A Personal Plea to Love Your Body

March 29th, 2009 by WY Daily Staff

A Personal Plea to Love Your Body

The Collegiate Awareness Regarding Eating Smart, a task force created by William and Mary campus professionals to help students deal with eating disorders, is reaching out to people on campus and in the community at large who have body image issues and eating disorders. They’re hosting a five-day event called “Love Your Body Week,” a message that lots of people need drilled into their heads. Myself included.

I say this because I had an eating disorder, and I can tell you, it’s not a battle you can win alone, or one that goes away as soon as you shine a light on it.
I was a chubby kid, and in high school, like lots of my peers, I felt pressure to look a certain way – beautiful, tall, tan, whatever was popular on television and in magazines. Teenage girls want boys to like them, they want friends, and it’s really easy to look in a mirror when you step out of the shower when you’re 16 and blame little breasts or a thick middle for your angst.
The National Institute of Mental Health has some good information on the basics of eating disorders, but I’d argue that the boundaries of a real eating disorder don’t always include extremes of behavior that are obvious to everyone. Their site is athttp://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/complete-index.shtml
I bet there are people you see everyday who have some sort of body image issues that are linked to an eating disorder, and you’d never know. That was the case for me.
I was a binge eater, and when I was 16, I began to purge at night after my post-dinner snack. Not every night, but often. Then I started to do it every time I ate a meal I thought was too big.
After a few weeks of this, I saw that my pants were looser. Hurray, I thought. No exercise, no dieting, and I dropped a size or two. In my mind, this wasn’t an eating disorder – I wasn’t in the hospital. I didn’t look unhealthy, I didn’t do it every day, and my friends and parents congratulated me on finally losing some weight. I got dates.
But when I saw that girl stepping out of the shower in the mornings, she still looked pretty ugly to me. In fact, maybe she was more like that picture of Dorian Gray, getting more hideous all the time.
I gave up the purging in college, and got chubby again. After I graduated, I was back in the same mindset, but worse, and then I became anorexic as well as bulimic. I skipped meals and ate nutrition bars instead. I didn’t take vitamins because I was concerned that they might somehow make me gain weight again. I cut out bread, starch, most meat, and dairy. I began exercising like crazy, but I had no energy for it. I had dizzy spells and couldn’t concentrate. And still, I would see myself as that chubby girl – as if it had mattered to people how I looked. As if they judged me as unjustly as I judged myself.
Unlike many people who deal with the same problems, I managed to get my life under control without anyone really realizing that I had a problem. I didn’t get help, though looking back I wish I had done so right at the beginning. I wish I had known about eating disorders as a teenage girl, I wish my parents had tried to talk to me about it and ask me how I felt about myself.
I still see Dorian Gray’s ugly image in the mirror sometimes. I just stick my tongue out at it now, and I live my life happily, with the occasional extra slice of pizza or piece of chocolate cake, to boot.
If you have a teenage daughter at home – or a son, because boys aren’t immune to body image issues – you should bring them over to William and Mary for one (or a few) of the Love Your Body Week events going on this week.
The website is http://www.wm.edu/sites/cares/events/love-your-body-week-2009.php
There will be one event where college students talk about their own struggles with eating disorders, another day full of healthy living and eating tips, and even a fun dance event with lots of college performers. A qualified counselor will be available at nearly all the events to answer your questions.
If you’re dealing with this issue yourself, grab a friend and stop by. You may end up saving yourself years of heartache. You may even learn to love the skin you’re in.

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