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.