Body Talk: A reflection

I HATE my body.

Contrary to popular social belief, I do NOT think I am fat. I am very well aware of what I look like. I do not diet, binge, nor purge. I have tried numerous ways to gain weight, none of which have proven successful.

When I look in the mirror or see a picture of myself, I usually cringe. I cannot stand my size zero body, scrawny arms and stick legs.

I look at the women who are so well toned and strong yet struggling to lose those last five pounds and I am filled with envy. Yes, you read correctly. I ENVY their muscles and curves. The extra few pounds that they are trying so diligently to lose are the ones I am trying just as hard to gain._MG_6166

As I am getting older, it seems that the more I eat the less I weigh. Some of this is due to chronic digestive issues. The rest I attribute to stress and anxiety which I am convinced keep my metabolism in overdrive. Daily exercise keeps my anxiety in check and stimulates my appetite on days where I have none. After a long walk, refreshing swim or soothing yoga all of my stress seems to vanish and I am better able to continue on with my day. Despite the obvious benefits, I cannot help but view exercise as a guilty pleasure: a delicate balance between burning too many calories and doing what makes me feel great. Even when I walk outdoors in these beautiful summer months, I am preoccupied by passerbys’ thoughts of – “Why is that lady walking?” “She should stay home and eat!” “She MUST be exercising to lose weight”.

Perhaps my opinions seem self-centered or accusatory but they stem from countless unpleasant experiences. Each one re-affirms that my thinness is unacceptable by social standards. Because of this, I never wear tank tops and very seldom wear shorts. I try to keep myself covered as much as possible. It is difficult to describe the emotional pain that comes from simply wearing a t-shirt and wondering how many negative comments it will elicit.

I have lost track of how many doctors, complete strangers, and friends have commented disapprovingly on my appearance. Recently, one of my doctors inquired about my weight. I told him I was trying to gain and that eating ice cream every night topped with either cookies or crushed walnuts for extra calories was helping. His response: “I am guessing the ice cream was fat free”. I have another doctor who insists on starting each appointment with a sarcastic “I see you’ve been packing on the pounds lately”. Rare is the doctor or nurse that either says nothing or comments in a caring way – these are the ones that I cherish most. Then there are my daughters’ doctors and therapists who feel that it is their duty to inquire about my appearance and dietary intake. Sometimes I cannot even focus on the appointment at hand because I am so worried about if and when a comment will be made.

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Shopping for clothes is depressing. Strangers who know NOTHING about me randomly offer me tips on how to gain weight.

I was at a spa a few years ago where the masseuse asked if I had any health problems. I listed those that I felt were most relevant to which she responded: “Is anorexia one of them?”. When at the grocery store, people stare as I inspect food labels. If only they knew that I was doing this to ensure the food in question is free of the ingredients my kids are allergic to, I am sure the glares would subside.

Going out for dinner with friends is also a challenge. All too often, their own insecurities are projected onto me. I’ve had friends accuse me of not eating “normally”. It is these same friends who are seemingly never hungry once their food arrives. They take only one bite of their meal and then comment on the newest fad diet they are following. All this while I am savoring an entire 10 inch pizza, or a foot long submarine, or baguettes with butter or of course, my favorite – ice cream cake. Yes, I am cautious about the food I choose. I have learnt the hard way that processed foods or things with too many ingredients affect me. So in that sense, I am careful – a small price to pay to avoid being hospitalized on morphine and steroids to treat a flare up of my intestinal problems.

I shudder when my friends openly criticize their own daughters’ weights – something that never EVER occurs in our home. On the rare occasion that we discuss body image, I emphasize the strength, beauty, and healthy bodies that my girls are blessed with. Like most parents, I try to get them to eat properly but they definitely have their fill of chocolate, treats, and other indiscretions. And yet, because of MY physical appearance it is my family and I that society is judging unfairly.

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It is for all of the above reasons that I see my body as a source of shame. I know that there is more to me than my outward appearance.

I am lots of wonderful things – intelligent, funny, a loyal and caring friend, a loving mother, wife, sister and daughter. Yet, these all seem to be overshadowed by my weight. I have come to accept the frequent negative comments as facts.

They have become a part of who I am and have ultimately distorted the way I see myself. Getting dressed and leaving the house each day is a challenge due to the fear of being judged. As such, I try to avoid social situations as much as possible. This is the only coping mechanism that seems to work right now.

There are only three people in this entire world who I feel completely at ease in front of: my husband and two wonderful daughters. Even on my worst days when the comments are more than I can handle, they are supportive and never judge. My husband is quick to defend any critics and continues to be shocked by the ignorant comments that I endure. He is also one of the only guys in the world who can safely answer “yes” to that age-old question “Does this me look fat?” . My oldest daughter has the ability to recognize and appreciate all of the muscles in my arms and legs rather than the skin and bones that I see. She tells me I inspire her to be so physically active. My younger one tells me I am perfect the way I am.

I hope to eventually see myself through their eyes and with the same unconditional love as they do. I know that for their sake I need to adopt a positive body image so that they will have one as well. Meanwhile, if ever the day comes when you see me in a sleeveless top, please be proud and celebrate with me. It would mean that I have finally accepted myself and am at long last free from this burden that I have carried with me for too long

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