Content warning – The following piece discusses food, body image, and eating disorders.
Eating disorders, in my personal experience, have been, for a long while, a taboo subject. Many people remain completely unaware of the importance of understanding everything behind an unhealthy relationship with both our bodies and our food. This raises an even stronger concern in a society essentially guided by the kind of social media that constantly promotes unrealistic lifestyles and body images. I often feel that if younger people were better familiarised with the extent to which insecurity can be completely life changing, then my story might have been different.
As a young child, I was never bothered with the way I looked. I wasn’t even aware that somebody could be bothered by the way they looked. I was always slightly underweight, but the concept generally meant nothing to me. Unfortunately, things changed for the worse as I grew slightly older, and as I reached the age of twelve or thirteen it suddenly became socially acceptable to comment on my physical appearance. It was almost as if this was a new stage in my life – a stage where my body was now a topic for discussion completely out of my control.
I had grown up in the early 00’s during a time where society was obsessed with looking slimmer.
It never failed to shock me how many people had opinions about my body. It seemed like everybody around me had an opinion. However, what surprised me the most was how casually these people would share their thoughts. Apart from being ultimately astonished at the way people viewed me, I was also incredibly confused at what people intended for me when they made these comments.
I never did learn the correct response to, “Wow, you’re so skinny. Get some meat on your bones!” I also never benefitted from hearing it.
One thing I did learn, however, was that I wanted it all to stop. I wanted to change.
The only problem was, as a young girl, I was never told about how to gain weight. I had grown up in the early 00’s during a time where society was obsessed with looking slimmer. Everyone talked about dieting and cutting down the carbs, but nobody ever discussed the best way to go about gaining weight. I simply wasn’t aware of the danger I was putting myself in, forcing myself to eat day and night, without any concept that this wasn’t what my body needed. I felt as if I was punishing myself, but I believed that constantly eating until I felt sick was one day going to pay off.
The sad reality was I was doing nothing but developing an extremely unhealthy relationship with my body and whatever I was putting in it. I developed severe anxiety towards eating anywhere in public, whether it was in school or in a restaurant. It never felt natural. I was also losing grasp of the way I used to picture my body. When I looked in the mirror I would immediately tell myself, “Once you put weight on, you’ll look so much better.” It was like the body I was once comfortable in was no longer mine. I was never myself, just a work in progress.
It was not until years later, when I finally realised that nothing was going to change for me. However, it was also when I realised I couldn’t make such drastic changes to my body, and that I probably shouldn’t be trying to. My own quality of life did not make the slightest improvement, and neither did the lives of those around me.
I realise now, in my journey, I was not alone.
I don’t remember the specific moment that I found self-confidence because the process took time, but I stood no chance until I realised that doing anything rather than accepting my body for what it is was simply a waste of time. I should have never blamed myself for having insecurities, and I should have never put my life on hold attempting to “improve” it for anybody.
I realise now, in my journey, I was not alone, though I felt I was at the time. It still upsets me that people continue to make comments and judge others without fully acknowledging the damage it could be doing, especially on young people. Commenting on somebody’s body at any age can place individuals in incredibly vulnerable positions. A lot of the time, our physical appearance is well beyond our own control, and unwanted comments are therefore nothing but triggering for some.
Looking back, I was trying to change for people who should have known better, but it was really the people around me who should have been changing themselves – people who should have been changing to act with more consideration, who had no reason to be addressing my weight at all because I found happiness in my own acceptance before anybody else’s.