Just as it is, with all its imperfections? I wish I knew. But despite the fact that I have researched disordered eating and exercise behaviors for over 15 years, I still don’t have the answer. What’s more, I have been in denial about my own body dissatisfaction for years.
Last week, we talked about the Woman in the Mirror. I shared my self-love vow with you. And yes, I have been saying it to myself every day. What I’ve noticed is this: reciting the words is not the problem. Looking at myself in the mirror while I do it is. You see, although I counsel men and women suffering from body dissatisfaction and eating disorders nearly every day, I never bothered to look in the mirror and face my own. My therapist and I have skirted around it. My friends and ex-husband have expressed concern over my thinness over the years, but it was usually in a complementary or joking fashion. I never took it seriously.
Until this past weekend. A friend called me on it. He flat out said, “You have anorexia” and proceeded to read the diagnostic criteria to me. I know the criteria – I spent most of last week writing lectures on eating disorders for my upcoming class on the Psychology of Eating. And, yes, I sort of recognized myself in some of the criteria for anorexia, but not all. I had decided that if I had an eating issue it wasn’t that serious. After all, as a health psychologist and holistic health and lifestyle coach, I am the epitome of health, right?
Wrong. Somewhere along the way I bought into society’s notion that thin was healthy and took it to the extreme. I usually fall within the normal weight for my height, but just barely. I’ve justified continually striving to be borderline underweight by telling myself I was small boned. That I didn’t have a lot to support, so I didn’t need the excess weight. But that’s a lie. While I am small boned, my resistance to gain weight had nothing to do with my bone structure and everything to do with fear.
Fear of being called fat. Fear of having to go up a clothing size or two. Fear of not being thin anymore. Fear of losing control over my eating and not being able to stop. So I have been controlling it, strictly, in the name of health.
This past weekend, I took a cold, hard long at my relationship with food and exercise. Do I calorie restrict? Not intentionally. But I am vegan and gluten-free. Veggies don’t have a lot of calories. Do I exercise too much? Not anymore. But, that is a problem I dealt with in the past and I am cognizant to not go down that road again. It’s a constant struggle, especially with my recent decision to join a gym again. Do I eat enough to sustain me? Quite frankly, no.
At the end of the day Saturday, I had consumed 1400 calories. Based on my weight, height, and activity level, I should be eating at least 2000 calories a day. More on days that I’m active. Oops.
Apparently, I have a problem with my body image. There I said it. And I use food (conscious and unconscious calorie restriction) and exercising more to cope when I’m stressed. I feel oddly free and weighed down at the same time to get this off my chest. It’s a lot of pressure to put on myself. And it hurt like hell when my friend said, “I don’t want you to die of what you’ve been researching all these years.” Ouch.
So I’m coming clean and reaching out for help. Here on the blog, with my friends, my therapist, and my health coach. I’m committed to gaining weight. Yes, that means I’m going to have to eat more – what will likely feel like a lot more. And yes, that will make me uncomfortable. But I owe it to myself. I have been blogging about self-love and self-care for months. What better way to show my love and care for myself than to eat enough to meet my needs and be at a truly healthy weight?
It’s not going to be easy. And I may fall off the wagon a few times, but I know the Goddess has my back and my friends will keep me honest as I embark on a weight gaining journey this Spring. The Goddess has told that March is going to be my month. So I’ve got until then to put on some weight. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.