When Does the Body-Image-Thing Get Better?

It has been a while since my last post. And while I intend to write more often than this, hopefully once a week, I think I needed time to let everything I was preaching, and trying to practice, sink in for myself before I started writing again.

Looking Back:

I started this whole Fuck It journey last January. It was my 24th birthday, I had been Paleo/part-GAPS for 4 months (that is ALL the time I did it for, feels like longer because it was an extension of a decade of disordered and dogmatic dieting), and I felt crazier than ever with food. I had just binged on disgusting squash pancakes for my birthday breakfast, and had a whole counter full of dry almond flour cupcakes with no icing that nobody  wanted to eat, not even me, (even though I had eaten 6 already and would finish them all before the day was over). Because, It was my birthday, damn it! Yum! I couldn’t feel my hunger anymore, I wasn’t getting healthier, all I did was crave food, and I was starting to gain weight again.

And it just hit me like a ton of bricks: “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!?!?…. AGAIN!?!?”.

So I began reading and eating. I began reading Matt Stone and re-reading Geneen Roth, and I began eating everything (slowly, I was very scared).

I began writing about it on here in May, and have been consistently practicing it all until now.

So?

I am happy to report that my fear of any specific food has pretty much vanished. My weight has been pretty consistent no matter how much I eat, and my health has improved since adding any and all amounts of macronutrients. So naturally, over time, my fears of having too much or too little of this and that, have dwindled. And thank God.

I still observe and believe in lots of “real food” principles: probiotics, saturated fat, try to avoid crap food and fake ingredients and industrial seed oils, but my view now is that they are simply guidelines. And my relationship to those guidelines is healthy and easy -instead of stressed and dogmatic.

So for almost a year I have been doing this, and it has been working. I wouldn’t go back for the world. And I still believe in every single “In Defense Of…” post that I wrote- and every other thing I wrote on here about trusting, and listening, and not exercising too much, and on and on. And I would urge anyone to face their food demons and try to do the same thing I did, which is why I write about all of this in the first place.

What About Body Image?

Well, that remains the trickier part. I think I have gotten better. I have definitely become more accepting. My stable weight is still 10 lbs over what I would have previously considered “slim” and “MAX WEIGHT ALLOWED” . I even caved in and ordered a new, 32-G-sized Bra seeing as nothing was shrinking or changing. And I have come to accept that it is “fine”. Life has gone on. I have had boys take me on dates. I have bought new clothes from Old Navy that are fun and nice, and not even always worrying about what is the most “flattering”, (which was always incredibly important before). And everything has been fine. Nobody has died. I haven’t died. Nobody has de-friended me, or wrinkled their nose in disgust at my humungous chest and my untoned arms.

It has been fine. Liberating, even.

This is all partly due to taking my break from theater. Nobody at the office cares how much I weigh. But it is also partly due to waking up, taking some responsibility for my happiness, realizing that I can choose to be stuck and miserable and needing to be whatever version of me I deem acceptable, or instead just accept whatever version of me there is at the moment. It is clear which one is actually more joyful.

But Then…

A few weeks ago I tried on a beautiful, embroidered, cap sleeve, peplum shirt. I fell in LOVE with it on the hanger, it was structured enough that I figured it would look ok on me, and thought “this will be GREAT for my Thanksgiving High School Reunion party thing!” I had an open mind, I didn’t need to be skinny. I didn’t think I was skinny anyway. I walked into the dressing room, tried it on and…..

UGH.

I looked awful. Really bad. Sorta bummed out the rest of my day.

So what did I do? I thought, calmy and rationally, “Well, I AM eating nearly a pint of ice cream every day or two. Maybe I am unnecessarily eating more than I need? Maybe I could become a teeny tiny bit slimmer, and more comfortable in beautiful clothing, in an easy healthy way, if I starting doing more actual intuitive and… slow eating. I should re-read French Women Don’t Get Fat.”

I had gotten to a point where I was just EATING to prove that EATING wasn’t going to ruin my life, and proving that I could eat without fear consistently. And I could! I just apparently couldn’t then look in the dressing room mirror without getting bummed out.

So I reread French Women Don’t Get Fat, because I loved that book when I read it a few years ago. It is not about dieting, it is not about weighing yourself, and it is not about villainizing food. It is not about anything other than looking at Food as Pleasure, and eating and revering it accordingly, with a sensible, long-term approach to “weight management” (I hate that term. What is a better term?). Logically, if I were to merge Matt Stone’s “Eat the Food” and Mireille Guiliano’s “Eat for Pleasure”- they both are probably quite good for the soul and for the metabolism. I read the book with all the new, sensible things I now believe about food and eating…. and it reminded me of a few food “reverence” tactics I had forgotten.

But I don’t want to talk about that right now. This is what I want to talk about:

Where do we draw the line between caring too much and caring enough, where body image is concerned? Where are we supposed to fall between wanting to look “amazing”, and accepting ourselves as we are?

