My Weight Journey

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What is it like to be the friend of someone with an eating disorder?

My best friend in high school was anorexic; I remember defending her when I heard whispers in the hall, and talking to her about how she meticulously counted every calorie. I remember hospital visits and trying to bring a postive, supportive attitude to her recovery, but it would be wrong if I didn't discuss how it affected my own mental health. No one ever talks about what a friend goes through when someone has a disease, because they aren't the one who needs help.

I remember when we first met. We were about the same size: cute, average-sized little freshmen on the first day of school - then I gained a size or two, and she got down to a size 4 by our Junior year. She would say "Oh, I'm so fat", and I would think to myself, "If she thinks that with how small she is, what must she think of me?" I felt like I couldn't voice my insecurities, because it might trigger her or make her feel guilty or make her disease worse. Looking back, I was average size. I was not overweight, I was really completely normal, but I spent all of high school thinking I wasn't because no one ever told me different. My best friend had a disease that also effected me, and I didn't know any better. Now I understand that she wasnt gaging my weight, she was sick and it wasn't about me, it was about her. At the time I wasn't mature enough to see the difference.

Obviously I don't blame my friend for my own body image issues. Thinking about our time together, I wish someone had stopped to ask me if I was handling it okay, because apparently I wasn't. Despite there being hundreds of resources for coping with an eating disorder, I was never aware of any that were intended for the friends/family of someone going through that. I didn't know how to be supportive; I didn't know how to maintain my own mental health so that I could be a good friend to her.

I used to look at other people and think, "Am i bigger than them?" or, "They're pretty and they're bigger than me so i must be pretty too." I think part of the problem is that so many people connect weight and beauty, and it shouldn't be like that. That's why media representation is so important - to me, at least. As someone experiencing body image issues, seeing larger women who were happy and beautiful made me feel better about myself and helped me realize it was okay to like my body. It wasn't about whether I was actually overweight or not, it was about how I perceived myself. I was convinced I was really overweight, so seeing positive roll models helped me come to terms and be okay with that, even if it wasn't true.

Having a positive role model that's the same size as me really helped.

My school played into my weight issues a lot as well. They forced us to run on the track, and it felt like everyone was judging you based on how fast you could run a mile. I couldn't - still cant - run a mile without stopping, and I definitely can't do it quickly. I felt humiliated for it in front of 50 of my peers because I couldn't do it as fast as them, but no one ever even properly taught me how to run, or breath while running, until my college boyfriend pointed out I was doing it wrong. I turned to him, eyebrows raised, "There's a right and wrong way to run?"

After my leg surgery

Now I know that I have a problem in my legs that makes running extremely difficult for me, to the point that I've had surgery. The entire system was built to make you feel like you were obese if you couldn't run a mile at the same pace as everyone else, even though that's not true at all. I can out-swim every person I've ever come across - I used to swim two miles every day just because I enjoyed it.

Once a year we stood on a scale in class while they weighed us and calculated our BMI (which I'd like to point out is an inaccurate measure of health) and tell us if we were 'healthy' or not. You had no choice. It was part of your grade. It was always the most anxiety-inducing day for me; I felt so judged and humiliated. Looking back on it I'm thinking, "You are not a doctor - what right to you have to publicly weigh me and determine my 'health'?" I'm healthy; I always have been. Why did no one ever tell me that?

I'm lucky to have found a positive support system through the online community, and I feel more confident in my body image today. While I am more mature and have grown out of teenage mentalities, so much of how I perceive myself has come from my involvement online. That said, I wish I could say I'm always happy with myself and how I look, but it's something I work on every day. I am definitely more positive now, and I've come to understand that everyone goes through these problems - regardless of age, gender, or size. I realize this is a journey with no clear end, but I am finally happy with just being me and taking it one day at a time. I suppose at the end of the day, I wish we didn't put so much pressure on young people to look a certain way or to be a certain weight; I wish there were a way to go back and tell teenage me that my perception of myself is not my true self. I hope that moving forward, young people of today have someone telling them they are great the way they are, and schools begin working toward being more sensitive to the mentality of students when it comes to weight issues.

My video about my experiences with body positivity and YouTube

No comments:

Post a Comment

 photo envye.jpg
envye blogger theme