I’ve always been a bit pre-disposed to obsessing over my weight. It’s still something I struggle with now. Now as in, age 28 and right now – late Tuesday night as I’m typing this.
Oh oy… should I even post this? Maybe someone else out there knows how I feel? Maybe you can help me, tell me – how do I change my self identity? Where is the line between needing to try harder on a physical level and needing to release delusions on an intellectual level?
My first run in with an eating disorder was in high school. A couple relapses happened later on, one in college and then another in my mid-20s. And while I do have a history with ED, one that I’m not afraid to talk about – I really meant this post to center more on identity than obsession.
Looking back, I have no idea why I was so desperate to lose weight in high school. I was skinny as a rail my entire young life, from childhood until I first became sick (age 19).
Okay, okay – I know that EDs aren’t always about being “skinny” more than they are about control. My family life was a little off the rails during my high school years. Through family fighting, financial issues, stress, tension, craziness, etc. – the little world that I could keep a tight leash on was the world of what I ate. And thus, I closely and obsessively guarded every calorie.
Oh, and… I also began puking.
Our swim coach used to encourage us to puke if we “felt” heavy in the water. After school, we’d wolf down ten pounds of Burger King and then show up for swim practice. So yeah, vomming felt better than not vomming. I think that had more to do with performance and me being a silly teenager, than it EVER did with my actual appearance. Who eats so much right before hours of intense training? Doh. (My coach never ever called me fat, no one did, I was a size zero).
At 5’8, with a small frame (the whole teeny wrists and teeny neck thing), I carry weight incredibly well. I’m all legs, I tend to be muscular, and at pretty “high” weights, I still fit in to surprisingly tiny sizes. In high school I was 5’8 by senior year, and weighed 117 lbs.
I cherished that number: 117.
I came home on a break during college, after I’d quit swimming, and my BFF Mark told me I looked “good” now that I had added a couple pounds. At his compliment, the others we were with that night all chimed in about how I had reached skeletor status during senior year and that this healthy look, a few pounds heavier, suited me. It felt good to hear that, but part of me kinda hated it too.
I identify with being skinny. Super skinny.
The ironic part about me having an eating disorder is how unnecessary it usually is (as far as having to be ana/mia to achieve thinness). Whilst blessed with a frame that holds weight well, and being tall-ish – I am one of those super high metabolism people. I always think I’d be great at professional eating because of how much I can throw down my gullet. It’s a long standing family joke about being prepared if I come visit – Rose can clear out an entire pantry in one sitting. (really, I kinda can).
It’s relative to point out how much I used to work out. When I was a hardcore swimmer, we’re talking 20-30 hours a week in the pool. Maybe more? Lifeguarding could be very active too. I did dance in middle and high school, track, lifting. All I did was burn calories.
Then, I got sick. At age 19, my sophomore year of college, I went into the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. It was then that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Treatment with steroids began, and I honestly don’t think I’ve looked the same since.
During that year my GI tract worsened and worsened. I became super duper ill, landing in the hospital for 10-ish days in the spring, and having to move back home for a few weeks after that. I had a MAJOR surgery on April 17, 2003 – a small bowel resection.
I was on a super high dose of IV steroids all during my hospital stay. I would end up spending almost 18 months on some form of oral or IV steroid throughout this time.
This is when I reached my all-time high weight. In the hospital, I was in the 160s. Afterwards, I was still damn near close.
My clothes didn’t fit. My friends called me “Drew Barrymore face.” It was pretty crappy. But, I had escaped the whole ordeal in far better shape than statistics would have implied (I had a full bowel obstruction and I didn’t have to get an ostomy of any kind, THANK GOD).
I was focusing on getting better. I had a lot going on – college, my family (my parents were divorcing), all my extra curriculars, and my health. I wasn’t so worried about my size, I knew that it was temporary.
Besides, in my mind I was still skinny. The real me IS thin. Right? This heavier me was only because of the steroids. I knew that, and I assumed everyone knew that.
I worked the weight off, the old fashioned way. I was exercising and eating okay. A year later I was diagnosed with cancer and up went the steroids again. This time, I got to be bald too. Great!
(side note – i remember running in a 5k right before i was DX’ed, and i had a really slow time. i couldn’t figure out why my body was all wack. it’s totes because i had lymphoma, stage III. oopsies! but you see, i was active in between being super duper sick).
When you have cancer, you don’t spend so much time whining about your looks, ya know? You just deal with it. Living > Vanity.
And on and on it goes… when I finally am able to get into a way of life that’s free of meds, and medical complications, and it’s just me – I’m thin.
So, I just continue to see myself as a thin person in general. In 2009 I weighed as little as 119lbs. I was so close to my high school weight, eight years later! I loved the way I looked. And I ate like a beast. I literally had ice cream sundaes every night. Drive-thru meals. I was awful (I blame nursing school stress).
But that’s just how my body can work. When healthy, I’m a super active person. Bouncing around from here to there, and I just burn, burn, burn.
The problem is that, in adulthood, I probably have an average weight of somewhere in the 130s- but I only base my self understanding of my appearance based on the best, healthiest years. (I’m a real optimist, huh? LOL).
So, thus… there’s this crack in my self-image and how others perceive me. Or rather, my self image vs. my reality.
In my brain I am a skinny little thing, in real life, I think others see me differently. I’m scared to know the truth. But I’m tired of feeling like an idiot. The way people treat me now, it speaks volumes to me about how I’m seen.
