Talking About My Body...
makes my skin crawl. Even the title of this post makes me uncomfortable. It's crippling to spiel about my physical traits and the seemingly endless battles I had with them. I think the word I am looking for here is vulnerable. I recall a comment made to me by a family member when I was about twelve years old. Patting my belly and telling me...
"It might be time for you to go on a diet"
felt more like a hard punch to the gut than a loving suggestion. I know he didn't intend to hurt me, and I can't imagine he remembered saying it even moments later, but good intentions don't always shine through to a young girl, and the wrong gears began to turn in my head.
Soon after, my naive ears endured similar words from my pediatrician, whom I knew well and trusted. Unfortunately,
"Well, what you lack in height you certainly make up for in weight"
was not a sensitive way to announce percentiles to a preteen girl and her whole family in an exam room.
Now, while I know I am responsible for my reactions to others, this was not so obvious to me during puberty. These comments stayed with me like a brick in my chubby stomach. Sadly, I began obsessing over the issue, and took my weight to be a reason I wasn't popular in school.
I began hiding food. I tried to trick my parents into thinking I was eating, picking at my plate and pretending to enjoy it. At school, I tried to stop eating altogether. When a teacher noticed within a week, I was devastated. All I cared about was getting away with my "diet" until I lost enough weight to be accepted by my peers.
My teacher contacted the guidance counselor, and my parents and school became involved with every crumb I forced down my throat. I was suffocating from the attention and from my lack of control. To me, they were all committing treason, betraying my chance at getting skinny, and therefore my chance at happiness.
While this issue spiraled, other unrelated social conflicts arose. My friends began spreading "rumors" about me, and most of my class followed their game. It became so excessive that every day felt like torture that would continue on like Groundhog Day. I walked into the back doors of the building every morning knowing it was another round of Niki vs The Student Body.
I longed to become invisible, to sink into the floor tiles and make it to my next class without any snickering or comments thrown my way. They coughed and yelled "dyke" at me in the hallways, and made sure the word, complete with pictures, covered every restroom stall. As I write this, I realize their torment caused me to feel disgusting about my body and my sexual orientation before I even hit high school. These rotten roots still threaten to hold me down.
This trouble gave me an even bigger push to lose weight, look good, be in control of something. Over the years I made several attempts at low- to no-carb diets, Weight Watchers, starving, vomiting, forcing myself into rancid gyms, and many other things I hated; but not as much as feeling like everyone was judging me for being an overweight homo.
Finally a few years ago, I found yoga and meditation, and it was the first method of getting in shape I ever actually enjoyed. Not only did I start slimming down, but I began to be rewarded with a gradual, but amazing, new-found acceptance of myself, weight and love interests included.
Although I was toning up in a healthy way, this new routine was combined with a new medication that made me nauseous when I ate. I began losing weight without even trying. No method of diet and exercise had ever been able to overcome my anxious habit of binge eating, until all food tasted repulsive anyway.
Because of the peaceful and self-respecting path I'd found, I convinced myself I needed to get in shape in the healthiest way possible. I switched medicines, but maintained my ability to eat better portions. Since then, I continue to incorporate more and more healthy practices into my entire lifestyle, especially when it comes to food.
If I could go back and comfort that younger version of myself who suffered through those heartaches, I would let her know that there will always be people who will define girls and women by their female bodies. But rather than being blindsided by the inevitability of teasing, I would want her to know that she could be strong through it, and that the experience would eventually gift her with compassion, not weakness.
Looking back on it, I was blinded by the hate expelled by other young people who didn't know any better than I did, because this was me at 13 years old…
This is a piece of my personal story, and a part of what makes me who I am today. Thank you for listening. And to those who struggle with their self-image as I did, know that you are not alone, and that you are strong enough to overcome it all.
A little afterword with a big impact:
Now that we've weeded through all of this ugly garble, let's look at an awesomely positive body image influence...
Recently on YouTube, I found myself interested in an advertisement. Not only did I watch it through to the end, I ended up bawling my eyes out. This ad gave me a big push toward believing I could actually have a really healthy body someday, something I never would have believed before. Enjoy, and please feel free to leave your thoughts :)