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The Sabbath Meal
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My Own True Voice
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I grew up in a family obsessed with the "correct" body image and physical appearance. I was the only child out of six who was overweight, and because of this was constantly taunted by my older brothers and their friends about my size. I grew up believing something was horribly wrong with me; I didn’t fit in with the rest of my siblings, I was a bad person because I couldn’t control myself and my eating habits. My mother would encourage me to lose weight in whatever way possible.

I was dieting from the age of 8. At age 12, I was anorexic and my parents were thrilled when I lost 40 pounds over a four-month period (they had no idea that anything was wrong—even when I did not menstruate for 9 months). At age 14, I had gained back those 40 pounds and more and was then prescribed amphetamines by a physician to assist me with my weight "struggles."

By age 16, I started bingeing and purging after reading about bulimia in a women’s magazine popular at that time. No one ever asked me why I ate so much, no one wanted to listen to what I had to say or how I felt about things going on in my life that contributed to the bad feelings I had about myself. No, they just wanted to treat the symptom without understanding the underlying problem.

I know my parents only wanted me to be "happy" and they believed (and instilled in me the fact) that I could never be happy or satisfied if I was overweight. What I wish they would have instilled in me instead was the knowledge that people come in all shapes and sizes and that physical appearance is not the only attribute about a person that is important. I wish I had been taught about the satisfaction we can obtain from things like intellectual pursuits, having an open mind, understanding the uniqueness of each individual, and seeing the beauty of the world around us.

I feel that I wasted so much time focusing on what was wrong with my body and my looks (when in actuality nothing was really wrong). I regret spending all of that time that I could have instead spent developing my intellect, meeting new people, and exploring the exciting things in our world. I finally accepted my body and myself with the assistance of a kind, encouraging therapist and by reading and really taking to heart the works of author Geneen Roth. She helped me "break free" of all the false notions I had about weight loss. She helped me understand that we first have to accept ourselves as we are before we can move on to eventually lose weight.

No longer do I wake up on Mondays swearing to start a new diet, vowing to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. No longer do I feel guilty if I eat a piece of cake, a slice of lasagne, a roll with butter on it. Once I "broke free" of all the dieting nonsense, I had a lot more time to develop other aspects of myself that I had let go because of my preoccupation with my body image. I returned to college and obtained a second degree; I met people who were interesting and intelligent, people who were accepting of diversity and difference.

I have now learned to listen to my body and to fill it with nutritious foods that enable me to function at my best; I have learned that regular exercise also enhances my feeling of well-being. Would I change a part of my body if I had the resources to do so? Not now. I like the way I look and feel about myself. It took me a long time and a lot of work to be able to get to this place. I’m glad I made it. I’m glad I’m here.

Christy, 37

 

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