resolving my body image and ED problems: how i am a walking contradiction

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Bralette | Forever 21

Floral skirt | Kiss Jane

Boots | Macy’s (from my New York trip)

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It just dawned on me: can someone who knows a fair bit about body image issues be free from body image problems themselves? Does knowing ways to love your body, how to restructure negative thoughts, factors that contribute to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders equip you with the information to make you immune from low self esteem, anxiety and other body image issues?

I was going through my wardrobe and trying to mix and match whatever outfits I currently have as a bit of fun and basically take a break from the mad rush of deadlines I had to meet. Thanks to my bout of depressive funk last week, I’m scrambling to pick up the pieces I left behind and trying to sort them all out. So I thought what better way to relax by going through my clothes and trying out different pieces and experiment with styles?

This current ensemble somewhat deviates from my stye. My style is more a classic/vintage/sweet this is more classic-meets-rock. On a regular day I would have paired this with my nude pumps but I think this one turned out pretty all right, don’t you think? You can’t see in the pictures, but the bralette is actually covered with polka dots. Plus the skirt has these see-through mesh columns at the bottom and I liked how it gave off a vintage vibe and I decided to see how they would look like with some black boots. I’d say this gave off a modern vintage vibes. Modern vintage. I love how it contracts each other.  Yah okay before you say anything else I know I need to get a proper camera. My pictures as of now are either taken with my dad’s ancient camera or my iPhone and I had to crop the picture so you wouldn’t see the other furniture and mess in my room. I suppose that’s why the pictures turned out smaller

Anyway, back to my point. I was trying on different outfits and assessing how I looked in the mirror and I would occasionally swing between feeling very confident to feeling like a lump because I didn’t like how my body looked in a certain outfit.

I think I look pretty all right, in terms of attractiveness. But then on some weird twisted level, I am still dissatisfied with myself. After 6 years of struggling with an eating disorder and scrutinizing and critizing every bit about my body, I’m very aware of my own “flaws”. I have chubby cheeks, I have small eyes and I also have a slight overbite and it makes me insecure about taking pictures because I have to be mindful of how my face would appear in various angles so as to prevent myself from looking like I’m frowning or just pulling off an “attitude” face. I don’t have the body of a supermodel, and I know I will never get one because let’s face it, there’s no magic pill that will make me shoot up to be 180cm and reduce my overall bone/muscle structure. I’m curvy, I have muscular calves and meat on my abs but with the right clothes, I feel pretty good. I stopped counting calories and am working out less than when I was in my obsessive phase though there are occasions where I would go a little off limits and spend a week eating less and exercising more and end up eating more than I want to at the end of the week. My weight has stopped fluctuating (thank God) and if you were to ask me to rate myself, I’d say I would give myself a 7.5. 8 if I’m feeling pretty good that day.

However, when looking in the mirror and assessing my appearance and even looking through the pictures, my anorexic/binge-eating/chew-and-spit/compulsive-exercise alter ego would somehow magically seep in and be all “Wow you really could lose more weight; look at that tummy what makes you think you can pull that bralette with those jeans even though they’re high-waisted? Stop eating carbs and eat more veggies. And really, those fat cheeks of yours? What happened to your bronzer? And your eyeliner to make your eyes bigger?”

Even though I rate myself a 7.5-8 on my appearance level I am still not happy with my body.

Is this normal? Does everyone go through this? I mean I know I’ve come a pretty long way since my ED days(or at least I hope) when I was bashing myself and cutting myself and whatnot. I’m practicing forgiveness and patience with myself and I’m also practicing positive talk. I’m still practicing intuitive eating and bingeing a lot less and I no longer count calories.

And it helps that I avoid fitness magazines. Yet even with this changed outlook on my body and self-care and self-love routine, I admit, I still spend money on clothes and makeup because I want to look good. I do a lot of running, and I even subscribe to the very same fashion magazines that I know through my extensive research contributes to body image problems around the world. I’m a feminist and I’m outraged at how the fashion industries glorifies thinness and pushes young girls into starving themselves to attain visible ribcages and thigh-gaps because I’m one of those girls. As a feminist and having struggled with an eating disorder and going through recovery, I want to help both myself and young girls love their bodies BUT here I am, still expressing insecurities about my body and still scrutinizing my appearance in mirrors and pictures. And I’ll be honest with you because I’m not perfect: if you were to ask me now I would still want to lose a few pounds.

