Was being the ideal thin worth it? I always saw those who appeared skinny to have no worries or stressed — and, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We are all unique, in that our shapes and sizes differ. But, we all have a body type that when scrutinized with has the potential to be harmful to our body and mind.
Too many of us strive to become a perfect, skinny appearing model. Our health dictates our happiness — not our weight. And, that means exercising regularly, but not excessively, and maintaining a healthy diet consisting of all types of food and treats—in moderation.
I learned this valuable lesson the hard way, and I am sharing in hopes of preventing someone else from going down the path I took to reach self-awareness and truth. So, as we are entering into the holiday season, don’t be so hard on yourself. Enjoy the parties, the food, and the company. It’s about authenticity. I work everyday at being real. And, being me.