Throughout my whole life, I have always considered myself different. In a world that depicts the “perfect woman” as a skinny, tall, blonde woman…I could not feel any different. I would watch T.V. and want nothing more but to look like those beautiful models that are used as the main stars of any show that was popular at the time. Little did I know, they have access to professional fashion stylists, makeup artists, personal hairstylists and to make it worse, professional computer touch-ups. Could this lead to an eating disorder?
While they may look beautiful, they can be far from a “real woman”. It became increasingly more difficult to discriminate between what was “made for T.V” and what was real. Having these thoughts from a very young age caused my own personal mental health to suffer. Never being able to achieve the ultimate vision has made me feel…
- That I would never be attractive to those around me.
- That those around me did not find me as an important member of their social group.
- That those around me only saw FAT when they looked at me.
- That those around me viewed me as disgusting.
- That those around me never thought I was good enough
- That food was my only friend
- That I could never have enough food.
The list goes on and on but in all actuality, are those thoughts real? Would these thoughts still be occurring, if I did not start idolizing these women at such a young age? How did the media contribute to my body image?
My issues with food started early on. By the age of 6 or 7, I was already considered to be a bit heavy. At that time, the doctor’s kept telling us that it was baby weight and that it would go away. I would be as active as possible but coming from a single-parent household, it was hard to schedule activities. With a mother who was always working, it meant that outdoor time was limited. Instead of doing fun activities, I would sit and watch television for hours on end. As I got bored, or the show ended, got sleepy, or for any reason really, I would turn to food. That was my comfort, that made me feel whole. At that time, I did not know any better. All I know was that food was an important thing for our family and I wanted as much of it as I could.
As I got older, I became a bit more active with school, but food was still my safe space. Little did I know, but I was battling my own internal eating disorder. Food became more and more of a crutch. I would sneak snacks when no one was looking, or I would throw out wrappers so no one knew what I ate. At times, I would even pick food up and eat it before I got home just because I was embarrassed with what I was doing. My family knew I was gaining weight, but that was not a topic we talked about.
This continued on till my college years, where I turned to a therapist for help. I would meet with him weekly and talk about my different concerns. It took some time, but with the help of talk and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it was determined that I had an eating disorder. I should have been shocked by that information, but I wasn’t at all. I knew I did not have an appropriate satisfaction with my body image and that was something that I would have to work on. My therapist spent session after a session working to determine the cause of my eating disorder.
The reason that food was my go-to for all emotions. My therapist made it very clear that having an eating disorder did not have to be the end. He explained that my connection with food could be changed with work and a reduction in my abnormal attitude toward food.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy ultimately saved my life. While engaging in CBT, I started to learn many skills that over time helped form a better me. Food was no longer my enemy, instead, CBT was the starting point which:
- Helped me realize that rules around food were important
- Caused me to document my food for accountability to myself
- Caused me to work on a whole new way of thinking
- Helped me develop new coping mechanisms to turn to instead of food
- Caused me to start meal planning in order to control my food intake
- Allowed me to return to my trigger foods
- Allows me to ask for help when needed
At my current age, I still have some of the same negative thoughts that I had as a struggling adolescent, however, there is one main difference. I know that these women do not look like this on a normal basis and that I do NOT have to look like them to be attractive, to be wanted, to feel important. This was not an easy thought process to obtain. On a daily basis, I have to remind myself, that I am PERFECT!