Looking at myself in the mirror, I focus on the gentle bulges across my hips and thighs. I see the new found curve along my waist. I see me, not just the shadow of myself I saw a few years ago.
I’m a recovering anorexic. For me, anorexia is like alcoholism in the way that you are never fully ‘cured’. Relapses happen and it takes persistence and constant self-love to stay healthy.
I’m at the heaviest weight of my life and I’ve been told I have never looked healthier. To me, that is one of the best compliments I can receive. I had always been persistently underweight for my 5’9 frame since I was 15. Spiraling downwards into diet-restricting and over-exercising, I was a mess mentally and physically before I sought out help my sophomore year of college.
About the twinges of doubt and sadness that come with compliments saying that you look well.
About how old habits are hard to fend off when you’re old jeans fit too snugly.
About how when I stand in the mirror I see a woman. Not just a wisp of one.
I see a woman. A woman with a little extra padding to cushion her mind and her heart. A woman who tries on new clothes and makes an effort to never be discouraged by the size tag. A woman who speaks out about body positivity and lifts others up on her journey to wellness.
But the journey to wellness isn’t always easy.
Wellness isn’t just about the number on a scale or a healthy BMI, it’s about how you think and feel about yourself. It’s about how easily you can accept and be kind to yourself. Wellness is something we all struggle with.
But when I take the time to stop and think about where I got those, I find myself smiling. Each curve came from living life. From eating cake with a close friend in England to grabbing a pint of cider in Germany. When I was at my worst, my world revolved around food and what I didn’t eat. Now food revolves around the new life I have built for myself and the new woman I am today.
A woman one who knows she should probably get back into shape, but slightly fears how it could control her life again. A woman who realizes that the best thing that ever happened to her was studying abroad. How it helped her break her routine and simply focus on living her life again. Meaningful experiences became more important than image.
It is with that thought that I wish to stay in the travel frame of mind. To focus on living my best life and, honestly, just try to stay happy.
My sophomore year, when I first started reaching out to receive help, I wrote a poem to share in my creative writing class. It was one of my fist times sharing such a personal part of myself. Soon, I found that being vocal about negative body image was key to helping you change the way you think.
When I Look Into the Mirror
I notice the asymmetrical curve of my hips,
The slight left slant of my nose,
Off-centering my face.
I focus on every pore of my skin,
Scarred like the surface of the moon
From only nineteen short years of life.
I fold into myself,
Shying away from the newfound weight held around my waist;
An unwanted sign of recovery.
I feel the wetness as my eyes gloss,
Reaching for the white-capped pill bottle,
The one that ebbs these thoughts that haunt my mind.
I take a step back.
I see sunlight reflect the gleam in my eyes
Conveying warmth and summer’s sweet melody,
Crinkled up at the corners when I laugh.
I see my mother’s nose,
My father’s chicken legs,
Stretched for miles and built for speed.
I see long, slender fingers,
Of which my Dad relates to E.T.,
Perfect for reaching under the couch for refugee change.
I see a lopsided smile,
One that finds solace in a slice of chocolate silk pie
Or changes from raspberry to coral with a swipe of lipstick.
I am only but a body,
Focused by a lens,
Transformed through the brain,
When I look into the mirror,
I see it all.
Since I finally came to terms with my struggle, I couldn’t be prouder of how far I’ve come. And you know what? I’m delighted to share that. Whether or not it is seen as boasting is not my business. To me, there is no wrong in being proud of what you’ve worked hard to accomplish.
Earlier this week, I went in to the doctor. In the back of my mind, I was slightly terrified. It was the first time I was going to be weighed in a year; ever since I sought help back at university. Back then, I was getting weighed blind and felt entirely helpless to the fact that I wasn’t allowed to know my own body. It was a year ago that I walked out of that doctors office and decided that the number on a scale would no longer define me. And it was a year of bliss not knowing. But it was time.
I got on that scale and was weighed by a nurse who did not know what that moment meant to me. And that was exactly how I wanted it.
To be perfectly honest, it was fine. Maybe even better than I thought. My overactive imagination had conjured up some insane number in my head, so it was reassuring to see that wasn’t the case. I’m exactly where I need to be.
The journey to wellness is life-long. But it doesn’t have to be a battle. It’s important to bend with it like a palm in the breeze. If you stay too rigid, you might just snap. Life is ever-fluctuating. It curves left and right like a country road. Ebbs and flows like the oceans’ tides. It’s your job to learn to flow with it.
I don’t think I will ever buy a scale. I can finally say that I know myself and know that it can be all too easy for thoughts to become obsessive. But, to me, I now know that what really matters is how I feel. Healthy.
Mentally, physically, and spiritually. And honestly, I simply cannot wait to continue riding the curve on my journey to wellness.