Sooooooo, this will probably be one of the hardest posts I’ve written. And truth be told, I don’t want to write it, let alone publish it for anyone else to read. Of course, that’s exactly why I feel like I have to and I should. So, here goes nothin’ and may the odds be ever in my favor.
I’ve known for a while now that I struggle with body dysmorphia. But it very well may be that I’m only just now beginning to understand to what extent. It’s not talked about nearly enough, and it’s certainly not given the weight it deserves (I swear, that pun was not intended. I do that. A lot. In fact, I seem to have a talent for unintentionally being punny).
Here’s a quick glimpse into struggling with body dysmorphia, courtesy of artist Toby Allen, for those who are unfamiliar as of yet. This guy actually illustrated quite a few mental disorders as a way of coping with his own, and they’re pretty dope. In case you want to check it out: Anxiety Monsters.
Note the mention of OCD and anxiety in the above. Yeah, I’ve got those too (granted, the OCD is selective, thankfully). Bonus. I’m a triple threat. (insert eye roll large enough to see my own brain here.) I also struggle with mild depression and not-so-mild misophonia. So, yeah…totes a mental Molotov cocktail. It’s super fun in my brain.
Here’s what really prompted this whole spewing of words and thoughts and things. Today in my fb memories, I came across this post from 2010:
You wanna know what the really scary and f*cked up thing is? I legit thought I was overweight and out of shape. Not so much that I couldn’t post the ink, but enough I felt the need to head off any thoughts or comments by prefacing and disarming (another one of my “talents”).
There are no words to tell you what I’d give to be that size right now. It’s 2019 and I am overweight. I’d say severely, but my ability to judge is more than a little skewed. I’m more than fairly certain I’m the largest I’ve ever been. The last time I was this fat (or close to it), I was way healthier about it, mentally speaking. I knew I was overweight, knew I needed to change it. So, I started working out again, really watched what I ate, and I lost weight. I felt great. Until I auditioned for my first pro dance team.
Now, it’s really important to me that I am abundantly clear on something: the directors of my first professional dance team did NOT call me fat, make me weigh in, or body shame me in any way. In fact, there was a point where I was actually told I was good where I was at and maybe I should stop losing. But when I started that journey, feeling all great about my weight loss, I was still too big for the pro dance world. I felt good because I HAD lost so much, but there was still work tp do. So I worked. And worked. And kept working.
Looking back now, I would say a good goal weight for me, with muscle, is around 127, give or take. In 2014, I got down to 111 and 6-8% body fat. Which is completely and totally nuts. I was too skinny. People told me I was (lovingly). I had lost muscle (logically), and I had ZERO curves (boobs are, after all, fat). The really frightening thing is that at 111, I’d take my progress pics and go “I’ve got a few more pounds I can lose.” And that is genuinely what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I saw the progress too, and I was proud and more confident. But I saw room for more loss. From where, I don’t know. I just knew it wasn’t “enough.”
Another point I feel I need to make: I am fortunate that I’ve never battled an eating disorder, and never put anything unhealthy into my body. I was actually doing everything the “healthy” way. I just didn’t have rest days or cheat days, and I had 2-3 rehearsals a week that burned a minimum of 1,000 calories. And that didn’t even count game days or my additional workouts.
Even if you can’t relate, if you’ve seen me at all recently, I’m sure you can understand how much harder/worse/darker it is for me now. If I saw areas of improvement at 111lbs and 8% body fat, imagine my internal monologue at what I assume is close to 150. Maaaaaaybe 145, if I’m lucky. Truth is, I don’t weigh myself. Because I know how dangerous that can be for me. I also know it really is just a number, and numbers, quite often, don’t mean dick. A while back, I accidentally saw it at the doctor’s office, so I have a good guess. I’m AT LEAST 20-25lbs overweight. But, to me, that might as well be 100lbs.
You might be thinking “this chick is nuts,” or “she is not fat,” or “yeah, she real big.” But if you’re like my close family and friends, and you’re wanting to reassure me, let me stop you right there. It won’t help. Because I won’t believe you. I won’t believe that “it’s not that bad,” or that I’m “still attractive/pretty/whatever.” I think that’s all bullshit and people are just saying it to make me feel better. Just ask my husband.
Here’s where it gets real raw: I don’t want to go places anymore. I don’t want to get dressed, know I’ll just feel fat and unattractive, and “know” that everyone who sees me either thinks “man, she’s gained a lot of weight,” or “wow, she’d be really pretty if she lost some weight.” Taking pictures give me a level of anxiety I didn’t even know I could reach. And I literally have anxiety, so I’m familiar. We’re friends and stuff.
This was the last pic I took. And I only agreed to take it if my friends stood in front of me:
For those who don’t know (on the off chance someone is reading this who doesn’t actually know me), I’m a dancer, though my back hasn’t really allowed for the styles I used to love so much. So I began pouring my energy back into country and western, then picked up west coast swing a few years back. There’s an event in Dallas first of July. Huge event, one I really enjoy, and I’d love to compete and rack up some more points so I can finally get the hell out of novice (fellow westies will feel me on this). I’m considering not going. Like, at all. I am that uncomfortable and downright hateful of my body and my own skin. It’s probably best no one else can hear my almost never-ending internal monologue.
I’m also a Christian, so I know the things I feel about myself and say to myself aren’t the truth. Or at least, not His truth. I know it hurts His heart every time. But that doesn’t seem to matter either. I know He loves me and I’m beautiful as His creation. But that’s everyone. And again, (sorry, Father), it just feels like another spoonful of bullshit I just can’t swallow.
I’m so utterly and intensely ashamed and embarrassed by my appearance. I’m a dancer for crying out loud. I’ve been in shape more years than not. And I know about nutrition and working out. Like, I really know about it. So how in f*cking hell did I let it get this out of control and get this disgustingly overweight? HOW?!
I started working out again a while ago, albeit intermittently and not as consistently as I should have. But I swear to you, even with that, which was an improvement, I’ve f*cking gained weight. And if you say it’s muscle, I will find you and slap you. Not because you’re wrong. You might be right, though I doubt it. But because I feel fatter. Period. My clothes don’t fit. I struggle to breathe when I’m bent over. My back hurts constantly (a symptom of both the gain AND the remedy, thanks to all my fun physical issues). My boobs are ridiculously massive and I am so self conscious of them. I have f*cking neck rolls and a double chin. And don’t bother arguing. Even if you say you don’t see the same thing. I know what I see.
I’m working out again and watching calories/macros like a hawk. But what if that’s not enough? What if I’m just gross forever? Yeah, I could seek advice and hire a trainer, but outside of that expense not being an option right now, the idea that I might not be able to do this on my own only adds to the depression. I also clearly don’t know where the line is (how does one see fat that needs to be lost at less than 8% body fat anyway??), so there’s the constant fear of overdoing it and I’m really trying so hard to approach this in a healthy and maintainable way. You know, like a normal human rather than a robot, where I can enjoy a rest day or have the occasional cookie or serving of chips and queso. But what if I can’t? What if my only option is fat and miserable, or no cheating or resting or enjoying certain aspects of life and therefore still miserable?
This whole thing f*cking blows. I hate it. And if you’re reading this and thinking this was all too dark or too real or too sad, then this wasn’t for you. It was and is for every single person who is reading and nodding furiously and crying and hating that someone else feels all these things while also finding comfort in knowing it’s not just them.
I have no answers. No idea how this will all play out. My HOPE is that the work and dedication and discipline pay off and that, with the help of my heavenly Father, husband, and loved ones, I can find both balance and happiness and comfort and confidence in my body and my appearance. I hope. And I pray. A lot.