I don’t remember the first time I hated my body or forced it into clothes that didn’t fit. But I remember the first time I intentionally starved it, when I had truly had enough of wanting the impossible ideal and felt ready to work for it. I remember the first time I made myself intentionally sick, and unknowingly crossed a line I could never return.
I don’t remember a lot of the time after. It’s a blur of tracking calories, working out to exhaustion and finding tricks to eat less and less. I wanted to be less. I didn’t want anything as badly as I wanted to be thin. Family, friends, school, hobbies, none of it mattered as much as the number on the scale. It was my only identity in that time.
I knew exactly what I wanted to change about myself. It was easy to compile a list, as every magazine and TV show highlighted what I needed to be and was not. Everywhere I looked, my body was wrong, and so I thought that a little ‘hard work’ would be enough to fix that. I thought I could fight my biology and become what the world seemed to want from me. And this is what I thought they wanted, this is what my eating disorder told me was so wrong with my body.
My thighs were too big and needed a gap in the middle.
My calves were too chunky and needed to be slimmer.
My bum could be big but it needed to be perky.
My stomach needed to be flat, no, it had to be concave.
My waist needed to be tiny, so small a hand could wrap around it.
My abs should be protruding, but the right amount to still be feminine.
My little bit of fat that protrudes under my arms had to go.
My collarbones needed to be so sharp they looked painful.
My arms needed to be thinner and more toned.
My neck needed to be slimmer with no hint of a double chin, even when I looked down.
My cheeks needed to be caved in, almost hollow.
I never reached these ‘goals’, but I got too close, and I almost destroyed myself in the process. Why am I sharing this list? Because when I read it now, as a 26-year-old without that constant hunger, I can see how ridiculous it was. I can see how all of these things don’t matter, and it terrifies me how far I was willing to go to reach them. I tortured my own body in the hopes of attaining a figure meant only in plastic.
But the worst part is that society still chases many of these ‘ideals’, or changes the finish line to other unrealistic ones. They’re still moulding body ideals that you’re either born with or die trying to get. The issue is in the ideals. The issue is in the dissatisfaction we’re taught to have for the bodies we created.
I share this list because maybe you had a similar one. I share this list because many people don’t realise the extremes we’re seeking, and so they think it’s harmless. But eating disorders are not harmless, and everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin. This is not a list of ideal attributes, it’s a list of lies we were sold.
I don’t usually share photos of this period of my life because they scare me. I can remember how I felt seeing them, and it’s terrifying how thick a lens my eating disorder had placed over my eyes. Because I look at them now and see someone who was so sick and unhappy. I also don’t need photos of myself for this, because it just isn’t me, not by a long shot.
BEAT estimates that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, but that’s the ones who are aware of it. And yet calories were added to menus in the UK, and the media continues to distort images and convince us we need to lose weight.
This was my list, and many other people had their own, but the common denominator is that the problem was never us.
I recommend checking out these great quotes from 'You Are Not a Before Picture' by Alex Light!
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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