As you can see, I am a walking contradiction. Can I really help other women love their bodies when I myself still express insecurities about my own? How can I be walking around town telling girls to embrace their bodies when I still struggle to accept my flaws?

Its a nightmare I can tell you, and its giving me dissonance, because it makes me feel like a hypocrite. HOWEVER having said that here’s what I noticed – I noticed a changed in my motivations and my thought processes. In the past my reason for losing weight was so I could look like Angelina Jolie. Skinny and sexy and all. However, when my ED alter ego seeped in during the destress-dressup session just now and told me I need to lose weight, I panicked. But then after a while I was actually able to tell myself: “Nope, I will lose weight and get fitter because its healthier and so my stamina will be better. I will not lose weight to fit a skinny ideal because that’s unrealistic. I will not go to extreme dieting because I will not relapse and find myself struggling with my eating disorder again and wasting my life away for another 6 years.” or “Wow you’ve been eating a tad too little this past week huh. Remember what happens when you eat too little and want to lose weight fast? Go slow. It doesn’t matter if it takes time. You’ll get there.”

Somehow, my love for myself was able to quash my ED alter ego, whom I’m named Snix, and was able to battle her with reason. Yes I’m still in the phase of recovery where I would want to lose more weight and sometimes I feel like life would be so much simpler if I simply just cut out as much food as I want and drop all that weight quickly. I’m impatient and I want results fast. Lots of people struggling with EDs will understand this. They want to lose a quick amount of weight in as little amount of time. That’s why there are laxatives, and restricting and obsessive exercising.

However, I know now with a lot more clarity that its not going to happen overnight. As much as I want to, I know that I need to  do it slow because I want it to be long term and something I can continue doing the rest of my life. I don’t want to go through a period where my weight fluctuates drastically again like it used to, where I lost concentration and failed at classes, where I was obsessively counting calories and when I was losing a lot of hair (oh man that was one of the defining moments in my entire life and I’ll write about that one day). I’m not fully recovered from my eating disorder. I’m still in recovery.

Slow and steady Serene. Slow and steady. We don’t like and want relapses, do we?

So I’m a walking contradiction with this whole body image thing. I try and practice body love as much as I can, I continue practicing my intuitive eating and I still continue my regular running routine instead of exercising 2 hours a day everyday, but I’m still a little dissatisfied with my looks and my weight. Hypocrisy, you say? I say its part of humanity. This makes me human. We have flaws, and we all strive for perfection; to be the best we can be, but then in the back of my mind, despite wanting to play with fire, I know what will happen if I poke a sleeping dragon in the eye.

It’s a looooooong journey. I’m still on the Recovery Path and I still have a long way to go. So hopefully along the way, my efforts will pay off. Here’s to me and my recovery and if you’re struggling with body image/ED issues, yours too (*clinks imaginary glasses*)

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P.S. here’s a before and after shot of my pictures after editing.

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The only thing I actually edited or rather, tried to edit, was to make the original picture look brighter because of the poor lighting in my room. And okay maybe the edited picture on the right makes it look as though I’m fairer than I really am but oh well. And really that’s as far as my editing skills can actually  go. I imagine things will be more complicated when I actually get a real camera and it captures my “imperfections” better and we’ll see what happens when the editing comes into play. My phone and my dad’s camera don’t exactly capture DSL/DHL/Canon/Gizmo-worthy high quality pictures and we all know how a slight “blurry” effect can do wonders. So we’ll see what thoughts go through my head when I look at myself up close and personal in higher quality pictures in the future.

Ciao bellsimas. I bought a box of macarons the other day, ate 1 and put the rest in the vegetable compartment in the fridge so my brother with a vacuum cleaner of an appetite won’t steal them. When I came back home, the box was gone. “Mum, where are my macaroons?” “Oh, we found them.” Moral of the story: you can’t “hide” food in the Juan refrigerator. Everything gets found.

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