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My symptoms:

My internal body image no longer matches my outsides. I used to be fat, and although now I know I’m not, I can’t see the difference. Sometimes I can, but only by accident. I sit by the window in a coffee shop and write until it’s dark, then look up and catch sight of my reflection in a window. I momentarily don’t recognise the woman sitting next to me. And she doesn’t look fat to me. Not until I see her face. And then her body bloats, like a magic trick.

I am obsessed with food and exercise. I run nearly every day, sometimes upwards of 10km a day. I fast two to three days a week. I am terrified of missing a run, even if I’m injured, because I imagine I will instantly become fat and sedentary again. Lapses on fast days are punished by cancelling the next feed day in order to keep my fast/feed ratio high. On feed days I sometimes just gorge on all the foods I crave on the fast days, compulsively, in secret, like I have no control.

I blame all my shortcomings on my (now mostly imaginary) fat. I have fantasies of how much more I’ll achieve, how much more I’ll be respected, how much more I’ll be loved, once I’m thin. Mostly they are scenarios totally unrelated to my body. Just little scenes in which I succeed, in which I just happen not to be fat.

What’s making me ill

– The beauty myth. The endless endless thin, tall women on every billboard, advert, magazine, book, television. I have no doubt these images are warping my idea of what looks right. I’m short and stocky. I’m never going to be tall and slim. Even if I starved myself to death, I am not going to look like them.

The confusing and often contradictory pressures on women concerning food. Feed others. Restrict yourself. Stay thin. Treat yourself. Indulge. Diet.

My own low self-esteem. I dislike myself all over – weight is a nice hook to hang the blame on.

Stay tuned for the “how I’m going to get better” sequel to this post.

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