I’m not sure what words to use exactly. And I know now more than ever there’s all kinds of dramz over size identifiers; one gal’s chubby is another gal’s thin, healthy is healthy and that’s all that matters, I shouldn’t care about size. But as “true” as I know all of this to be (I mean, I’m a licensed RN and I’ve been a serious athlete for more years than not: I know a thing or two about nutrition, health, weight, etc.) I do care about size in many ways.
People don’t make “skinny” or “little” comments towards me. When you’ve grown accustomed to being referred to as one way, you learn to like it. To own it. I’ve been the brunt of plenty of skinny-hating and skinny bashing. I’ve had circulation and nerve issues from being too bony (my butt bone used to cut off the circulation to my legs if I sat for too long – skinny girl risk!)
But now, the past 18 months have been the heaviest of my life (save for when I had the bowel surgery in ’03).
- I got married – comfort gain!
- I moved to Hawaii – epic local food gain!
- Quit smoking. big gain.
- Then got knocked up.
- and then, after the MC, I was put on meds that cause weight gain (Lyrica, amongst others). I’v been on meds for more than a year now.
In real life, I’m not really fitting into my entire (and amazing) size 2-4 wardrobe. In real life, my face looks round, my legs thick.
In my brain though: I’m still a svelte ballerina!
A reality check came not too long ago. I made a joke about wanting to be a ballerina, actually, and I was shut down. On the premise that ballerinas have super strict body standards, it was implied that I could not meet such criteria. OUCH. That one really stung.
I’m accepting and trying to understand: Others don’t see me the way I think of myself.
And then when I do this pleading, this whole no really, I used to be skinny and now there’s a situational reason for why I’m not thing, they just smile and nod. They don’t believe me! People who know me from Hawaii, they’ve never known the “skinny” Rose in real life. They’ve only seen her in photos. They probably think I’m crazy and delusional.
And PLEASE, don’t go get up in arms with me. I know that I am not “fat.” I may be bordering on overweight based on BMI. But if you take my muscle % into consideration, I know I’m not.
I don’t think I’m fat. I’m not mocking the plight of others to lose weight.
Actually, I’m having a dreadfully difficult time losing weight. So it’s my plight too, now. If anything, I’m claiming solidarity in the struggle.
But I don’t feel like myself. And well, I’m starting to become really embarrassed over my appearance. For someone pretty outgoing like me, this is hard. Very hard. I grew up a swimmer and a beach guard; to say I lived in bathing suits is an understatement. Now, I feel self conscious. I find myself layering. Wearing pants when it’s hot out. And so on.
I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin (and I know I’ve griped about this before).
It scares me – how much of this is legit? How much is that old ED-mentality coming back in? And because I have a history of eating disorder, if I do have a valid point right now – will people not see that and just lump me in as irrational-due-to-ED?
I like opening up about this, venting here. I also worry about how this post will be perceived. Will you see me as vapid? Bratty? Someone who clearly doesn’t have real problems?
If this is the kind of stuff I worry about, yeah, by comparison my life is great. I already know my life is great though, and I try to be super grateful for all the blessings I do have.
Perhaps in an effort to illuminate my frustration, I’ll add: I take really good care of my body these days. My stress levels are at an all-time low. I’m laid back and breezy. I run, do yoga, eat well. I take care of myself and I do so love myself – in a good, healthy way. I hardly ever drink booze. No drugs. Lots of stretching and core work, I play outside.
I guess I should actually see this as an epic thank you letter. I am glad that this is the worst of what’s bothering me right now.
Oh, and before you can suggest that I “talk to someone” about it, I already do. She says that I do have a ballerina body. But I think she’s just being nice. Hahaha. She doesn’t really seem to validate my concerns about my appearance, and she thinks that I’m hard on myself.
I know for a fact though, that a modeling agency would tell me to lose 30 lbs. ON the island of Manhattan, I’d be “plus size.” Getting past your personal opinions on size labels, and who should call what to who…. my point is that, it’s just DIFFERENT for me.
What I am now, doesn’t feel like what I’m used to being.
Maybe it’s a phase. A little slump in my pretty rad efforts to stay healthy and workout and be fit. Maybe I want to see results come in faster than they are, and that’s a why I gripe?
So engage me here – seriously, if you’re reading this. Actually comment. Have a conversation with me.
I need you to tell me I’m crazy! Or not crazy? I don’t know which one is better here. Be brave and you tell me.
- Do you have any hang-ups like this?
- Some aspect of self-identifying that you cling to, while everyone around you long stopped seeing you that way?
- Or are you trying to escape the identifier of your younger days, and it won’t leave you be?
- Are you slightly delusional about anything?
- Body hang-ups?
- Size labeling makes you sad, or happy or what?
I know I can’t be the only one who thinks about this kinda stuff or has a hard time.
It was recently suggested to me that perhaps my problem is that it’s “my age.”
- So, if you’re almost thirty *shudders at typing that* does this apply to you too?
- Is it all over for us now, or what?
I’m sorry for yet another self absorbed blog. I was just feeling all crappy about this, and down on myself. This is something really bothering me right now. In an effort to be honest, and present the full picture – I feel like I gotta sometimes post about the doubt, the hang ups, the weaknesses, I gotta be selfish or weird, sometimes.
I do blow a lot of rainbows out my bottom. I know that is true. And my rainbows are real, too. I love optimism, perkiness, happiness. But even I know that 100% HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY isn’t realistic.
If you read this, you’re a REAL GEM. I love you! Really!
Now. Answer my questions and talk at me!!!!
as always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr