Trigger warning: Eating disorders
2013, the year I was beautiful. Or so they told me.
I was in my smallest body, and to me this body had magical powers. This body, unlike all the ones before it, could walk into any clothing store to find unlimited options. This body could attract any lover I wanted. This body meant men fought over who could hold the door for me. This body was invited to all the coolest places by what I thought were all the coolest people.
This is what I had been waiting for my whole life. This was the destination I had been crawling on bloody knees to get to since I was nine years old. This was where I was promised love, acceptance, and opportunities my larger body had never been worthy of.
I was wrong.
I remember pushing myself on the treadmill well past my pain and exhaustion threshold on an injured hip. The guy next to me, someone I was trying to impress, told me I could stand to lose another 10 pounds. At that point, I honestly didn’t have 10 pounds I could spare, but I believed him, so I kept on going.
I would go to any length to avoid being “that girl” again, the larger girl. The larger body that had doors slammed in her face. The larger body that her childhood peers repeatedly told her was ugly, wrong, and unlovable. The larger body that had painful limitations placed upon her by those around her. I lived in constant fear of becoming “that girl” again.
You can absolutely receive positive reinforcement for negative behaviors. I know I did. The more harm I caused myself through deprivation fueled by guilt and self-hatred, the more praise I received. It wasn’t necessarily my methods that received praise, it was my results. I wanted to hear “good girl” as often as possible.
2020 was the year I knew I wasn’t beautiful anymore. Or so they told me. My body morphed at a rapid rate from smaller to larger. My binge-eating disorder was angry with me for neglecting it, or at least trying to. Really, it was a poorly crate-trained animal that wreaked havoc more often than I’d like to admit.
Potential romantic partners evaporated. The clothes in my closet screamed at me in horror. People with disgust on their faces asked,”What happened?” I was strongly encouraged—no, pressured—to do whatever I had to do to be smaller again. A smaller me was the preferred version of me.
I cried myself to sleep blanketed in my failure to live up to what I was expected to be.
2021 was the year my beauty stretched beyond what I ever dreamed it could be. I broke the cycle of placing the entire worth of who I am in the size of my body. And I refused to let others do it, either.
This was no miracle, this was hard work with professional intervention. This was me saying I can’t keep hurting myself to please others. I can’t make my self-acceptance dependent on my body size. I can’t deny myself the life I want to live. Those people who reject my larger self are simply not my people.
I am learning health, wellness, and joy can be achieved at any size. My larger body finally coordinated with my larger personality. My personal freedom is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. If you’re wondering, it tastes like Haagen-Dazs.
I’m under no disillusion that my battle is over or won because it’s ongoing. The damaging messages about what beautiful should be haven’t gone away. I don’t think they will, at least not in my lifetime. And no matter how far along in my recovery I am, I will never hesitate to stop to help others in theirs. My voice, our voice, needs to be louder than the one trying to beat us down.
I’m done being quiet. I’m done feeling less than because my body is more than.