My Body — The Frenemy
Trigger Warning: Strong language, body dysmorphia, self harm, disordered eating, anxiety, depression
For most of my childhood I had no issues with my body. It looked fine, it worked fine, I didn’t think twice about it.
The first time I was forced to consider my physicality was at the end of college when my boyfriend at the time called me pleasantly plump. It was a shock to me, Ms. Effortlessly Skinny that I could ever be perceived as plump. Seeing myself in the mirror I wouldn’t have really considered myself fat. I saw myself as I always saw myself. A few extra stretch marks here and there, but the rest seemed fine.
It was only through other people’s eyes that I began to notice that I was fat. A few years later my brother also commented that I looked like a family friend of ours who had very big hips. I still couldn’t really wrap my head around it. But over time I started looking around and comparing with everyone else. Yes, I did have to buy Large pants and not just because I’m tall. I googled a bunch of statistics about ideal weight and did some BMI calculations and realized that I was what they called plus size.
What the fuck? How was I plus size? When did this even happen? Why is the bar for plus size so low? At clothing stores I started to notice that some places didn’t even carry my size, or my size was never available. Were clothes only meant for small and medium sized people? What were people my size doing?
Still, I was 22 and resolved to fix it. I had never been fat and I refused to believe that I had to remain fat. I tried a million different diets. Low carb, keto, calorie counting. I tried weight lifting, yoga, zumba, cardio, whatever was accessible. Then two years later, at 24, I finally found the perfect combination. Powerlifting and low carb. In three months I lost most of the weight. The rest came off slower but by age 25 I was looking slender again. WHEW. I had done it. Mission accomplished, story over, happy ending, roll credits.
Age 27. I was asked to gain weight for a film. Cocky from having lost most of my weight in three months, I agreed. I could lose it again. What was the big deal?
Age 29. It’s been three years and the weight is still on. I lost and gained and lost weight a few times in between thanks to surgery, international travel, and the death of a loved one, interspersed with rigorous diet, physiotherapy and exercise.
I turn 30 in two weeks and I’m in a constant state of conflict. There’s a part of me that wants to just give up, give in, lean into this new body, and own it. A part of me has done that already. The part of me that exercises to feel good, eats clean for clear skin, who carries toddlers and moves furniture and rides a scooter is very happy with my body. I gave away my “thin” clothes, bought new ones in Large, Extra Large, and Extra Extra Large, depending on the brand and the product. I follow body positivity influencers and brands on Instagram, I unfollowed fitness models and actresses with their rail thin bodies. I bought shape wear and high waisted trousers and I’m living my best life. This part of me wears my weight with a middle finger in the air saying “fuck you and you expectations of what my body should look like.”
But the other part of me is unwilling to accept this turn of events. Absolutely egotistically fixated on chasing my “ideal” weight. To be completely transparent, I’m only 2 kgs above the ideal maximum for my height. I’m at 77 kgs, 75 is the upper limit of ideal for my height, and my goal weight is 60 kgs. The lower limit for my height is 55 kgs, which would be the REAL ideal. But I’ve hit 60 kgs before and for now I would like to at least get back there. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. 77 now, 75 soon, 70 in a few months, 60 next year, and 55 a few months later. Right?
Wrong. What I can’t seem to factor into my calculations is my mental health. At 24 I was in prime shape physically, but mentally I was at my worst. Severely, deeply depressed — crying multiple times a day, every day and hoping and waiting for death to come. I hated being alive. Chasing this damn goal weight was the only thing that gave me a sense of purpose and control.
I was motivated purely by self loathing. Every rep in the gym was fuelled by “Move your disgusting body you piece of shit”. Every skipped dinner came from “You don’t deserve food. You deserve to be hungry. Burn your fat, you sick fuck.” On cheat days I would binge eat and vomit because my body couldn’t take what my brain so desperately wanted.
Even at 27, just before I gained the weight for the film, I was all over the placed. Recently diagnosed with multiple disorders, emotionally unstable, re-evaluating the foundation on which I had built my life, self harming, anxious, and turbulent. But physically, I was at that sweet 60 kgs on the scale. I barely worked out, lost most of my muscle mass, couldn’t handle my motorcycle, but hey, I was buying Small tops and Medium pants, so all good eh?
As 30 comes up, I am emotionally much more aware. Four years of therapy, regular medication, a hundred tools and worksheets and journal entries and meditation sessions later, I am at least aware of my patterns. I don’t fall apart as easily, I don’t get as angry, I am no longer numb and suicidal. I see the joy in the little things — a smile, a hug, a day at the beach, a piece of chocolate. It’s all so much more fulfilling now that my brain gets enough serotonin.
The better my mental health gets, the less I seem to be able to punish my body into thinness. Was thinness merely a side effect of a turbulent mind? Was my body fat percentage the only thing I could control while I was a slave to the demons in my head? Was losing weight the only way I could feel a sense of self worth? Is it such a bad thing to be happy and fat?
Strangely, regardless of how I feel, it appears that my fatness bothers people so much more than my mental illness did. A thin, mentally ill person doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as a happy fat person. “How strange to be happy when you’re fat”, their looks say. I too am no longer able to fuel my workouts with self loathing. I am no longer able to skip dinner as often as I used to. Every now and then, that voice resurfaces. When I have to send my measurements to a stylist or take pictures in a swimsuit, I suddenly become aware of my dimensions again. Thankfully those moments are only moments now. At the most a few hours on a bad day. No longer my status quo, my default setting.
As 30 comes up, I am fighting hard to silence that cruel voice that only has eyes for me. The cruel voice is quiet when I see other people’s bodies, when I work out, when I eat clean. It only rises when I stand on the scale, or measure myself, or try on clothes. As 30 comes up, I will fight harder to silence that voice. I will lean in to the part of me that is happy, that is active, that is mindful about eating. I will fall apart once a month or so, but there will be no more skipped dinners and binge/purge cheat days. There will instead be an hour of physical activity every day, a little cheese on my bread, a little chocolate on my tongue, and a bit of beer on a Sunday.
Whatever the scale will be, will be.
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