Monthly Archives: April 2016

Looking for ourselves in old photos

This past week, I’ve found myself looking at old pictures of me. Pictures of me in college, pictures of me at the beach, pictures of me at my sister’s wedding, pictures of me at my graduation. In all this pictures, I am smiling, looking happy, taking photos with all my family, laughing with my friends and I looked back at these photos and I felt…

Awful. Terrible. Ashamed. Self-conscious. Sad.

In all this pictures, I weigh less than I do right now. Most of these pictures were taken in the span of time I was at my lowest weight and the ones that weren’t were when I was at a weight that was still too low for my body. And right now, I weigh more than I ever have in my life (I can’t say that definitively because I don’t own a scale or weigh myself but I can tell you with pretty much absolute certainty that it’s true). I don’t look like I do in those pictures, at least not to me. I look nearly unrecognizable to my disordered eyes. My belly has some squish, my bum is ever-expanding and my first reaction when I saw these pictures was I want to look like that again. 

But here is the thing: that’s not true. I don’t want to look like that again. Because when I looked like that, I was waging a war inside my head. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I was too busy counting calories and planning workouts to enjoy the beach or the time with my friends or the party. Wherever I was, I wasn’t really there. I was off in my own little world, a world filled with self-hate and calories and meal planning and workouts- a world that no one should ever have to live in.

As I looked at these pictures, I thought to myself: if I looked like this right now, how would my life be different? The answer: it wouldn’t. My life wouldn’t suddenly become better. I would still be a student, finishing up her dietetic internship and getting ready to launch into the real world in a few months. I would still be living in this same apartment, driving the same car, have the same friends. All my relationships- with my family, with my friends, with my partner- would be exactly the same, arguably better because I more willingly engage in conversation when my head isn’t swirling with ED thoughts. I would still be a book enthusiast, a feminist and advocate for equality, a coffee shop explorer, a Bernie Sanders and lefty politics supporter, a lover of all things Earth and an admirer of funny women; I would still drink tea in bed every night and listen to podcasts and watch Jeopardy and like nothing more than a night alone with a glass of wine and a good movie in bed. (And in case anybody was wondering, yes I am living the life of a 65-year-old woman in a 22-year-old body). All of these things would be same if I was that smaller size again. My position in life wouldn’t change.

If I were that size again, I would be in exactly the same place but. I would still feel trapped, imprisoned in my own head. I wouldn’t feel this free. I wouldn’t be able to eat ice cream every day. I wouldn’t be able to reconnect with all the foods that remind me of childhood, that I deprived myself of for years. I wouldn’t be able to read and write and daydream in the afternoon because I would be forcing myself to complete an excessive workout. I wouldn’t have time to spend with the things that I’m passionate about, the things that make my soul sing. My body would be smaller, but my life would be smaller too.

Here is one of the latest photos of me, taken last weekend right before a date night. Enjoying the space I’m taking up, embracing my recovery body and excited about life. If you’re in recovery, I urge you to think of not just how you looked in old photos but how trapped you felt felt. Think of not just the weight you’ve gained, but the life and the freedom and the ability to enjoy life. So do I want to look like I used to? You know, I think I’m actually okay here.

Mirror, mirror.

Mirrors are great for checking your teeth after lunch to make sure there’s no spinach stuck in between them. They’re great for making sure your skirt isn’t tucked into your underwear as you leave the bathroom or to check to make sure there’s no toilet paper hanging off your dress . They’re handy for putting on make-up, if that’s something you choose to do. They are nice to have around to ensure your shirt matches your pants or to check if your skirt is appropriate length for work.

You know what mirrors are not great for checking?

Your self worth.

Now before I go any further, I need to preface this by saying this post is not intended for those who have love their bodies and are happy with what they see in the mirror and who are so beautifully entrenched in the idea of body love. To you, I think you are awesome and inspiring and I encourage you to keep on doing you. For everyone else- keep reading 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, I went home last weekend for Easter. This was my first visit home since I started the recovery process. After about 10 minutes of being home, something because remarkably clear. Mirrors, mirrors, everywhere. Now before I continue, my house does not have an exceptional number of mirrors. There are mirrors in the bathroom, the bedroom and a few decorative mirrors around the house. It’s not like I live in some crazy fun house of mirrors or anything like that. But my apartment, for the most part, is quite devoid of mirrors. There’s a small mirror that reveals only my head and shoulders in the bathroom and a very small mirror I use to put on makeup (which I do begrudgingly) and that’s about it. My full-length mirror hides tucked away in my closet, pulled out only when necessary (mostly on date nights or mornings where I’m too tired to decide if the things I’m wearing match). So to go to somewhere with more than two tiny mirrors, well, it was a bit of an eye opener.

