Body dysmorphia is known as a disorder in which one believes their own appearance is defective and is worthy of being hidden or fixed. It's a belief that manifests itself into manipulative and intrusive thought processes, ultimately preventing us from loving and accepting the way we look.
My earliest memory of body dysmorphia took place during the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school. Everyone had to line up so the PE teacher could take our weight. The number wasn't yelled aloud, but it might as well have been. As soon as you stepped off the scale everyone asked "How much did you weigh?" Each girl ahead of me weighed 86, 75, 80 pounds. I remember feeling so ashamed my number said 102. That afternoon I sat next to my childhood friend as we rode home on the school bus and all I could think about was the difference in the width of our thighs as our legs rested on the seat of the school bus. As a little girl I began comparing myself to every other little girl to determine whether or not I was fat. Even going so far as to compare myself against my little sister who is three years my junior. No one pointed out I was the second tallest girl in the class so of course I'm going to weigh more. No one told me I may have been a little further along in development than most of my peers. No one had a clue I needed reassurance I wasn't fat just because I wore bigger sizes than my sister. All I saw were thighs that were bigger than my peers and a weight that was 15 to 20 pounds heavier. I look at this little girl in these pictures and I think she's beautiful. She looks fit and healthy. But inside, she was picking apart every beautiful thing and continuously telling herself she would love her body when....
The unhealthy body image of myself continued from elementary school through junior high when I was called waddles because my rear end 'waddled' when I walked. It was shortly thereafter I starved myself for days until my feet turned blue and my mom made me watch a documentary on Karen Carpenter and her struggle with anorexia. My body dysmorphia continued through high school when I felt uncomfortable in my drill uniform, cheer uniform and the clothes I wore every other day of the week. During my high school years I wavered between 135-142 pounds. I wasn't 110 pounds like some of my peers, but I was not overweight. I was incredibly active, fit and healthy. At the time though, that didn't matter. What mattered was the little roll I carried in my lower abdomen. The lower roll that was blamed for all my unhappiness with my body. If only that roll disappeared I might like the way I look. As clear as I can still hear my self-talk during that time, I can also distinctly remember being called "thick". Someone saw my picture in the yearbook and didn't realize that one simple word would stick with me until this day.
It wasn't until I weighed 250 pounds and I was celebrating one of the most special days of my life, I finally acknowledged my size and my unhappiness. It was a beautiful April day and I was the maid of honor in my sister's wedding. I stood at her side on a day in which memories and the pictures will last forever. It was on that day I accepted the truth of where I was...with my body and with my heart. The Spanx I wore underneath my bridesmaid dress could not camouflage and hide everything. I was unhappy and ready to change.
I lost a lot of weight over the years with healthy eating and exercise. I've learned so much about health and nutrition during the process. However, I never learned the most important part of healthy living. I never learned how to turn off the negative thought process and the damaging self-talk. Throughout my entire journey I still told myself ...'I will love my body when....'
My journey of weight loss began as it does for most people...with a vision and a number. In my case my number was 145. In many ways that number perpetuated my dysmorphia issues and prevented me from reaching true appreciation and self-love.
My body has been so patient with me and everything I have put it through over the years. It has loved me even when I haven't loved it. It has allowed me to run several half marathons...even participate in a half ironman. My body gave me strength when I needed to carry my mom to the bathroom when she was too weak to do so. My body allows me to wake up early in the morning and hold my own in a fitness class consisting of 75% males. It has allowed me to practice yoga and play with my kids. As repayment I've criticized it over and over again.
Recently I had my body composition tested. My lean body mass (muscle, bones and organs) weighs 133 pounds. That goal of 145 I set for myself years ago will probably never happen. I mean, I guess it could if I lost some of my muscle and only ate vegetables and proteins, but my life is about balance. It's about eating cake on birthdays and having a glass of wine on the weekends. It's about healthy choices 90% of time.
We aren't puzzle pieces made to fit into this ideal picture we created for ourselves. We are special beings who should honor our health from the inside out. By eating healthy. By staying active. By speaking kindly to ourselves. And by accepting the imperfections that make us perfect.
At 10 I told myself I would love my body when I weighed the same as my peers.
At 18 I told myself I would love my body when I didn't have a roll on my tummy.
At 29 I told myself I would love my body when I weighed 145 pounds.
At 39 I pulled at the rolls that peeked out over my jeans and picked at the underbelly of my arms. I told myself I would love my body when I could...just...get...rid...of...these...little...areas.
And then I turned 40....
At 40 years old I pulled out pictures of myself taken years ago and found myself wishing I could look like I did back then.
I've wasted so much time not loving and appreciating my health. There are people all over this world who would give anything to be able to walk up the stairs without pain or get up out of bed without a chemotherapy port stuck to their chest.
My goal for my forties is NOT to have legs like J.Lo or arms like Madonna, but to maximize my health from the inside out. My goal is to eat healthy, exercise and talk to myself kindly. Instead of seeing cellulite on the back of my legs, I will see legs that allow me to walk and run with my family. I will spend my 40's thanking my body for its patience and what I've put it through all these years. I will stop waiting to love my body when......
My goal for my 40's.... is to love and honor the body I have now.