Saturday, February 12, 2011

Getting personal - my own story

Yesterday I blogged about Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Today I'll get personal and tell a bit about my own journey...

A few years ago, for several months I followed the "ideal" meal plan, balancing all the food groups and only eating certain amounts.  I was also exercising 4-5 times/week.  I loved how strong I felt and enjoyed the more toned look of my body.  I also appreciated the endorphins flowing through my body helping me have plenty of energy.  I had wanted to lose 10 pounds to get back to my pre-marriage weight, but only lost 4 and felt discouraged.  I realize I gained muscle which weighs more than fat.  Etc., etc., etc.  Blah, blah, blah.  Yes, I got into that cycle.

But the reason I got into it was because I was waking up virtually every morning disgusted with myself for how my body looked.  I would have negative thoughts frequently throughout the day.  I finally decided that I was wasting a lot more time feeling bad about myself than it would take to exercise and get the above-mentioned perks.

I have lost the muscles and tone over the couple of years since I gradually stopped exercising. I'd like to get back into it just because it feels good.  I haven't made time to do it again yet.  I don't want to obsess about it or about food.  I want to eat healthily.  I want to eat well.  I want to eat delicious food, and I don't want to deny myself, because that makes me crazy and petulant and pissy and reactive.

I have not yet found a balance and I do not yet love my body unconditionally.  I can act like I do - I will fake it til I make it - but I have days when I get frustrated and put myself down about my body.
Around Christmas I took a series of photographs of myself, my belly, breasts, and face primarily.  I drew a couple of images from it then, then two days ago I drew another.  It is very difficult for me to look at.  I chose colors that are harsh and ugly together because I was working with my feelings.  I got caught up in the process of creating and forgot what I was painting (as is usually the case), but when I was done and stood back to look at it, and as I look at it now, it's painful.  I don't like what I see.  I've always had the lower pooch - always.  But the top one is new.  That's the last 8 pounds.  Eight pounds of fat.

I don't know what to do about it.  I hear echoes of my father's voice, "Hold your stomach in or you'll look terrible."  I hear his voice another time, "Women always get fat after they have children.  You will too."  Am I fulfilling his prophecy?  It's very uncomfortable to me.

I weigh 140 lbs and am 5'6".  I am in the normal range for weight.  Yet I weigh more than I ever have.  I think I've always been in the very low normal range, if not a bit underweight, so having this bulge above my belly is new and uncomfortable.  I have probably never had an accurate vision of my body.  I probably had a very mild form of BDD vis-a-vis my stomach.  I certainly have not perceived it accurately.  My siblings taunted me with "Fatty, fatty, two by four, can't get through the bathroom door" when I was eight and I've, at least since then, believed that was an accurate moniker for me.  When I was newly divorced, I couldn't figure out how to take care of my three young children, make enough money to support us, maintain the house AND feed myself.  From strain and worry, I got down to 108 pounds.  I'll always be grateful to my friend who looked at me, put her fingers around my skeletal wrist, and said, "Honey, you need to gain some weight.  This has gone far enough."  I'd had no idea I'd even lost weight.

It's such an odd, odd thing, this body image stuff.


  1. Your artwork is absolutely phenomenal. I am an artist too but children have taken my time and money and made it nearly impossible to find enough of either to paint. I also struggle with body image. My mom was anorexic/bulimic and bipolar and my father is an avid runner and health nut who was never satisfied with my muscular, spoon-shaped figure.

    I am currently pregnant AND on anti-depressants, hoping to work through some of the pain that I acquired growing up. I'm sitting here crying over your artwork and your blog posts and I am so excited to follow you. You've said so much of what I feel every day. I look at pictures of myself from even 2 years ago and think how beautiful I was, how curvy and perfect but I was unhappy. I was fat. I was ugly. I wish foresight or current-sight were 20/20 like hindsight is.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. Your words and your artwork.

  2. I don't know how to feel about this post, but your experience is definitely not describing Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which people often die from.
    I know you mean well, but please don't self-diagnose yourself with a 'mild form' of it, it actually hurts the entire struggle for others.
    I am usually on-board with all of your posts, but this one, I have to object to.

  3. I just found your blog via a link on FB this morning and this is the first post I read... and I relate SOOOOOOOOOO much! I'm a tad bit shorter than you (lol! about 4 inches!) and I've always been around the 110-120 range in weight. Petite everywhere but my black girl booty... and I've always had conflicting feelings about my body. My bottom was HUGE as compared to my white friends and yet, I was too small for what was seen as "ideal" for a black girl... so I've alternated with feeling fat and not fat. When I was really stressed a couple of years ago (marital problems), I lost so much weight that I was around 100 pounds and couldn't find adult size clothes that fit right. I finally understood who wore the size "0"... and I finally lost my bottom. I thought I looked great, but to everyone else, I looked like skin and bones... didn't feel loved, so I couldn't eat.

    I gained back my normal weight over the last year or so, and then I started to gain extra... I think I way 127 right now which is more than I've ever weighed without being pregnant. I did the same thing you did... started exercising and eating better with the desire to become tone and lose a little weight... instead, I lost about 2 pounds... and my bottom became firm and "more" obvious to me... since the winter came I've stopped running and gained some fat... I have a very little pooch but I go back and forth with some days feeling so "fat" and other days thinking I look perfectly okay... I know I definitely don't see myself the way that I really look because whenever I point out to my husband women that I think I resemble in size, he always tells me they're bigger than me... I'm working really hard to just love my body the way it is... to not obsess about food and just to be healthy and fit.

    Anyway, thank you for this blog and sharing!

  4. I was 99-110 pounds up into my 30's. I never had to work for it. I never had to purge for it. High metabolism.

    37 hit. peri menopause hit. weight gain hit.
    I'm 5'6 and a half. I hit 140. I thought I was as big as I am now. I'm 180. I wish I were 140 again. Size ten looks much better than size 16.

    I wish I knew that then.

    I will tell you the good part. If I hadn't gained 80 pounds over a 5 year period, I would never have appreciated how good 140 looks on a woman.

    It is very odd, how we "see" ourselves, you're right about that.

  5. Shana,
    I hope you'll give us more information about BDD. It sounds like you know more about it than I do, and I'd love to learn more.

    I guess what I was expressing was that I could relate to the disorder since I was perceiving myself persistently and inaccurately, but your point is well-taken that what I've experienced is certainly not life-threatening, whereas BDD can be.

    Thanks for sharing the information.