I’m sitting here mulling over what I want to write. I guess I’m a little sick of myself at the moment. Just fed up with my antics and how I treat people, how I treat myself. I try not to be self-centered, for years I thought of myself as selfless…but you know what? That’s as far from the truth as it gets. I am so focused on myself and what is going on with me, me me. But the funny thing is, no matter how focused I am on myself, I don’t actually pay attention to what my body and self are feeling. Sure, sometimes an emotion takes hold or I feel tired or hungry or bored or whatnot. But I have become quite adept at blocking out anything that really matters. I have developed strategies to avoid feeling anything wholly and completely.
I multi-task. I numb myself to life by escaping through a book. I turn off my inner signals for food and nourishment and rest because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable or…good. It’s like I revel in making myself suffer. So how can I get out of this rut? There are people out there that write and speak about first loving yourself and then you will have the ability to love others. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea. Yes, I believe that in order to have the ability to love, one must first be loved. Yes, I think that having compassion for yourself is a good thing, and being kind to your body and soul probably would assist in a person being able to do the same to those around them. But how far must this “self-love” reach? Can it simply be taking time for yourself? A little treat here and there? Or does it have to be as complicated as accepting all of your flaws and failures, pointing out what you like about yourself, to yourself, letting yourself feel good, letting yourself have what you want within reason, adoring your body?
The more I read and delve into stories about women and eating habits, I realize the majority of women seem to have some issue with food and body image, whether it be as big as an eating disorder, or as small as hating the color of your eyes. Women just seem to have this preoccupation with how they look, and no wonder. At every turn, there is a model or actress that looks pretty darn flawless. Diet tips and beauty regimes fill the pages of a plethora of magazines and internet headlines. Young girls are developing eating disorders and body image problems earlier and earlier. I have found myself contemplating how this thought pattern is even developed. I know when I was younger, I was not privy to the gossip magazines and television ads that girls nowadays are. The one commercial that sticks in my head is one that played after Arthur, for Juicy Juice, an ad campaign encouraging the consumption of a sugary liquid, which I would have happily indulged in, but made do with store “Old Orchard” frozen concentrate mixed in a pitcher. I wasn’t taught to dislike my body, to fear weight gain, to pinch my thighs and worry about whether or not they were thicker today than yesterday. Nope, actually I was just as surprised as everyone else when I was diagnosed with and eating disorder. I literally had no idea what anorexia was, or what it looked like. How did I know what to do then, to restrict and weigh and run? A genetic predisposition? A vitamin deficiency? The brain can rewire itself, yes. But how are the symptoms and actions implemented if the person doing the things doesn’t even know what they are doing?
If you really think about it, the whole body image thing is really weird and scary. Sure, I can recall people commenting on how tall and thin I was, even before I had an eating disorder. My mom dabbled in a diet here or there. Sometimes she would limit our sweets, or tell us to wait until after dinner. Sometimes as a joke my dad would snag a cookie from my plate when I wasn’t looking, and gobble it down while I protested, sometimes tearfully…but he would always replace it with a new one. What is a parent to do? Tiptoe around in fear that their child will develop an eating disorder because of one or two tiny comments or paying attention to nutrition? No. I don’t blame my eating disorder on anyone but myself. Not even society or media can be blamed for my issues. I caused them, I’ll own them. How does one learn to hate oneself, without anyone teaching them?
So what is “normal”? Where do we cross the line? When does healthy become unhealthy? Obviously something is wrong when an obsessive pattern occurs, such as restricting for days on end, exercising excessively, measuring out portions, eating the same foods over and over (especially low-calorie ones), skipping meals with regularity, counting calories. How can we protect the future generations from foibles such as the ones I am facing? I don’t know. Educate them? Perhaps…but then you run the risk of instructing them on how exactly to develop an eating disorder!