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What to Remember About Body Image

 

 

Last summer, I was the thinnest I’ve ever been to. I fit into anything I wanted to wear. I felt somewhat confident in my bikinis, and I took pictures of myself in my bedroom mirror. I was also starving myself, and it was difficult for me to walk from the beach to the condo beneath the blistering sun without wobbling from exhaustion and dehydration. Even though I knew I was thin, I always found pieces of myself I didn’t like and would resolve to lose more weight. It took several months of therapy for me to admit that I had major body image issues, and was spiraling into an eating disorder. 

This summer, I am writing from the same condominium. I am at least ten pounds heavier. My clothes are a little tighter, and I have cellulite on my thighs, booty, and tummy. When I arrived at the airport, I told my boyfriend that I am living my “Fat Summer.” I’ve only now realized that sexist lies have woven their way into my own vocabulary, and I voice hatred towards my natural body. I eat food now and have thus gained a healthy amount of weight. But my body insecurities have persisted. 

Women are particularly predisposed to body image disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and body dysmorphic disorder. We are inundated constantly with images of perfect bodies and are often taught that our bodies determine our value. Body shaming is rampant, and often, certain body types are glamorized, while others are tarnished. I grew up feeling pressure to look perfect, to eat less than my male counterparts, to be sexy, but not slutty, and to cater myself to the male gaze. Those demands were so toxic that they spawned my disordered eating habits. Many of my friends struggle similarly. 

I have learned that I cannot love others well if I do not love myself. Part of self-love is acceptance and tenderness towards your body. It is a recognition that you are valuable and beautiful in your own skin. It is understanding that much of the hatred many women feel for their bodies is nothing more than sexist and arbitrary social standards woven into our daily lives. 

This summer, though we are in the middle of a pandemic, those who struggle with their body image will be particularly vulnerable to poor mental health. Here are a few things to remind yourself of when you are feeling low. 

  1. Beauty is more than physical. Your intelligence, joy, kindness, compassion, artistry, and so many other things exemplify the beauty of your character and personality. 
  2. Health looks different for everybody. There are so many different body types in the world, and health is not one-size-fits-all. 
  3. You are valuable because you are human. Your body does not make you valuable. You have innate value because you are human, worthy of love, and respect. 

My journey with my own body image is far from over. As I learn to love myself regardless of my size, I hope that my story and these tips will help you grow to love yourself, too. What are some ways that you have learned to love your body more? 

12 comments

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  • My order came in the mail today and I’ve been so excited for it, looking forward to it and I love the clothes but when I tried them on I felt really bad about myself and how I looked. So I guess I’ve been seeking some sort of validation or advice on how to deal with poor body image days. I’m 2 years recovered from an ED but there are still things that trigger those bad thoughts in my mind—like trying on new clothes that don’t look as good on me as I had hoped. I’ve accepted that my body is different from what our culture considers beauty and for the most part I’m okay with that because it feels cruel to hate something that is living and breathing and doing all this work to keep me alive, this beautiful body full of life that I am stupidly tempted to starve and hate. Reading this article helped. It’s not always what I want to hear, but it’s true: there are so many other things that are more important than physical appearance. Like the fact that I am healthy and alive and able to help and love others, able to put positive energy into the universe. It’s good to put it in perspective. It’s good not to put so much weight on appearance, to care less about how I look and more about how I feel. I still feel icky about how I look in your amazing clothes but I think with a bit of time I’ll be able to focus less on how I think I look and more on how the clothes make me feel, like someone who’s fun and soft and lovely and worthy.

    Elise
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  • Idk if anyone is going to see my comment , but as someone who is currently struggling with ED and has been for the past 5 years. This article was a refreshing read. I don’t think this topic is talked about enough, and often time we are praised for shrinking our bodies to un maintainable sizes..If any girl who is struggling with ED is reading this, just know u are not alone , and together we will get through this one step at a time!

    Nicole
  • Thank you for this post and also thanks to the comments, this really helps a lot :)

    Antonia
  • it’s a bit comforting knowing i’m not the only one who struggles with body image :) i also love how you wrote that every body is different and it’s not a one size fits all situation!

    kaitlyn
  • thank you for sharing your story :) I have struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. I have been underweight for the majority of my life. I have always been told I was “too skinny” and that I need to eat more meat. But in the end, the only opinion that matters is my own. and I will always love my body, even when I’m not at my best because love allows growth ♡

    chae
  • thank you for talking about it. ♡

    O.B.
  • thanks for sharing a powerful story anna. it means a lot especially because i struggle with my body image and it has been bad during quarantine. this post motivated me to get better though.

    wish you and everyone else struggling with this good luck.

    Alyssa

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