I was fifteen years old when my body issues surfaced. Most people would be shocked to know how much I struggle to accept my body. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I was 5’8” tall, I wore a 34C bra and I weighed in at 115 pounds. I would stand in front of my bedroom full-length mirror naked every night and cringe. Grabbing pieces of my body in disgust, sucking in my stomach and wishing I looked more waif-like. Every morning when I went into my bathroom I would measure the side of my waist against the tiles on the wall. I would not allow my waist to grow wider than one tile. Those 4 x 4 inch tiles controlled my mind.
The summer before my sophomore year I decided I needed to weigh 100 pounds and I don’t even know what propelled this thought. I knew I would have to take drastic measures to reach this goal but I was prepared. I allowed myself one meal a day—dinner. I chose dinner because I knew my parents would notice if I stopped eating and I wanted to avoid confrontation. Other than dinner I was allowed water and two Tic Tacs a day (in place of breakfast and lunch). I chose Tic Tacs because I knew that each piece was only two calories. I also adopted a new exercise regimen, on top of my normal athletics. The first day was the most difficult but I adapted to my new diet and my body seemed to stop protesting the lack of nutrition it was receiving after only a few days.
In about two weeks, I weighed in at 105 pounds. I could see the results on the scale but the mirror was still reflecting the same image. I still hated my body. I still saw the same flaws. There was no rationality to what I saw when I looked at myself. I envied the bodies of models like Christy Turlington and Kate Moss.
My weight-loss plan ended when my best friend began hanging out with me 24/7. It became impossible for me to not eat around her and much to my dismay; I have never been able to make myself vomit. So I allowed myself to eat again and I repressed the thought that I may have an eating disorder for a few more years.
The problem with repressing thoughts is that they have a way of resurfacing . My freshman year of college I was more afraid of gaining the freshman fifteen than anything. I realized no one was keeping track of my meals or eating patterns. No one, but me. I resumed my former habit of withholding food from myself. I allowed myself one bag of fat-free microwave popcorn during the day and then a cup of soup at night. I was exhausted from the lack of calories so I started drinking coffee—no cream, no sugar. I had to keep my calorie intake down. The effects of this on my body were impossible to ignore and my diet didn’t last long. Instead of withholding food, I joined a gym.
I began to work out every day, except Sunday, for one hour. Working out at the gym gave me a body that was ripped and solid. I began to like my body. When I looked in the mirror I still could point to flaws but I could also see muscles that were sexy. I bought my first bikini that year and I felt sexy. I began to like my body but I was still focused on the numbers on the scale. It bothered me that my new toned physique weighed in at 125 pounds. But I reminded myself that muscle weighs more than fat. Once again, I suppressed my eating disorder mindset.
I went seventeen years without falling back into starvation habits. In those seventeen years I fell in love, got married and gave birth to three beautiful children. On the day I discovered my husband’s affair I probably weighed about 138 pounds. For those previous seventeen years, I avoided weighing myself because of my previous issues with weight and body image. To be honest, I was not happy with my weight but I was doing very little to change my exercise regimen.
Like most women, discovering my husband’s affair resulted in a complete lack of appetite. I think in the first three days I ate one banana. But this time was different from my past history with anorexia. I knew I needed to eat but I couldn’t. I remember forcing that banana down and struggling to keep it down. My body was rejecting food. To be painfully honest, this brought me some satisfaction. I wondered if I wasted away would my husband even notice?
I don’t remember the first time I weighed myself after my D-Day but I do remember seeing the numbers decrease on a regular basis. I didn’t really believe I would lose much more than eight or ten pounds because my appetite began to come back around month three. But my stomach could no longer handle a normal size portion of food and sometimes I am just not hungry. Today I weigh 122 pounds. When I strip down and stand in front of a mirror I still see all my flaws. I struggle to see my body as beautiful. I hear people compliment my body but I cannot see it.
The image my mind sees reflected in the mirror is irrational. I am acknowledging that this doesn’t make sense and I have a very unhealthy self-image. I’ve never spoken openly about this issue until these words were typed upon this page. I am still nervous about publishing this post. Somehow talking about my husband’s affair and the aftermath is easier than revealing this… So why am I writing this? I need to be honest with myself. I need to hold myself accountable.
In writing this post and exposing myself, I recognize how my issues share some similarities with my husband’s mindset while involved in his affair. It wasn’t really based on anything real; neither of us acted because of something we truly believe. As much weight as I lose I still don’t see myself as better or feel great. The flickering moment of the scale telling me my weight is less than yesterday is my only high associated with my eating problems. And if the number is more than the day before then I feel like a failure, crap, disappointed in myself. I hate feeling hungry. I hate the way my stomach churns when I haven’t eaten enough. I hate the headaches that come from withholding food from my body. And, I notice my moods are more extreme when I am hungry, thus the term: hangry. Anyone who has been hungry before can understand that it doesn’t feel good to starve. Sometimes I think it’s a cry for help or attention, but I also understand it’s about control. I can control my food intake even when I feel like everything else is out of my control. Is it crazy to compare this to what my husband may have felt while involved in his affair? Maybe. Maybe not.
Image borrowed from http://effectsofbodyimage.wordpress.com/