Body Image

In December 2014 I had surgery (tonsillectomy) and was at my skinniest that I’ve ever been, because I didn’t eat anything for a whole month (both because I couldn’t and food tasted awful).  In numbers, I had lost 15 pounds (at my current height and weight,85 put me very near being underweight) and went down 2 sizes.  For a while, I was trying to maintain that size while also trying to enjoy the fact that food tasted good again (food tastes so good!).  I was cutting my food into tiny portions and doing a ridiculous amount of jumping jacks whenever I had free time.  It didn’t work: I was constantly hungry and my muscle mass had deteriorated so much that simply walking to class on campus made me sweaty and exhausted.

That’s something they don’t tell you about surgeries like that.  You spend an entire month sleeping and not eating anything (except the occasional jello), so your body takes all the vitamins it needs to function from various tissues in your body.  I played soccer for 12 years and always managed to keep some semblance of fitness about me even after stopping, but after this surgery, my body had been in the worst shape it had ever been.

Me pre-surgery

But in my head, I looked amazing.  My stomach was flat, my legs were slim and shapely.  I could fit into my old prom dress from 4 years previous (pre-growth spurt) that was maybe 2-3 sizes smaller than I was pre-surgery.  However, within 3 months I grew out of the clothes that fit as I went back to my normal, pre-surgery size.  And for a little over a year I’ve been maintaining that image of me, thin and under-nourished, in my brain as the ideal shape I should be.  When did I start fantasizing that I look my best when I’m at my unhealthiest?  When did it become okay for me to try and force myself to maintain a shape that was only the result of starvation?

2 months post-surgery

This skewed body image I had of myself was preventing me from truly enjoying myself in my own clothing.  I held onto old pants hoping that I would one day fit back in them.  I only bought bathing suits that covered my stomach and bottom because I was ashamed of their shape.  I wore looser, longer shirts to try and cover the parts of my body that I thought were wrong.

It was only last week that I realized, for all my big talk about loving your own body and wearing what you want to wear, I was being a hypocrite.  I secretly resented myself for not being the size I used to be, for not being the shape I used to be, despite the fact that I eat a lot of healthy food in reasonable portions (relative to my age and activity level).  And I’ve decided that I am done with looking in the mirror and regretting what I see.  I’m done with holding onto clothing that doesn’t fit.  I’m done with exercising for skinny when I should be exercising for healthy.

In celebration of my breakthrough, I just bought myself a new bathing suit — one that is not a pair of swim shorts that I had gotten so used to hiding behind.

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