My body is an incredible thing. It allows me to belly laugh and hug my best friend when she’s had a bad day. And to dance on the kitchen table. And yet, I owe my body an apology.
Why exactly did I spend years treating it like a project that was nowhere near complete?
As someone recovering from anorexia, I found myself down a messy path of extreme calorie restriction and over-exercise at age 19.
Basically, I thought getting abs was the answer to all my problems. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t.
There are so many complex reasons people turn to restriction and bingeing. And why at least 1.25million in the UK are currently suffering.
Despite the stereotype of a young white woman trying to be ‘skinny’, eating disorders don’t discriminate by gender, age, skin color, sexual orientation or body shape.
Triggers such as low self-esteem, past trauma, grief, and perfectionism can all set off an obsession with food and weight.
But diet culture definitely has a lot to answer for when it comes to my personal body image issues.
While I’m somewhere on the long road to recovery, I’ve been feeling guilty about a lot of things lately.
Mainly the way I treated my friends and family at the height of my illness. And the selfish and isolated person I turned into when eating and the gym was all I could think about.
It’s ironic how quickly a fixation on health can turn into the exact opposite.
I Owe My Body an Apology
But the biggest apology I have to make is to my body. For the years of pain I put it through trying to uphold unrealistic and unhealthy standards.
I’m sorry that I deprived myself of the joys of bread and pasta and ice cream. And also of BBQs, laughs with friends over dinner, and the chance to develop relationships.
Now I realize it has never been my body’s fault.
I was taken in by a culture that’s so scared of fat that literally starving myself was the only option.
I’m sorry I used exercise as a punishment, instead of using movement as a tool. And for all the times I constantly pushed myself to dangerous limits.
Hours spent sweating in the gym every day didn’t make me feel stronger. It left my bones weak, my hair thin, and made my period totally vanish.
I was miserable, angry and exhausted in ways I didn’t even know were possible. My body was literally too tired to sleep.
But I’m ashamed that I still took pride in my clothes drowning me. And that I patted myself on the back when people complimented my ‘will power’ and shrinking body.
I certainly wasn’t better or more successful than anyone else because I refused to eat a slice of chocolate cake, I was just sicker.
I’m even more ashamed for all the times I congratulated my friends for dropping a dress size. As if taking up less room on this earth is something to celebrate or even recognize.
Most of all, I’m sorry for not trusting myself and my body to know when I needed to eat and when I needed to rest.
Unfortunately, we’re a long way away from a world where people can live at any size or shape without judgement from the £2bn a year diet industry.
Sometimes I see someone’s bikini photo on my Insta feed, or read the headline of another boring weight loss article. And I catch myself falling back into that trap
But when that voice creeps back in and tells me that I should skip the carbs today and go for a run instead,
I remind myself that a life of restriction, food rules, and constant guilt is actually not a life at all.