I decided months ago, before I began this process, to hide my full length mirror in the closet because I realized I had become quite a mirror addict. And my guess is that I’m not alone in this, especially for any women reading this. How many times do you check the mirror before you decide on an outfit in the morning or before you leave the house? How many times do your find yourself seeking one out during the day to make sure your hair isn’t sticking up funny or your butt doesn’t look too big? And of course, how many people use any semi-reflective surface they walk by to check out their reflection? Windows, glass walls, reflections on car doors, reflections on regular doors…sound familiar? I am definitely guilty of this. In high school, I remember using the trophy case in the social studies wing to check my reflection every day. I was obsessive about checking my reflection and the way my body looked in mirrors during college. I find myself using the glass sliding doors in the morning when I’m walking into the hospital some days.

And the thing is, this isn’t even an eating disorder behavior at all. I’m willing to bet that some, if not most, people reading this can relate to the phenomenon of needing to check your reflectionMaybe you check out your stomach, your face, your thighs, your boobs, your shoulders….whatever it is! Everyone can find things on their bodies that they fixate on and don’t like. And so what do we do when that happens? We feel the need to check on it all the time with the help of our trusty mirrors.

Personally, I have always been fixated on my stomach. Every mirror I walked by. I would check it out by the side, from the front- and if there was a way to check it from the back, I’m sure I would have done that, too. I tormented myself over those 6 square inches of my body. How did they look today? Was it bigger? Smaller? Puffier? Flatter? Should I stop wearing this shirt? Ahhhhh! I’m driving myself crazy just thinking about this old habit of mine.

But guess what? NO ONE CARES. No one cares how my stomach looks. No one cares if I have a funny hair sticking up. No one cares about my little bit of eyeliner that went slightly off course this morning. No one cares because chances are, they’re too busy thinking about their own flaws anyway. It needs to stop! We give these mirrors so much power over us. I used to let me reflection in the mirror ruin my day. As soon as I woke up, it was the first thing I checked and if I didn’t like it that particular day, well then, the day was ruined. Here’s the thing: nothing good came from this. Giving our mirrors more power than they deserve is a losing battle. I rarely thought I looked good, no matter what I saw. And on the off chance that I didn’t hate it, I felt pressured to keep it that way and to do more, control more, which just feeds right back into the eating disorder. It’s a vicious cycle that anyone can get sucked into, regardless of whether you have disordered eating or not.

Your reflection in the mirror does define your worth. It cannot show the happiness and joy you bring to other people’s lives. It will not show you your compassion or the way your genuinely care about the world. It cannot measure the love in your life or the kindness of your being. It cannot show you how much your friends and family care about you. It cannot show you all the good things you think or the bad jokes you tell that make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

This week’s blog comes with a challenge, my friends:

DO NOT let your mirror control your life or your mood or your day or anything else.
DO NOT give your mirror more power than what it is- a silly little piece of glass.

Pay attention to how many times you look in the mirror and what you’re hoping to seek from it. Are you going to check that you don’t have something in your teeth? Cool! Are you going to make sure that your body looks “acceptable”? Not cool. You might actually be surprised once you start recognizing how often you look in the mirror (again, this does not apply if you are one of the fabulous people who embraces body love in all their glory. In THAT case, keep looking in the mirror cause damn, you look good girl). I encourage you to try to practice a little mindfulness when it comes to your mirror-checking habits. OR if you want to challenge yourself even more, point out all your positives when you look in a mirror. Give yourself compliments. Shower yourself with self-love. In my hopes of embracing body love, those are things that I’ve been trying to do lately and I gotta tell you, I think it’s helping. Cause I gotta tell ya, those mirrors at home? After awhile, they didn’t bother me one bit.

Just for you guys…some silly mirror pictures to prove how little my reflection really means. If this post resonated with you or if you do challenge your mirror habits, I would love to hear about it in the comments below! Sending love and wishes for a happy week to you all!