This post is really as much for me as it is for you. It has taken me almost a month to compose. It is disjointed, all over the place, and yes, I whine in parts. It’s a glimpse into the mind of someone who has a mild case of body dysmorphic disorder and it may be hard for those of you who have high self-confidence or who have always been fit to relate to. To those of you that are struggling with your body image, I hope this post helps you feel less isolated. Everyone has something they struggle with. Some of us are luckier than others and I realize I am one of the blessed ones.
Hi, I’m Tara and I’m fat. Wait, no I’m not. I am 5’9″, weigh 150 lbs and am a size 6/8. People who haven’t seen me in a while compliment me on how great I look. Women shoot me glaring looks in coffee houses, clutching their husband’s arms, seeing the new me – not knowing who I really am. Or was.
I’ve always thought of myself as “the fat girl” but I’ve never really been that big. I’ve lost almost a hundred pounds in the last 2 years. For the last 6 months, I’ve been at my goal weight, but my body has been transforming further: toning up, tightening up, fat being replaced by muscle as my body fat percentage falls. I haven’t lost a pound since October, but somehow I’m a size smaller.
I remember first feeling fat when I was 8 years old. When the insults were handed out by the boys, some girls got “dog.” I got “cow.” Therefore, I was fat. No need for debate – 8 year-old boys don’t lie. My 4th grade PE teacher didn’t help, either, by telling me I was out of shape. Body image complete.
My mom did everything right. She didn’t have a body image problem, nor was she overweight. I have never known her to be on a diet. She exercised regularly for her health, took time for herself and pride in her appearance. She passed on all the right messages to me, but I still had a body image problem. I thought I was bigger than I was, because of a few off-hand comments from idiot children and a retarded teacher.
All during high school and university, I thought I was fat. I only weighed about 160 lbs at the time (I honestly didn’t weigh myself during high school but I’m sure I was about the size I am now). I had the lowest self-esteem of anyone I knew but tried to hide it. That resulted in some destructive patterns I won’t go into that have been difficult to overcome as an adult. I thought I looked like a Beluga Whale, and had the confidence to match.
The extra 30 pounds I’d been carrying around since graduation had become part of who I was. I was on a neverending quest to lose those 30 pounds, but couldn’t succeed.
Until, suddenly, I did.
And now what? I’m still the same person inside. I still care about strangers, have deep emotional connections to friends, would rather be hiking up a mountain than shopping, but I am viewed differently by society at large. People make assumptions about you based on how you look. I’m not sure how people used to view me, honestly, but I can tell you it’s different now. They don’t know I’ve battled endocrine disorders, infertility, and lost all this weight. They see me as someone who has the perfect life and I get way less empathy from them. Fat people can’t relate to me anymore. Oh, if only they knew I still identify with them. If I were to draw an outline of my body, I guarantee you it would be several sizes bigger than what I really am.
Let me tell you – ALL of you that have been thinking, “Oh, if I could only lose that weight, A would be better, B would be fixed, C will love me and D will fall into place” that once you do lose that weight, NONE of those things will happen. Unless D happens to be a modeling contract and C is a shallow prick.
The problems are still there. They’re just more in focus now. I don’t have the added layer of protection that so many of us don to cover up how we’re feeling inside. Now I need to deal with the real issues at hand. My self-esteem. My confidence. My self-worth. Now that the constant struggle to lose weight has been removed, it’s really easy to start concentrating on all the tiny little things wrong with my body and my psyche that I never noticed before because the fat was the main target of my anxieties. I have become hyper-critical of the smallest, imperceptible flaws that no one notices but me.
My head has to catch up to my now bangin’ body. I have to learn not to blush and look at the floor when someone tells me I’m cute. ‘Cause until about 3 months ago, I had never experienced perfect strangers coming up to me and telling me how beautiful I was. I’m sure my reaction surprises them, I’m not used to compliments like that. Or any compliments at all, other than from my husband, girlfriends and parents, and they HAVE to tell me I’m beautiful. The comments have increased as my self-esteem increases. When I feel good, I think other people notice.
I’m sure some of the women I’ve met in the last 2 years think I have an eating disorder, or am a compulsive exerciser. I’ve been told that some of the moms in the Mom’s Group I was (briefly) in talk about me occasionally. They have tried and failed to become fit and healthy, so obviously anyone who is able to succeed must have some sort of a problem. This is also something that is hard to take. I DON’T have an eating disorder. If I don’t eat breakfast or dinner on a particular day, it doesn’t mean I’m starving myself. It’s called Intermittent Fasting and it’s actually quite good for you. I workout 2-3 times a week, with CrossFit being the bulk of my exercise program. Sometimes I take weeks off just to rest and relax. I’m certainly not a compulsive exerciser – in fact, I do the bare minimum every time.
It has taken me a month to write this, and I have noticed subtle differences in myself in the interim. My self-worth is starting to improve. I feel like I am worth something now, that I can contribute to a conversation, that I am desirable, that others would be drawn to me for a myriad of reasons. It’s still hard, because it seems that all some people want to talk about is how great I look and all I want to talk about is something else. Anything else.
I am becoming a new person. Someone I like very much so far. A person I would like to hang out with. One that is vibrant and fun and wants to do active things, like adventuring and looking for treasure anywhere it can be found. I love to smile at perfect strangers and see their faces light up. I talk to the bus driver and make eye contact with people I find intriguing. I want to know their stories. I’m tired of talking about myself. Yes, I look good. Thank you. I FEEL good. How are you?