Today is a good day. Today I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “this body is whole, this body is beautiful”. Some days are not good days.
My struggle with weight began early. I could not tell you a date or age, as these feelings have stirred inside me for as long as I can remember. I suppose I am a product of my environment, just as much as anyone else is. But I am not here to blame my parents, relatives, friends, or even the fucked up standard of beauty that the patriarch perpetuates. My feelings are mine alone, and I have come to terms with that.
During adolescence, my relationship with food was disconcerting to say the least. In my last year of primary school, I skipped many of my meals. I’d avoid breakfast, swap my lunch for a small packet of chips, or simply throw my food away. During high school, this trend morphed. I felt as though I couldn’t eat without being judged by those around me, and therefore I began to binge whenever I was alone. I’d go through stages of eating all day, to eating every few days. The only meal I’d always have was dinner, because I didn’t want my family to know there was anything wrong. I was a young girl, and already overly concerned with what people thought of me.
It was not until I was about 16 that my eating habits began to take a toll on my body. The binging had dominated over the starvation, and I had gained a lot of weight. I felt worse about myself than I ever had before. I had experimented with self-harm prior to this, but it was at this stage of my life that the problem became more serious. I have two long scars on my thigh from cutting my own flesh. I have three scars running down my wrist from repeatedly scratching the same area until it bled. I have 32 tiny scars on the top of my left forearm that mark out 32 burn marks from 32 presses of a hot lighter. While these are visible reminders of dark times, it is not the physical scars that still haunt me.
Although I haven’t hurt myself in that way for a long time, my eating habits can sometimes still be harmful. In 2013 I became so fixated on losing weight that I ended up dropping 20kg. I ate 600 calories a day, I purged meals, I drank two litres of green tea a day, and I did unhealthy amounts of cardiovascular exercise… And I became addicted to the attention that my tiny frame brought me. So many girls looked up to me, so many girls would ask me “how”. I think that is the saddest part of it all. I was sick, I was starved, I was unstable… And so many young women wanted to achieve the same goal. What does this say about our world?
I am currently at a stage in my life where I am learning to love myself again. My eating habits have improved immensely and I feel healthier than I have for a long time. I’ve found happiness and balance through a combination of an unrestricted vegan diet, practising yoga/meditation, and lifting heavy weights. I’m still sometimes scared about the weight I have gained. (I now generally sit around the 53-57kg mark.) But I know that this is a perfect weight for me.
I still have bad days. Sometimes I feel a heart-wrenching pull of guilt after eating a meal. Sometimes I have the urge to starve myself for an event. Sometimes I look at my body in the mirror, and I am repulsed by what I see. But most of the time, I am simply amazed at how far my body has come. It was so sick, so parched, so hollow. I have rebuilt my body from the ground up, and that is an amazing feat. This tummy pudge is not something to be resented, but a squishy symbol of what I have overcome… And what I will continue to overcome every day for the rest of my life.