[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
Sometimes, when I meet someone new, I tell them about the deep, dark hole that was my eating disorder. I’ve written about it ad nauseum, and it’s funny to think that strangers might know more about my inner darkness than the people close to me. But usually, I reserve divulging the really dark stuff until it makes sense, and sometimes, that time never comes. Not everyone needs to know about your pain. More importantly, not everyone can be trusted to hold your pain with grace.
But I recently told someone new the abridged version of my story, from the hazy start to the inconclusive finish. His only question was, “Does your eating disorder still bother you?” The short answer is no, I’ve moved so far from it that I barely think about it except when asked. And I’ve been asked about it so much that my responses to common questions have begun to feel rote. But there is one part of the eating disorder that maybe does still linger, and I think it’s a thing that can bother most of us: body image. Our bodies change so often (and should) that our body images can’t always keep up. And body image impacts every other facet of life: our confidence, our vulnerability, our willingness to put ourselves out there, our comfortability in intimate situations, our comfortability with ourselves.
There is no good way to always feel 100% good in ones body. I don’t think that’s the point of bodies anyway. But having a body image that’s more negative than positive has been associated with:
- low self-esteem and poor mental health,
- drastic eating restrictions/disordered relationships with food,
- depression or other mood disorders,
- increased risk of self-harm,
- and relationship problems.
I’ve worked on having a better body image for years, and here are some tangible things that have helped.
1. Tune into your hunger cues. Ignoring what your body needs can cause you to over/under eat, not sleep enough, not drink enough water, drink too much caffeine or alcohol, and just generally feel worse than you need to. Honor and respect your body enough to listen to what it needs. It’s telling you, I promise.