The other day I received an email from a reader that hit me hard. It echoed so many of the same thoughts and beliefs I had at her age. But more importantly, I think so many of us echo these same thoughts and beliefs – at any age.
If you’ve ever felt like your body was holding you back, your body wasn’t good enough, or your disordered relationship with food and your body image was taking over, keep reading. This one is for you.
THE QUESTION (names removed to preserve anonymity)
I am a 19 year old girl who has been plagued with disordered eating and anxiety since I was in sophomore year of high school (around 15 years old). I have gone through phases of binge eating, as well as phases of significant under-eating and severe weight loss.
Although I like the way my body looks when I eat less and am very thin, sometimes I find it difficult to keep it up, ALSO it is hard for me to travel or do anything fun and spontaneous because my life is consumed by planning what I eat, only eating a certain amount of things, getting enough sleep, and exercise. BUT I LOVE BEING THIS THIN VERSION OF MYSELF.
Yes, if I got as much attention from guys and people when I was larger, then I wouldn’t care. I do realize my driving desire behind all of this is to be loved and to have attention and to feel worthy….
Now, I am more in the “normal” weight range, and I feel so big and unhappy! I always set goals to lose weight but it just won’t come off, I never stick it through. Also, I am TERRIFIED of traveling, etc. because I don’t know the food choices ( I don’t eat bread, pasta, sugary stuff, much dairy unless it’s high in protein and low in calories, red meat, etc.).
I guess I just want a healthy relationship with food, without it limiting my life or consuming my life. And if possible, I still want to be that thinner version of myself. I WANT TO BE BEAUTIFUL AND TO FEEL BEAUTIFUL! I wish societies standards were different so we didn’t all have to try so hard. I do realize I should love myself as I am, and I do, but a lot of men do tend to like thinner woman. This is just the standard today and what they have been taught! UGH
I feel so lost and confused and not so good about myself ever and I just want it to end.
Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks so much, lots of love,
A loving reader
First off, I want to thank you for being so open with me and for sharing.
I believe change all starts with what we tell ourselves. That your thoughts become your beliefs and your beliefs become your actions and overtime, your actions become what defines you. But, it all starts with the mind and our thoughts.
If you continue to keep telling yourself that you only love the thin version of yourself and that guys only love the thin version of you too, then that will be the storyline of your life. That’s what will take over. That will be your play. So that’s one really HUGE, significant piece of the puzzle.
So here, I challenge you to begin shifting your perspective.
You don’t have to agree to see anything a different way right now, but just consider being open to another viewpoint. A viewpoint that doesn’t have this same storyline. Is it really true that you only love yourself when you’re thin? Because right now that’s not what I’m seeing, and you, at your heart, know this too. It’s just a hard thing to change when it’s so ingrained in us. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change.
I used to think along the exact same lines – I’ll only love myself when I’m thin and so will guys. But then when I finally adopted a healthy relationship with food and my body I realized that I didn’t really love the thin version of myself. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I hated that version of me because she was desperate and NOT FUN, and she couldn’t relax. Plus, she wasn’t comfortable in her own skin. She had no air of confidence. Instead, she was living a life she thought other people wanted her to live.
Read what you wrote one more time:
“Although I like the way my body looks when I eat less and am very thin, sometimes I find it difficult to keep it up, ALSO it is hard for me to travel or do anything fun and spontaneous because my life is consumed by planning what I eat, only eating a certain amount of things, getting enough sleep, and exercise. BUT I LOVE BEING THIS THIN VERSION OF MYSELF.”
I’m going to play hardball with you. Well, because that’s my job. Do you really love being this thin version of yourself? You mentioned it’s hard to “travel or do anything fun and spontaneous.” Is that really how you want to feel? It’s something to dig deep about. I can tell you when I was here and could step back, I realized I felt crazed. I was crazily counting calories, making myself workout when I didn’t want to, and again, I wasn’t fun. I let my disordered eating and compulsive exercising take over. And my relationships with men at the time – when I really let them in – crumbled. Because no one wants to be with someone who can’t really relax and have fun. Because at the core of this is someone who is unhappy with herself and whenever we’re unhappy with ourselves, we can’t really be there for someone else – and that’s the foundation for any relationship.