It is hard. Because principally I am a supporter of Health at Every Size. I really am! I think that we should love and accept ourselves and each other unconditionally, and look for the beauty in all of our “imperfections”. I think we should be aware that all images that we are bombarded with by the media are extreme, and accept ourselves in all shapes and sizes and colors instead.

So, why am I still wanting to refine my eating habits, and look slimmer? And is that ok?

I haven’t written for a while because I was so sure about Food Fear being a problem. I knew it, and I knew how to explain to others why it doesn’t work. It was clear to me.

I was waiting for a similar clarity on Body Image, and I don’t have it yet.

So, instead it is going to be a learning journey. And I want your feedback. Because we can learn from each other.

I will write what I learn as I go- and I hope you do the same 🙂

But still…. Fuck It!

10 comments

  1. Camila says:

    SO right there with you…
    I think I connect so much with this blog because it is right along my own personal timeline…
    No more fear foods. I eat the food and a lot of it. But I am still (?) gaining. Quite a bit. I am uncomfortable, puffy, and yes, feel fat. These are also signs of recovery, because I came from a very disordered lifestyle far beyond orthorexia to the point my heart and body was in extreme danger.
    The hardest part is I am beginning to look like ‘the fat kid’ I was before this all started. I don’t want to. I really don’t want to. But I can’t help it. It is what my body is, at least for right now, with an active job, no additional exercise and at least 3000 cals per day to try to refuel and rebuild this broken body.
    I can’t be a jerk to my body anymore. It deserves a break. But my mind won’t shut up. I try to ignore this feeling, or spin it positive, but at the end of the day, I take up more space than I like and refuse to buy clothes because I don’t even have a womanly shape. The only thing that isn’t thick about me is my boobs. Otherwise, I’m built like a barrel.
    Thanks for posting this…I wish I knew the answer, or knew that my thyroid would speed up, or that someday I’d happily slim down once my body is recovered (I am 20lbs well over my ‘omg that’s too much’ weight). I’m still alive and still trying to find happiness in other things, but I’m not going to lie, I am very uncomfortable.
    Sorry for the TMI, but at least I got my first period in two years last week…8 months into stuffing my face and resting (RRARFING and refeeding a la matt stone and gwyneth olwyn).
    Thankyou thank you for sharing.

  2. vestavictoria says:

    Love this post, love your honesty. You’ve come up against a crucial point here, I think. But the question I always think we need to ask ourselves is: if you could eat whatever you wanted, in the amounts you wanted, and never gain weight, always look fabulous etc., etc., how would that then affect your eating? Would you still be wanting to “refine” your eating habits? Or would you just eat as you fancied, and maybe what and how you ate would change, evolve naturally over time, maybe not; but, whatever, you’d just eat to appetite? I battle with this one a lot. And it’s no use us looking enviously at those super-sophisticated, effortlessly refined French women, all carelessly leaving plate upon plate of discarded three-quarters buttery croissants without a second thought. When you’ve been brought up in that kind of culture, brought up to eat that way all your life, it’s just second nature and there’s never any slightest sense of years of physical and mental deprivation to overcome. But we’ve spent all our days in a culture where always the sole message is control, restraint, deny, no gain without pain; where appetite and desire are seen as supremely threatening because give in to them for an instant and you risk plummeting from a contender to a pathetic no-hoper sooner that you can even throw one longing glance at anything non-no-fat or non-lo-carb etc. etc. How can that oh-so-infuriating French insouisance ever be truly yours unless you’ve first battled fully through the fear of surrendering to your desires? Until you have learned to trust yourself and your body, no matter what – and that includes trusting that it’s OK to be x pounds more than your mind decrees you must be to be acceptable to yourself and society for however long it takes, and permanently if needs be – you’ll never reach the Promised Land of Peace around food/weight/body issues. That’s what I’ve found, anyway. Anything less is just continuing to live in fear of losing some illusory control.
    Camila, I know and feel for where you are. It seems impossible to open your mouth while gritting your teeth and just carry on trusting, but that’s what you have to do. You are trying to care for yourself at last, trying to be kind. After all your poor, poor body has been through, you have to give her time. Nurse her as you would a beloved convalescent twin sister. She is closer to you than that. She deserves time to heal. She has been so deprived. She deserves to be nourished and nourished again until she can fully believe that you are always going to look after her now. Letting your mind bully you beyond orthorexia didn’t exactly work out well. So even if it still won’t shut up now and ignoring it feels a sham, you’re winning, you’re winning and I’m rooting for you.

