This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. While I am in no position to weigh in on the topic of Eating Disorders having never suffered from one, I do think of this week as an opportunity to bring awareness to a topic which is closely related, body image issues.
I, like the majority of young women (and men) have had my fair share of body insecurities. It’s sad to me that I can say with certainty that it is a majority, at least in the developed world. My story (for lack of a better description) is no different from most other females. Though I had absolutely nothing to be self-conscious about, images of women in the media brain-washed my perception of what my body ought to look like. It also didn’t help that I went to an all-girls middle and high school where as you can imagine, comparison was all too prevalent.
College was more of the same, with a bit too much cardio and an excessive amount of diet cokes thrown in. Thankfully I never went far enough to put my health at risk, unless you count the awful stomach aches I would get from the insane amounts of sucralose I was consuming thanks to an abundance of fake food.
I wish I could pin-point a moment when it all changed for me. When I realized I was wasting too much of my life on caring about the way I looked even though 99% of the people in my life couldn’t care less. Or when I stopped eating “skinny” this or “low-calorie” that or counting the number of workouts I got in that week.
There was no moment. All of the above happened gradually. First with diet, and then with exercise. Now I am focused on basing my self-worth on what I have to contribute to the world, and not on how my body looks in the mirror.
I didn’t need to read the millions of articles out there on how the media is sabotaging our body perceptions (I knew that already), or experience a major health risk to make me come to these realizations. What I needed was time.
Time to realize that who I am is more important than what I look like.
Time to realize that I am happier not knowing what I’ll be eating for my next meal.
Time to realize that crop tops aren’t cool.
Time to realize that eating a salad before a night of drinking is ALWAYS a bad idea.
Time to realize that the number on your jeans is totally arbitrary and not even remotely consistent.
Time to realize that you don’t have to post a picture of yourself in a bathing suit on Facebook.
Time to realize that a workout doesn’t feel good based on the number of calories burned.
Do I still have my moments? Absolutely. But much less so than I used to. While I wish I could go back in time and tell my 18 year old self all of the above, I don’t think I would have listened. And it saddens me that so many people suffer far worse consequences than I did because they won’t listen either.
I can only hope that they too can benefit from the gift of time.
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