There’s a difference between being fit, healthy, and happy AND super thin, unhealthy – mentally and physically – and so controlled.
And the frustrating piece is that this isn’t something that changes overnight. This is something you show up for every single day to change. Again, it’s a mindset shift and it’s about being open and honest with yourself and looking at real women and real bodies. Real women and real bodies aren’t stick thin models. Real women and real bodies have some cellulite, muffin-tops, and even a little extra.
And being stick thin won’t make you happy. I think you know that because you’re at where you’re at (and have been stick thin) but aren’t happy. I was there too.
The shift began with experimenting. Being kinder to myself. Letting myself chill out. And relaxing into myself.
You are worth it. You can change. And you will. I know this because you are observant about where you are right now. There’s no doubt in my mind you will do beautiful work. You are awake and aware and it may feel crappy, but be thrilled because there are so many people that never ever get there. And observation is always the first step for change. We can’t change anything we’re not aware of.
And you’re aware and you’re aware you’re not happy where you’re at. You also are aware that your “driving desire is to be loved and to have attention and to feel worthy….”
All of this comes from within.
And you may be using your weight as a band-aid to cover up the deeper wound – the inner stuff.
Because when you have your band-aid on (aka your desired weight) you mention you feel more loved and worthy, but when it’s not there, you don’t. So that goes to show it’s NOT really about your weight, it’s about the other feelings of not feeling enough.
So start small. Begin by simply getting yourself mentally prepared to be nothing but open to seeing your body and yourself another way. A way that reflects who you are as a human being, NOT as a body. No one is going to go to our funerals and say, “Rest in peace, you had a great bum.” NO! They’re going to say, “Rest in peace to one of the kindest, most generous souls I know.” Do you see where I’m going with this?
Be kind to yourself. Watch your words and change them to the same words you’d use for a loved one.
Once you’re here, begin looking at real bodies. Womens’ bodies of all shapes and sizes. You can google the term “what real women look like” and get an idea.
Another thing to consider (and do) is download the Gratitude App and write down 5 things you’re grateful for each day. Make a few of those things you’re grateful for about who you are as a person. Or better yet, what your body allows you to do. Sometimes we take the simplest things for granted, like the ability for our legs to hike or our eyes to see, until they’re gone.
The most important part: show up every day.
And when you begin to feel like you’re making some big mindset shifts, begin to open yourself up to the possibility of changing your relationship with food. To relaxing a bit. To seeing what it feels like to eat when you’re hungry and to stop when you’re full and have no off-limits foods. Read more on mindful eating here.
That’s all to start with now because the mindset shifts and the challenges I just gave you are A LOT. Also, very important: if you feel this gets to be too much (and it sounds like it’s been going on for some time) I’d recommend reaching out to your parents or your school’s health department and talking with a therapist or psychologist who has experience with disordered eating and eating disorders. It can help a lot and can be on the of the most freeing things possible, promise.
All in all, know this is something you change. And you change it for YOU – no one else.
Men and women both want to be around happy, confident, people and they rather have this any day than someone who doesn’t love themselves and is consumed by being weight obsessive. I promise you that, and I know it from experience. And if the people in your life aren’t on that same wavelength, know that they are exiting themselves out of your life for you. It’s so important for you to surround yourself with caring, loving, people who are on the same page as you and where you’re going with your life.
So take a deep breathe, maybe do a little meditation, and know you’re doing great work. For simply showing up here and being beautifully honest, you’re already moving forward. Being honest and shining light on our darkness is another super simple step that will help you move closer to where you want to go.
Hope this helps some.
With so much love,