Disordered Body Image – Part 2

*Note: If you haven’t read Part 1, you can do so here.

Let me tell you a story.

I walk into a ballet class filled with normal, healthy-sized individuals.

As a person who is obsessed with being skinny, a voice in my head says, “Congratulations! You are the thinnest person in this class! You can feel confident and proud of your achievement!”

I stand tall and feel great about myself.

Two minutes later a lengthy, thin, gorgeous, Joffrey dancer walks through the door.

Immediately, the voice in my head starts yelling, “You are nowhere near as beautiful or thin as her! You should feel ashamed and wear your sweater the whole class so no one can see your fat arms. And today you should run an extra 5 miles and skip lunch.”

My shoulders shrug forward, my head dips down, and I lose about 2 inches of height. Throughoutthe entire class, I obsessively watch the other dancer and negatively compare myself to her.  

Within the span of a couple minutes, I went from feeling great about myself to feeling like the scum of the earth. How did this happen? Did I gain weight in the matter of two minutes? Did I become any less lean, strong, or talented? Did I become uglier?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: My body did not change at all. My mindset did.

Because of my disordered body image, I felt that I always had to be the thinnest. In my mind, being thin meant being better, stronger, more beautiful, more talented, and a better all around human being.

Hopefully you realize that this is not true. If you do feel like it is true, you likely have a form of disordered body image. Don’t worry, we all deal with it in some way. The difference is whether or not it affects your day-to-day-life.

Wondering what constitutes a disordered body image? Here are some examples:

  • When you step on the scale, if the number is what you wereshooting for, you feel good about yourself. If the number is not what you wanted, you feel like a complete failure. You as a human being are not as good as you would be if a different number appeared on the scale.
  • If you look in the mirror and see something you do not like, you become obsessed with the flaw. You think about it constantly and try to find any solution to change it ASAP.
  • If you are in a group and one person compliments another on an aspect of his or her body, you immediately feel worse about yourself. For example, you are with Susie and Tom, and Tom tells Susie that she looks great since she lost that 10lbs. You feel terrible about yourself because you obviously do not look great. You must look awful and fat since Susie looks so good. Anxiety follows as well as obsessive thoughts of changing your body.
  • If you are the thinnest, prettiest, strongest, leanest, etc, person in the room, you can relax and feel good about yourself. But, as soon as someone thinner, prettier, etc, walks in the door, you feel ashamed.

There are many more examples, these are simply some that I have experienced myself. However, there are other forms of disordered body images that are associated with feeling that you are not big enough. This is most often associated with men who want to build as much muscle as possible. It is just as harmful to your body, brain, and emotional wellbeing.

My disordered image issues were so intense that I literally desired to somehow escape from living in my body. I felt disgusted by the way that I looked and felt. This is not a healthy relationship with your body. Do you have any idea of how amazing the human body is? Do you know what it does for you everyday? Let’s take a look.

  • Your body breaks down all the fuel (food) you put in it and uses the energy provided for a variety of functions. The energy from food is used to build muscle, recover from injury, help with brain function, aide in day to day movements, and allow you to simply live your life. Also included here is the process the body goes through in order to rid your organs of all the junk you put in it (alcohol, sugary or fatty food, nicotine, drugs, caffeine, etc).
  • Your body allows you to do a multitude of movements. Here are some examples: walk, run, sit, stand, push, pull, lay down, get up, twist, turn, spin, nod, shake, shimmy, bounce, and  jump. Not to mention the dexterity it takes to simply type on a computer or write a text message on your smartphone!
  • Your body constantly fights infections and diseases. Think of all the people, places, and things you come into contact with. How often do you think you have crossed paths with the flu, a stomach bug, or cold and NOT gotten sick?
  • Your body protects itself from harm without you consciously being aware. Ever accidentally touched a hot stove? Do you think about removing your hand or does it naturally happen?
  • Your body processes information in an instant. Think of the steps it takes to toss an empty bottle in the garbage. Your brain calculates the distance and weight of the object, transfers that information to your arm musculature, tells it how hard to contract, and exactly when to release your grip. Then based on the outcome (example: the bottle misses the garbage) your brain learns to readjust its message to your arm in order to acquire the desired outcome.
  • Your body transfers pleasurable senses to the brain. You smell a flower, you pet a dog, you kiss your loved one. These would not be enjoyable without your body being able to register the senses. Everything that you love to do, you would not be able to do if your body were not as amazing as it is.

It is natural to desire a change in your body. But, before we can accomplish any change, we must first love ourselves now. We need to find a way to have a healthy relationship with this vessel that we live in. I will cover ways to do that, as well as combat disordered eating, in the third and final blog.  

Questions? Reach out!

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