How Body Dysmorphia Dictated My Body

I don’t remember caring so much when I was younger. I don’t remember caring until my senior year of high school. I had always had insecurities about the love handles I saw in the mirror, but I never felt compelled to do anything about it until fairly recently.

I remember when I had asked an old boyfriend playfully what his type was concerning the size of a girl, to which he responded, “You’re probably the biggest I’d ever go honestly.” When he said this to me, I was 5’7” and weighed 125 pounds. It is beyond me now how I didn’t walk out of his life right then and there. After this, I reached a level of self-awareness that was never there before. All of a sudden, I constantly thought about the way others saw me; I would float out of my body, look at myself in third person, and envision how I looked in the presence of others. I caught myself staring in the mirror before taking showers and pointing out all of the things that were wrong with me. I kept this bottled up for a long time until the need to do these things oddly faded away.

During my freshman year, I had gotten sick with the flu, and because of the fever, I had lost a lot of water weight. After getting better, I noticed my appetite wasn’t the same and I could go one to two days without touching food. The thought of it made me nauseous and I rarely grew hungry for anything. It was very odd. While I didn’t eat, the entire time I felt completely okay. No fatigue, no dizziness, no other symptoms in general. This lasted about two to three months, and, of course, there are consequences to denying your body of nutrition. During this time, I had started going to the gym with my suitemate, who was almost borderline addicted to going and I began to really enjoy it. I surprisingly still had the energy to go about four to five days a week when I barely ate anything. Coming into freshman year, I weighed about 126 pounds and after the few months of this process, I weighed 112 pounds.

When my mother and sister came to visit, my mom was concerned I wasn’t eating enough and because it nearly felt like my body didn’t require nutrition. I assured her I was fine but she continued to worry and, looking back, there was an obvious reason to.

This is not a story about weight loss or the unintentionality behind this phenomenon. But while this was happening, my body began looking the way I had always wanted. The little things I always wanted to change about myself had transformed. My figure was slimmer, my thighs didn’t touch, and people close to me noticed the transformation, as well as my sudden increase in confidence. However, during Spring Break, I wasn’t able to go to the gym anymore and couldn’t regain the motivation once I returned to school. My appetite went back to normal and I wasn’t working out, so my body began reverting to the way it was before.

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Upon returning home for the remainder of summer, the first thing my mom said to me was “You look good! Your face had filled out more!” I remember staring back at her, taking it almost as an insult. If she had noticed I was gaining the weight back, was everybody else as well? I know it wasn’t her intention, but this one minuscule comment on my health, which I should have been happy about, practically had me spiraling out of control for the summer.

This is when I ate less and less every day, and what I did eat was significantly healthier than what I was used to. Walking by a mirror, I checked every time whether I was slim from the side anymore and if I still had that figure from the front that I wanted, and the answers were no. I wasn’t slim enough, and the figure looked more like the old me, and not what I wanted to look like. So, I ate less.

I have a friend back home who has struggled with similar problems as I have, and one day I refused to eat anything but maybe cashews that morning and her family ordered Chinese for dinner. I decided to eat a plate, and then another, and then a bowl of ice cream, and then another. After this, not only was I so full of two servings of dinner and dessert, but I was so ashamed of feeling like I had given up. I was doing so well all day not eating and I felt horrible for giving in so dramatically that I went up the stairs of her house, got on my knees in front of the toilet, and shoved two of my fingers to the back of my throat. I purged everything I ate and some stomach fluid until I was empty again. I flushed and ran the sink water as if I was washing my hands, but instead rinsed the horrible taste of battery acid from my lips while gulping down water.

My lowest point was when I took pictures with the same friend and I wanted to use an app to change the way my body looked in them. When she asked me to send them to her, I had texted and asked her to let me know which ones she wanted to post so I could edit the way I looked in them. After hitting send, I immediately regretted it and wished I could have taken it back realizing how ridiculous I sounded. She texted me back telling me she wouldn’t encourage that kind of behavior, and to just send ones I wasn’t in. She had reassured me how beautiful I was and how blind I was to it, and that I had nothing to edit because everything I was so worried about were things only I saw.

She and I talked for hours that night about how I had gotten to this place and all the things I felt about how my thighs touched more than they did last week, or how my face wasn’t as angular. She had told me a story of a girl she knew who starved herself for years and continues to do so to this day. This girl, I thought, was so beautiful, and became my idea of perfect. When it was revealed to me that she engaged in the kinds of things I was beginning to do, I was surprised as she always looked so happy and adventurous on social media; but, in reality, was one of the most miserable persons my friend ever knew. This is when she told me something that truly stuck: starving myself and purging was never going to make me happy. There were always going to be things I thought the two of them could fix, and the only way to be truly happy with myself wasn’t changing the way I looked but rather the way I saw myself. People weren’t going to notice the eight pounds and, if they did, they wouldn’t care the way I did.

Everyone’s experience is different, and this may not convey the right message for everyone. Reader, you should not care more about how people see you over how you see yourself. If you want to achieve a certain look, it is important to know how to go about it in a healthy way because while my case was not so severe, it easily could’ve been worse. And while there are still things I would like to change about the way I look, it is much more worthwhile to eat healthier or work out than to starve or purge. It is okay to want to change, but I want to stress the importance of the dark road going about it the wrong way it can lead you down.

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