Excitement buzzed in the air as we gathered outside to celebrate a loved one’s graduation. Wearing a new dress that felt summery and fun, I chatted happily with friends and family. Hours later as I reflected on the day, feelings of satisfaction and happiness washed over me. I felt good. Happy. And relaxed… that is, until I opened my phone and saw the family pictures my mom insisted we take. Suddenly my stomach dropped and anxiety filled my head. I’d consciously worked to stop shrinking my body several years ago when I began my recovery journey. And some of the time I felt good. Now living free from the cage of an eating disorder, I was able to live life fully. Most of the time.
The Whisper of ED
But then there are times ED (my eating disorder) whispers in my ear. “Just lose XX pounds. Then you will look better.” “Don’t wear that dress- it makes you look huge.” “Cross your arms in front of your stomach so hopefully no one sees how big it is.” “You’re the biggest one in this room.” “Don’t be loud and don’t talk too much. You don’t want anyone to notice you.”
Sometimes it’s obvious why ED is suddenly in my ears. Perhaps I tried on a favorite pair of pants only to find they no longer fit me. Or a relative made a super fat phobic comment over a meal. Maybe I caught a glimpse of my reflection passing by the mirror, suddenly stunned to notice my double chin. Other times it’s more insidious. All of the sudden, ED is screaming in my ear without an obvious trigger.
However, when I dig a little deeper, even when there isn’t an obvious trigger related to my size, I can identify underlying anxieties. Perhaps they have nothing to do with food or even my body. But when I find myself obsessing over my perceived body flaws, it’s a reminder to check in with myself. There is almost always something else going on in my life. Maybe I’m worried about my child starting Middle School, about performing well at my job, or regretting a comment I made to a friend. Whatever is on my mind, it seems my go to has been to focus on my body instead of other real problems. My body acts as a distraction from what is really going on.
Whatever the trigger is, shrinking yourself is never the answer!
Why You Need to Stop Shrinking Yourself
1. The Problem is Not Your Body
There is absolutely nothing wrong with your body, as she is, in the her natural shape and size. Your body has never been the problem. The problem is a society that teaches us lies. That says in order to be loved and accepted, we must be thin. And that we need to be a certain size if we are going to have the job, the friends, and the relationships that we want in life. The ultimate lie is that our worth is a result of our pants size.
If your body is not a problem then shrinking your body is not a solution.
When you realize this truth, your recovery can shift. You can stop blaming your body size for any dissatisfaction in your life. Instead of focusing your time and energy on shrinking your body, you can focus it on the areas of your life you wish to improve. Invest your time and energy into self care, into your relationships, into your passions, and into yourself.
2. You Are Here for More
Every single person has purpose on this earth. I do not know what your purpose it. But I do know one truth:
Your purpose on this earth is NOT to shrink yourself.
You are here, in this body, in this lifetime, for so much more.
When you spend your precious time and energy resisting your instinctual desires (ie: your hunger) and fighting your body’s natural shape and size, you are wasting your time. Every moment you spend obsessing over calories and macros and engaging in disordered behaviors you lose precious time and energy. Stop focusing on shrinking your body and start considering how you can contribute to the world. Whether it’s through art, science, sharing, inventing, connecting, healing, creating… find a way to make this world a better place.
3. The More of You There is, The More of You That Can Give
When you spend your days trying to shrink your body, it depletes you. Leaving you with nothing left to give to others. Whether it’s your family, friends, animals, the earth, or something else, consider what you’re passionate about.
When you leave this earth, what mark do you want to have left on it?
If you have no idea where your passions lie, don’t panic. You’re not alone. Often an eating disorder takes over our entire psyche, tricking us into thinking we are nothing but the ED. This is simply not true. Part of healing includes getting to know yourself. The real you– underneath the food fears, body image issues, anxieties, and obsessions. With curiosity, you get to explore your likes, interests, passions, and hobbies.
When you learn to take up space, you can fully ground yourself in your passions. Using your talents, your wisdom, and your voice, you can contribute to this world. You can show up and make a difference.
4. It Feels Better to Stop Shrinking
As human beings and mammals, we have needs and drives. In addition to messing with our emotions, eating disorder behaviors also affect us physically. Our bodies are naturally supposed to come in diverse shapes and sizes.
When we cast all our attention on fighting our body’s natural shape and size, even if we’re “successful” at it, it comes at a cost.
When was the last time you slept really well and woke up feeling refreshed? Or exercised just enough to feel more energized when you were finished? Have you sat in the sun and felt the warm energy flowing through your body while you’re alert and grounded? Do you know what it feels like to be at peace? How about pleasure when it comes to food? Can you enjoy the pure deliciousness of your meal? Food is actually meant to be enjoyable. We are biologically programmed to eat until we feel satisfied. This is no accident, it’s helped us survive throughout history.
Sometimes when in the depths of an eating disorder, we don’t even realize just how awful we feel. I remember resigning myself to the idea that I’d always be cold, that sitting on metal chairs would hurt, I get dizzy often, and that I just wasn’t ever going to feel well rested. It wasn’t until a few months into re-feeding that I realized I was starting to actually feel good. I had energy. And the constant buzzing of anxiety I’d grown accustomed to had actually disappeared. Suddenly I was able to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time. I caught myself humming along to the car radio, dancing in my living room with my boys, and waking up in the morning actually looking forward to the day. I couldn’t have imagined any of these things happening when I was at my lowest.
5. When You Stop Shrinking You Are Standing Up to Oppression
Accepting your body and your whole self for who you are is counter to every single message diet culture sends us. Loving yourself and your body in her/his natural form is a way of standing up against the system that oppresses people in bodies deemed “too big” for society’s standards.
By choosing NOT to listen to the lies of diet culture, you are actually fighting it.
In a world where women are taught to shrink, we can fight the outdated gender norms and break free from the sexism that pervades our society. Stop biting your tongue and speak up for what you want. When you enter a room, command the attention of other. It’s hard to use your voice to help others if you are focused on shrinking your body.
6. Little Eyes Are Watching You
Whether you’re a parent, sister, cousin, teacher, neighbor, aunt, or friend…. no doubt there are younger girls and boys in your life. And they are watching you. Children pick up on what their role models DO. They notice the little things. When you skip a meal, comment negatively about your body, or refuse to be in a picture, little eyes are watching you.
Do you want to teach the children in your life that they should shrink themselves, that their worth is in their body size, and that their time and energy is best spent obsessing over food? Or do you want them to know every human has inherent worth? Do you want them to spend their lives focused on shrinking their bodies, or do you want them to own their talents and passions?
By simply living fully as your authentic self, you send a message to every child in your life. Show them, by example, that it’s possible to accept, take care of, and love yourself at any shape and size.
7. There is Nothing More Powerful than Authenticity
When we stop fighting our natural desires and make space for our true authentic selves, we unleash the power within us.
Whatever your goals are in this lifetime, connecting with your true self and allowing her or him to flourish is the most powerful act you can do.
Consider what it feels like to be around someone who truly knows and owns who they really are. It’s refreshing, invigorating, and inspiring. There’s an inner peace that accompanies the fire within us when we fully accept ourselves authentically.