Being my own advocate

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I constantly feel the need to talk about my bad years because I was never an advocate for myself and now I feel the need to be that advocate for my teen self, because she deserved to have someone advocate for her. It’s engrained in us so damn early to keep our struggles and anxieties internal and our society teaches us to always value our physical appearance over all else. I remember at 14 clutching at my skin wishing I could just cut off any bulge until I was down to my skin and bones. I would come home from high school, pretty much every day, and cry in my room because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin and I couldn’t shed it off.

My dad once caught me crying and asked me if I was crying about a boy and I was so frustrated that his first assumption would be so logical, obviously I was crying because someone else caused me pain right? It would make no sense that I was causing myself that pain, clearly. I had no emotional tools to be able to vocalize my anxieties and say I’M CRYING BECAUSE I HATE MY BODY.

When we got a treadmill I was overjoyed. My most important relationship in high school became the one between me and the sound of my ragged breath as my feet pounded against it every day for 1,2,3…7 miles. As I slimmed down my already small frame I began to hide my mileage, sneaking in quick mile runs when no one was home. I was sick and didn’t want anyone to know—or at least that’s what I believed. I was supposed to be the one with a perfect life, two working involved parents who are still together, no serious financial or familial struggles. President of National Honor Society, National French Honors Society, French Club, Editor-in-Chief of my senior yearbook, on Homecoming Court, working myself ragged to be someone people thought was cool and someone who was admired. I wasn’t supposed to be the person who deserved to have problems.

I believe my eating disorder manifested because I wanted people to know I was unhappy but didn’t know how to put it into words. I barely spoke at that time anyway, all my sentences trailing off in whispers because I didn’t think what I had to say was important. Instead I was going to show them, by making my emotional pain visible in my jutting cheekbones and sunken cheeks.

I wish I had someone who taught me how to radically love my body when I was younger. As an advocate for my teenage self I feel the need to practice radical self love every single day even when it’s fucking hard and I want to slip back into my past behaviors. I feel the need to say when I’m not okay or when I’m having a hard day now, because then I can release my pain instead of letting it manifest in other unhealthy ways.

There’s no foolproof way to prevent eating disorders but we can start by teaching kids, especially young girls, that their importance isn’t in how they look. I wish my family and friends would have complimented me on my reading abilities, swimming skills, love for animals, or any of my other passions BEFORE complimenting my attire or body. It’s not their fault though, it’s normal to instinctually think of people’s physical appearances because it’s been engrained into us that’s where our compliments should stem from. That’s why the body positive movement is so radical. It’s attempting to change the very way we interact with others and ourselves.

Here are some tips from the National Eating Disorders Association:

  1. Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness, weight loss and/or muscularity are desirable, while body fat and weight gain are shameful or indicate laziness, worthlessness or immorality.
  2. Avoid attitudes or actions that communicate, “I will like you better if you lose weight, don’t eat so much or change your body shape.”
  3. Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.
  4. Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight or muscularity says anything about their character, personality or value as a person.

Other great resources on this topic can be found here:

The Body Positive

What is the Body Positive Movement?

And most of all I choose to be my own advocate, because I miss my eating disorder and the familiarity of acting on my self-hatred, but know I can never go back. Practicing radical self love is scary and feels so unfamiliar. This journey will be a life long struggle and I need to be prepared for that, so here’s to educating myself and others about the harmful effects of diet culture and body shaming and being an advocate for my inner teen self for the rest of my life. ❤

 

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