  3. vestavictoria says:

    Love this post, love your honesty.  You’ve come up against a crucial point here, I think.  But the question I always think we need to ask ourselves is: if you could eat whatever you wanted, in the amounts you wanted, and never gain weight, always look fabulous etc., etc., how would that then affect your eating?  Would you still be wanting to “refine” your eating habits?  Or would you just forever carry on eating as you fancied, and maybe what and how you ate would change, evolve naturally over time, maybe not; but, whatever, you’d always be happy just eating to appetite?  I battle with this one a lot.  And it’s no use us looking enviously at those super-sophisticated, effortlessly refined French women, all carelessly leaving plate upon plate of discarded three-quarters buttery croissants without a second thought.  When you’ve been brought up in that kind of culture, brought up to eat that way all your life, it’s just second nature and there’s never any slightest sense of years of physical and mental deprivation to overcome.  But we’ve spent all our days in a culture where always the sole message is control, restraint, deny, no gain without pain; where appetite and desire are seen as supremely threatening because give in to them for an instant and you risk plummeting from a contender to a so-called pathetic no-hoper sooner that you can even throw one longing glance at anything remotely non-no-fat or non-lo-carb etc. etc.  How can that oh-so-infuriating French insouisance ever be truly yours, then, unless you’ve first battled fully through the fear of surrendering to your desires?  Until you have learned to trust yourself and your body, no matter what – and that includes trusting that it’s OK to be x pounds more than your mind decrees you must be to be acceptable to yourself and society for however long it takes, and permanently if needs be – you’ll never reach the Promised Land of Peace around food/weight/body issues.  That’s what I’ve found, anyway.  Anything less is just continuing to live in fear of losing some illusory control.
    Caroline, Camila, I’m rooting for you both. It is so hard to come to grips with the struggle against wanting to make your body fit you mind. I have success at it, and then I fall back again. All I know is, if you don’t stand square on and face it sooner rather than later, come a time you lose the chance to claw back what you’ve lost for good. In your teens, 20’s & 30’s you can get away with playing all the silly games we play with our bodies. There’s time to make amends, mostly. When you get to your late 50’s, like me, and have been trashing your body in the name of making it fit some mould since you were 12, guess what? You end up looking 99 on a good day, feeling 199, and wishing, oh, wish, wish, wishing you’d faced down your inner demonical demands and utterly nuked them as soon as you possibly ever could. Be strong enough to be you. Choose life.

    • Camila says:

      You are so kind and inspirational! There is a forum I’m on where *I’m* the one who says to the younger teens trying to recovery “I wish I had done this 14 years ago”…essentially, there is no ‘too late’ to kick it to the curb. It’s bloggers like Caroline and posters like you who help me remember that we need to fight to be and accept more well-rounded icons, who are mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy, like authors, peace-keepers, scientists, etc, not the drugged out, underfed celebrities.

  4. I am so happy you published another blog post 🙂 I have just found your blog and I love it so much already, I want you to write more in the future!

    You know, it’s ok where we are. It’s ok that we want to look a certain way. 🙂
    It’s also ok if we never reach that goal though, ha!
    I don’t know. It’s ok to not know.

    I just wanted to leave a comment so you know that there are ppl reading your blog and finding it really helpful 😉

    I also sent you a mail some days ago, hope you got it!

    – Jasmin

  5. Shannon says:

    This was so my day today. I went to the mall and had a hard time finding anything and found myself being really conscious of clothes that didn’t hug my figure. I have been the same weight for about a year and a half now but I keep sliding back into the desire to want to lose weight, versus what I refer to as “eating rebelliously”, kind of eating just to prove that I can and not necessarily in a healthy way. I have decided that it’s all kind of a healing process; hell, I’ve had ED issues for 20 years now. I just try to be really observant and let the changes happen naturally and not judge myself too harshly. I do try to make a concerted effort to stay away from anything even remotely diet-ish because I know I’ll immediately go into crazy mode right now. It is a really slow process but I think the only way to true healing and peace with your body, at least for me.

  6. michele says:

    I wanted to comment to say I so appreciate you writing all this down and making it available. I found you buy googling “fuck dieting” :). I was a raw fooder for 8 years, and just starting to uncover the shock and surprise of the possibility that the main thing I thought I was doing out of love for my body, thinking it was the ultimate in health and wellness, could have actually been the real, down-the- rabbit-hole step. Thank you so much for your honesty, transparency about your experience and the willingness to say ‘i dont know’- it is SOOO appreciated.

  7. Amanda says:

    Hi Caroline, I totally get what you are saying. I have felt like I have given up on my body being trimmer. I’ve gained weight, way past what I ever thought would be ok. I don’t eat crazy at all. I have similar food “rules” as you – and treat them guidelines that I can break now and then. I try to eat vegetables, and I actually like them! It’s just easier to eat cheese and crackers. I am doing the best I can. I’ve been exercising more and I know I have gained strength and muscle. That feels awesome!! But fat on top of muscles isn’t so pretty. Bought new, bigger pants.

Comments are closed.