Have you heard of Operation Beautiful? If not, allow me to shed some light.
Operation Beautiful is a movement started by Caitlin, whose mission is to end negative self-talk, primarily through the use of positive affirmations, such as “You are beautiful!” written on notes and left anonymously in various places. It sounds like a simple idea, but the impact it has had has been tremendous…so much so that an Operation Beautiful book was released today!
In honor of her book launch, Caitlin deemed this week “Change the Way You See, Not the Way You Look Week.” The goal of this week is to give bloggers (and writers of any type!) the chance to post experiences related to body image, healthy balance, and self-confidence.
Naturally I jumped at the chance. I felt this was a topic that really hit home for me. I was really excited to write this post, but I didn’t fully anticipate the emotion that would go with it. At one point, I literally had tears streaming down my face while writing this post, but I stuck with it because as emotional as it was, it also felt really good. I just feel like I am at a place where I can share this, and I’m glad such a motivating opportunity arose.
It didn’t start out as a body image thing. I was content with my body. Happy, really. I was a little curvy, sure, but that made me who I am. It represented my mother, it represented my heritage, it represented me.
It started out as a fear. A fear of food, a fear of eating, a fear of getting sick. After countless years spent in the bathroom, spent doubled over in pain, spent at doctors’ offices, spent getting tests, spent getting diagnosed with stomach disorders and intolerances, I couldn’t deal. I was terrified.
I hated food. At this point, it had nothing to do with weight. It had all to do with getting sick. I hated food for causing me so much pain and discomfort through the years. I was always anxious about where I would be when I would get sick next.
It started out small. I would only eat minimal amounts of food before I would go out with my friends so I wouldn’t get sick. That turned into not eating at all before I would go out with my friends. Which turned into not eating at all before I would leave the house for any reason. You get the idea.
Before I knew it, it had totally consumed me. Any relationship I had with food was completely distorted. As much as I hated food, it was all I thought about. My first thought upon waking up was “what am I doing today and what will I need to eat to get through it?” If I knew I would be out of the house, I knew I couldn’t eat. If I knew I was going somewhere later, I knew I couldn’t eat. For me, food had nothing to do with enjoyment and all to do with eating just enough to get by. I ate the exact same foods every day.
Naturally, this affected my weight. It wasn’t my intention. I was so preoccupied with not getting sick, that I didn’t think about the actual consequences of not eating. That it, in fact, made me much sicker: stomach pains of a different type, complete shift in mood, total weakness, and the weight.
When I was 18, I went from a size 7 to a size 0.
At one point, I was a double zero. I didn’t even know this was a size. I didn’t even know I could try on a skirt sized zero and it be too big.
And that’s how it started.
In the past 7 years, I have bounced back and forth between a size 7 and a size 0. Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice it. My wardrobe noticed it. Other people noticed it.
And then there were the comments.
People would ask me if I lost weight. I actually began to like this. People were noticing I was skinny? Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all. I was getting all this attention. If people noticed how skinny I am, I must look really good.
Then people would ask me if I was sick. Sick? Too skinny? I’m too skinny. People think I’m sickly. I must look so ugly.
When I put back on some weight, people would tell me I looked healthy. Healthy. That’s good, right? No. When they say healthy, they just mean fat. I’m fat. And I’m ugly. And people are noticing.
And then there was the mirror. Some days I was too skinny. Most days I was too fat. On rare occasions, I was alright. But the next day, I was all wrong.
Now, at age 25, I’m doing better. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely better, but I’m getting there. The fact that I can even sit here and write this, shows me I’m doing better. I have struggled with this for almost a decade, and I am just now able to talk about it.
My thoughts are now more rational. I can look at pictures of me at my skinniest and know that I don’t look healthy. And that is not a good look, because healthy is what I need to strive for, above anything else.
I wish I could say that I stopped caring about what people think, but I would be lying. I was, however, able to realize that other people’s thoughts and comments do not define me. I cannot control this. Plus, people’s thoughts are so subjective. It’s not worth it to dwell on what other people think and say.
Well, some stuff is good. Like when my boyfriend tells me I’m beautiful and he really means it. Or that he’s proud of me when I eat full meals even though I’m afraid. Or when my mom tells me that I look healthy and that I’m doing a good job. These are the comments I should be listening to.
Why do we take negative comments to heart, but completely dismiss the positive ones?
But what it really comes down to is myself: conquering my own fears and being happy with who I am and what I look like.
Lately I have really been “coming into my own.” I have made a significant effort to buy a variety of different foods and eat things that I am comfortable with. I have been spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and this has helped me to develop a more positive relationship with food. I have also been consuming healthier and cleaner foods, which helps me to feel good about what I put into my body and not worry so much when I eat.
I’ve also been introducing myself to new foods and combining foods that I never thought I would.
Additionally, I’ve looked towards exercise as a way to make healthy choices for my body while doing something that is also good for me mentally and emotionally. Even though I had never really run before, I took up running and within 6 weeks of training, I ran my first 5K.
I had never been so proud of myself.
I know I am not completely better, but I also don’t know what that even means. While I am not a size 7, I am also not a size 0. And I am okay with this. As far as my mindset with all of this goes, I think I am the best I have ever been since going through all of this. I am proud of myself for eating more, I am proud of myself for exercising, I am proud of myself for being brave, and I am proud of myself for writing this post.
I work hard every day at being happy with myself and being happy with how I look. I have been making a conscious effort to spend less time in front of the mirror and more time enjoying life.
What it really comes down to is being healthy and being happy. Not worrying about the size of my jeans, or what other people think about me when I walk down the street.
What matters is being comfortable with myself.