Three years ago, I began not eating. I stopped eating lunch and eventually dinner. People noticed the results almost immediately and began to comment on how good and “healthy” I looked. To be honest, I cannot give you an exact reason as to why it started. Maybe it was stress or maybe it was the bullying, but whatever the reason was, it never stopped playing in the back of my mind and it would not let me ever be hungry.
“Just eat,” people would tell me as if it were that easy. After months of starving myself, I could never “just eat.” Each day, I would get down a meal, maybe two, but even that would be difficult. I refused any lunch, brunch, or dinner hangout. I would be offered food at parties, which I proceeded to avoid at all costs. I would not eat in front of people and to this day, I still find it hard. I have to be with someone I feel totally comfortable with or I will not finish my meal, and sometimes I cannot even start it.
After starving myself for months, my weight dropped dramatically. I felt that I would still never be good enough at my current body weight, so I would eat less and less each day, until eventually I was only eating a single granola bar per day to keep myself going. I went from the average body weight for someone my age and height to being unhealthily underweight. Even then, I would still breakdown looking at myself in the mirror.
The crazy thing about body dysmorphia is that it really messes with your mind. One night, I was looking at myself in the mirror and burst out into tears because I perceived my figure as boxy and I thought I looked extremely undesirable. That night, I talked to my boyfriend at the time, but never mentioned the true reason I was upset, so he never really knew what was going on. We were on the phone for hours that night and the next morning I woke up and my body looked so much better, desirable even, and my curves were well-defined. Nothing changed. I did not miss a meal or make myself throw up. That was simply a trick played on me by my brain that depended on the mood I was in. This made me feel helpless and insecure. I thought I would never be satisfied with myself and could never feel at peace with my body until I was “skinny.”
After months of battling these feelings, I noticed I was slowly dipping back into a state of constant depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, even getting panic attacks during these moments, and it was affecting my mood constantly. It was hard for me to go to work or hang out with friends. You always hear the saying “you can’t love anyone until you love yourself first,” and I can truly say that is completely true. I felt as though I had to hide my body every time that I left the house, and I was noticing the impact that my self-hate was having on the people who care about me. It was then that I knew something had to change.
I started going back to therapy with my counselor, I got back into a healthy workout routine, and changed my diet to make sure I was getting all the necessary nutrients to make my body healthy and strong again. I knew that starving myself was not the answer anymore. I first started with changing my makeup, hair, even my style, but I knew that would not work since I genuinely liked my everyday grooming process, especially my personal style, as this form of self-expression is one of the biggest parts of who I am. I never thought a new routine and my health improvement would do anything. I needed to love myself and I still struggled. I tried looking up self-care practices and while those were relaxing, they were not giving me what I was looking for.
I knew I needed to change my ways in a manner that research alone would not help, and that people just could not understand. My friends would respond with compliments and support which was really kind, don’t get me wrong, but it was impossible for me to internalize what they were saying. I knew people who battled with low self-esteem, but I truly felt no one could help me. Then, after all of this I finally learned what was right in front of me.
The secret to finding self-love? You have to find yourself first. I was spending time with people I loved in an attempt to improve my mood and that did not work. To change this, I found exciting and new things to do. I visited old friends I had not seen in a long time and visited Toronto, which is a symbol of so many happy memories and big dreams. I began feeling better and more myself. I make YouTube videos and run a podcast, so I got back into filming those and began producing more content. I continued to work out, hit my weight goal, and began lifting heavier weights as I felt myself thoroughly getting stronger, a feeling that I have not felt about my body in a long time. I was reconnecting with the life that I love and the person that I am.
There is no exact solution to solving self-esteem issues and battling with body dysmorphia is not quickly fixed. It takes work every single day. Taking time for yourself and reconnecting with internal characteristics about yourself rather than analyzing physical attributes will lead you down the right path.
While I still battle with eating and self-esteem, I have improved. I can look in a mirror and feel happy about myself. I can set new goals and train harder to get stronger. I can film videos without breaking down looking at myself in clips. I do not have to hide my body in shame. The road was long, but things are looking up and seem to hold a prosperous result in the future. Those feelings of judgement I felt before are irrelevant to my journey now. I stay clear of any toxic people. I removed negative influences from my life and began focusing on my recovery instead of worrying what everyone else thinks. I honestly did not think I could even do that before, but the older I get, the more I realize what I need to stress about and what I really don’t.
So the truth? Maybe nobody would understand your truth, but that does not mean they can’t. Having an eating disorder should not be desired. It does not make you look “better” and makes you sicker than you can imagine. Do not make the mistake I did, but instead, choose a healthier journey and focus on you to truly feel better in your own skin and with yourself in general. After all, you cannot love anyone else and be happy until you love yourself first.