This blog isn’t one I want to write. But I’m going to, and it’s gonna get real core truth honest in here. Everyone I ever met before being diagnosed celiac who had given up gluten told me how thin they got from cutting gluten. Looking at the results on their bodies seemed glorious proof. When I received my diagnosis there was actually a moment of inner relief when I thought, “That is why I struggle so much with weight! I’ll finally make a diet change that works long term to thin my body!”
But that is not my path. And that has been so very hard. Since revolutionizing my life experiences and diet plan to accommodate my diagnosis I have put on approximately twenty pounds. And I hate it. And it doesn’t get easier any day. Let me explain some backstory here.
When I was young I had an eating disorder. I quite obviously still suffer from body image issues and my work to overcome is constant and intensified post-diagnosis. I was bulimic. Well, that’s what they call you anyway when you are sometimes anorexic, sometimes a food hider, sometimes a purger. I didn’t have much trouble with binging but I eventually had a great relationship with purging. At sixteen my body finally began to display weight loss from my behaviours. Before that I had no obvious signs of having an eating disorder because I never looked particularly skinny.
I remember being about fifteen and the woman who ran the youth group I belonged to noticed that I wouldn’t eat at public events. She saw me looking at a table of food and deciding not to eat anything, she asked me why I wasn’t taking anything and I gave a typical answer, one I’d given her before, of eating prior to the event or just not having an appetite yet. She pushed harder now because she was starting to see a pattern, her husband, a doctor, came to the table and I told him to get her to stop bugging me about eating. He told her I looked perfectly healthy and to let me be. I wanted to die right then. He may as well have called me massively obese.
I wanted to be so skinny that skin hung off my bones and after all the purging and going hungry I’d done, I couldn’t even convince a doctor that maybe I was too skinny. It was crushing. And after that I certainly doubled down on my commitment to hurt myself.
At 16 something started happening that scared me. As soon as I finished a meal my body was ready to purge, I could feel the need rise and multiple times I rapidly excused myself from family situations to rush to the bathroom, where my mouth was full and ready to release before I made it to the toilet. Also, my parents started asking about my weight and how I was dressing. I had found a counselor at school who I was comfortable talking to and I had missed some classes to discuss with her. One day my parents realized I had missed some classes and they didn’t know why and they confronted me. I broke down and told them I had an eating disorder. They put me in to therapy – much of that story saved for another day.
All of this backstory to say that body image issues are entrenched for me. ALSO… I have a great vessel. My vessel is generally healthy and strong. My bones are big and that has given me a solid frame for stage combat and stunt training, for physical labor and adventures. Not only that but something about me displays sex appeal, it’s a power I’ve carried with me as long as I’ve been alive. That’s not always a great thing in our society but it is certainly still a very real and true thing for my experience. ALSO… I think big women are beautiful. There is a place in my vision of beauty for women of many shapes and sizes. I am in a monogamous relationship with a man now, but I’m pansexual and the physical size of a man or woman has had nothing to do with how appealing I find them. Appeal is not related to size in my image of others but it is in my self image.
I struggle to see my worth because of my size, and I know that’s ridiculous. I also can see where that this thinking isn’t right, healthy, or helpful AND I can see where this thinking comes from … a lot of places where it comes from. It comes from family dynamics too dense to explain fully here, I did try to write it but trust no one has time to read all that. It comes from my history as an actor and years of very public conversation around my shape. Even in my most fit times I’ve had relationships where men who have been clearly attracted to me have also critiqued how my body could be better.
All of this to say…
I have come to a better place now because I’ve some helpful rules.
#1 Stop allowing my body to be a subject of conversation. Even people who love me and know how I’ve struggled with the weight gain will bring it up out of nowhere during social times. This isn’t helpful, it is never helpful. I am more aware of my body than anybody else and I’m actively doing all the right things for my body/mind/spirit so there is no need to have a conversation about it. I may lose weight, I may not, all my choices are for health and wellness – the body will respond as it chooses. During this time in recovery I have had to realize that my actions no longer display outcome – the work is now to take actions without expectation of visual outcome, the help they provide is in my blood, in my strength, and in my vitality. While I want to say that is enough, I am only comfortable saying, that IS.
To everybody who is interested in making body commentary of any kind, know this: Every sideways word sticks in my head forever and they all surface during my weakest moments.
#2 Cut the negative self talk. ESPECIALLY DURING MENSTRUATION. Yep, I went all caps and we all know it was needed. I went even further with this rule and told my partner, now I have someone to remind me if I’m breaking my own rule and that is helpful. This is a constant battle because I’m by far my worst critic and on emotional days self-sabotage feels like an immediate reaction. Again, just like the 1st rule, this action is just never helpful so it has to go.
#3 Get clothes that fit. It has been nearly a year since I’ve put on this weight and I just packed up my clothes that were too little and stored them and bought some pants and dresses I’m comfortable in.
#4 Use Mantras. There are a couple shades of mantra use that I need. There are self-love affirmations that I should say daily but if I use them when I’m low, that is helpful too and I can do that until I’m ready to work them in to my every day. And then there’s the mantra that saved my life when recovering from bulimia meant anxiety attacks while getting dressed. Freaking out over which shoe makes your leg look thinner? Pick any shoe and say out loud, “Fuck it.” Then walk the fuck away from the mirror. This mantra has worked for many reasons. People being judgey and fucking with your head? “Fuck them.” Often I will cap it with. “This is only my life. I do me. Let that freak flag fly.”
#5 Allow time to cry. If you need it, make space for it. Just remember that chemically we are constantly creating cells with the emotional receptors of the state we are in, so the more time you wallow in the upset the more chemical representation is created in your body. I try to counter my wallowing time with #4 and #6.
#6 Show your body love. As I wash in the shower I will thank my body for how it serves me. When I workout I spend the first several minutes just noticing how my body feels that day and giving stretch and strengthening to the areas that speak to me. Say nice things about your vessel and if someone else says something nice hear it for what it is. That last bit is super hard because I suffer from a body dysmorphic thing, like when I asked my partner if he liked my new pants (two sizes larger than I ever purchased before) and he said, “I love skin tight clothes on you.” My heart broke because what I heard was, even those big pants are tight on you. What he said was, I love to see your body in tight clothes. Really. That’s what he said. It probably took me three days, once my cycle passed, to actually receive the good feeling that my lover likes my shape in tight clothes. I’m going to let it make me smile.
If any of you have body love tools or rules to share, please do! Now it’s time for me to go workout. Hope this is helpful to you. It was cathartic for me and it’s sad to reflect on, I have such work to do to find my self-love power center as I have in other times. It’s okay. Life is the journey and I’m on it, in it, working it. Grateful as ever to have good company along the way. Yourself included.
And the fun part? I’ve been looking at the mortal coil experience as a whole a lot more lately and this stuff just continues to transition – weight up and down, physical appearance constantly changing, hell I’m looking to be pregnant this time next year! So we are sure to face much more of the body changing, seems the best thing to do is find out how to love yourself and treat yourself with love through all of the stages.
Now let’s all go be our best selves and remember that is enough.