For as long as I can remember I cringed at the pulsing lyrics “oooh, gurl look at that body’” of LMFAO’s song Gurl Look at That Body. I didn’t want to be “that body” that everyone was looking at!
Our culture places far too much importance on the body, the “packaging,” our exteriors. Call it what you will, at the end of the day we all (if we are fortunate to live long enough) end up as saggy, prune-like versions of our younger selves sitting in a wooden box 10 feet underground. No one wants to spend time looking at “THAT body.”
So why then is the body idolized in our culture. Why is youth, and tight, toned skin a moral issue? If we’re all going to end up eventually shriveling up in a box, 10 feet under, why do we seek after the secret to ageless beauty like it’s the cure for cancer? My personal belief is that our inability to let go of youth and societal beauty standards is rooted in fear.
Or at least it has been for me. I vividly remember when I began my first diet. I was about 11 years old. Due to my weight being a bit too high in my pediatric growth chart, my pediatrician suggested that I cut down on the sweets. My well meaning parents, understanding the difficulty of asking an 11 year old to avoid sweets decided to incentivize me. We shook on a deal in which I would earn $200 at the end of the year if I didn’t eat candy or drink soda.
After 12 months I became $200 richer, however other baggage that was not agreed upon came with the money. Mainly, food had gained a sense of morality. Foods that were not sugary were deemed as good. Foods with high sugar content were deemed as bad. This may seem like old news, but when I ate these bad foods I believed I was morally wrong or bad. When I ate the foods that were good, I believed that I was a better person. Additionally weight gained morality. Weights greater than my personally defined “safe zone” were bad. So, when I was in or under the “safe zone” I was good, but when my weight teetered too close to the edge of the “safe zone” or heaven forbid, I surpassed it, I lost value as an individual in addition to being “bad.”
This my friends, was the beginnings of an eating disorder that would last a decade. Looking back, I find my time living with an eating disorder peculiar. I was constantly lying to and gaslighting myself. Let me give you an example:
Let’s say that I am doing my secret, routine eating disorder weigh in for the morning. Things appear to be in the green. Realizing that I am hungry, I decide to be more “generous” with my otherwise restrictive breakfast. When I return home from school to complete my secret, routine eating disorder weigh in for the afternoon, I discover, to my horror that I am off track! So I engage in compensatory behaviors to bring my weight down. By the evening, my anxiety around my weight has left me absentmindedly completing my homework. By the end of the night, I secretly weigh in again and find that I am back on track. I go to bed hungry only to begin the cycle over again in the morning.
This went on for 10 years! It wasn’t until I discovered that my private “health practices,” (quotes are there to emphasize that what I was doing was in no way healthy for my body) were not normal. It took an angelic nutrition professor to help me to see how my behaviors were slowly killing my body.
Eventually I decided through fatigue or courage, that I needed to stop this monster of an eating disorder from consuming me. So, I asked for help. I sought treatment at an Eating Disorder Recovery Center. I stayed I total of 6 months on their 24-hour-care acute unit. Then I completed 4 months of partial hospitalization work. I share these units of time with you to illustrate that healing takes time!
Today, I still work weekly with my team to deepen my healing from my eating disorder. There are still hard days. And no, I don’t miraculously love the lyrics “Oooh girl, look at that body,” after living in recovery for four years.
However, the days in which I am “feeling rouge” are increasing. Genuinely, I like who I am. Even though my body is not ideal, I can look past my stretch marks and flab and simply enjoy life. After all, aren’t we on this planet to learn contentment? Sooner or later, things will start sagging and wrinkles will come. I hope that I can use the rest of my life to “feel rouge.” To be present in life and to experience each day fully. I’ve already wasted a decade and I don’t know how much more of those I have ahead.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to forget all about the look of “that body” and focus on enjoying life in color!
Annie is willing to support you on your mental health journey. Email her at email@example.com for additional support!