This is something I’ve wanted to talk about, but I’ve had a hard time thinking up a way to introduce it. Today’s prompt on my “Reader” page is called Confess.
I suffer to some degree of body dysmorphia, or body dysmorphic disorder. Also, compulsive exercise disorder.
It’s easy to pretend like everything in my life is fine and dandy, but it’s not always.
My issues started when I was a kid. Maybe 8 or 9. I had always been thin. I always loved sweets, but I was an active child. When 3rd grade hit, I started gaining weight. Maybe something in my metabolism changed, or maybe it was because I started having more schoolwork and less time to play outside. I was very much into music and art, but not so much sports or exercise. My mom was still dressing me in leggings, which were not flattering anymore. I developed hips and a rear end fairly early (lol). Throughout 3rd and 4th grades, kids picked on me for it. I had always been quiet/shy, but I feel like that made it worse.
Middle school came and things did not get any better. Middle school is a bad time for anyone, really. But in 6th grade, a huge boil formed right in the middle of my forehead. It was probably from stress. Kids picked on me a lot for that. I tried to use foundation to cover it up. It finally went away after 6 months or so. Weight-wise, it just gradually kept going up. I was never obese. Just pudgy. I developed stretch marks, too. I hated wearing swimsuits. I’d always wear the ones with the skirt attached.
I entered high school with fear and hesitation. I was wearing baggy jeans and tshirts every day. It seemed everyone around me was blossoming, starting to wear makeup, wearing Aeropostale everything. I felt like a chubby ugly duckling.
I started taking ballet that year and kept taking it throughout the rest of high school. Entering the big mirrored studio wearing a leotard and skirt had me feeling uncomfortable, to say the least. But I quickly found my love of ballet, and that outweighed my body image issues. I slowly started losing weight within the next year. I added pointe and tumbling classes in 11th and 12th grades. I joined the tennis team and marching band for my last 2 years in school, too. I became active. And when I was taking so many dance classes, I hardly had time to eat. I got down to my lowest weight during my senior year: 138 lb. And for some, that’s not low. But I was about 5’6″ and hadn’t been that weight in years. I was doing a lot of cardio and not much eating. My size 10 jeans had become baggy on me. I felt pretty good about myself when I graduated high school. I had more confidence than I used to have.
Well, enter college. Forget the freshmen 15. I gained 20 pounds during my first year. I did well with my grades but stopped doing any type of exercise except for a few sparse ballet classes. I was not making the healthiest food choices in the dining halls (hello Au Bon Pain mac n’ cheese). I returned home for the summer weighing about 160 lb.
I wasn’t happy with my weight, so I went on the Special K Diet and started taking some cardio exercise classes at my local rec center. I lost 15 lb. I felt better about the # on the scale, but when I saw myself in a swimsuit, I still wasn’t happy (weight lifting would have helped, but I was scared of it). I was almost starving myself; I wasn’t eating enough on the days I exercised. I almost passed out when I was working outside in the garden one day. My mom became worried about me.
My 2nd year of college came, and I ended up joining the rowing team (AKA crew) midway through. I was goofing off at the gym on one of the rowing machines and was recruited by some team members. Days later, I found myself freezing in a boat on the lake at 5:30 am wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into! Joining the crew team was a blessing and a curse for me. I was introduced to weightlifting, and I fell in love with it. I loved feeling strong. However, my weight went back up to 165 lb. I was under the mistaken assumption that since I was exercising a lot, I could eat whatever I wanted. Ha!
When my 3rd year started, I was unhappy with my weight and decided to try out MyFitnessPal. I logged every single thing I ate. I also continued on the crew team for the fall semester. I quit the team after that because my grades fell too much; I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I lost 15 lb during that year thanks to MFP. I continued working out and lifting weights as well. I wore a bikini on a beach for the first time ever during spring break. I felt really accomplished.
My weight remained stable throughout my final year. I had gotten it down to 148 lb when I graduated. And since then, it’s been fairly stable between 140-150 lb. I use MyFitnessPal still. I’m afraid that if I stop using it, my weight will start going back up (which has happened). It’s kind of a security thing for me.
For the most part, I’m happy with myself. Usually.
But if I go a few days without working out, I don’t feel good about myself. I feel myself getting chunky again.
If I eat a half dozen donuts one day (ladies, we all have days like that, don’t we?), I instantly tell myself, “I gotta go to the gym later.”
I have this constant fear that I’m going to revert back to my old self.
And seeing myself in a mirror during ballet classes doesn’t help, I know. I hate how I end up comparing myself to the other girls in class. I’m just built differently. And I hate it some days. I feel like I don’t have a ballet body. My legs are too muscular to form pretty lines. My hips/tail get in the way. I talk down to myself more than I like to admit. I see professional ballerinas who are my height (5’7″) weighing 115 lb and think, “How is that even possible? I must be really overweight.”
I really am trying to love the skin I’m in and be thankful for what I do have. It’s just a struggle. I’ve never gotten close to becoming anorexic or bulimic…I love food too much for that.
My mindset is always “go, go, go” so that I never become stagnant. I exhaust myself.
I guess I have a ways to go with self love, but at least I recognize it, right? This is not an easy subject to write about, and not many people know about this part of me. But I think it’s good to talk about it. It’s good to let others know that they are not alone.
If you’re reading this and suffer from any of this stuff, whether it be an eating disorder, exercise disorder, perpetual self esteem issues, etc., I just want to say:
You are not alone.
And it’s okay to talk about it. Or write about it. Get it off your chest.
Because confessing does help.