My Experience with Body Dysmorphia
Updated: Jan 19
I've never been someone who's had a good diet, I grew up being an incredibly picky eater and would outright refuse to eat any food that I didn't want to eat. I think that's part of why I was skinny when I was younger, I would rather starve than eat anything that had meat or vegetables. As I got older the pickiness stayed but my parents grew more lenient on forcing me to eat healthier foods. So I ate lots of pizza and lots of top ramen and endless amounts of ice cream.
When I was 18 I had something traumatic happen to me and I turned to alcohol and weed to try and cope with everything. Which in turn led to me gaining lots of weight, on top of the freshman 15 I had already gained in college. My sister ultimately forced me to get a job and get out of the house and that was honestly the best thing that anyone could have done for me at that point. I ended up getting a job at a smoothie place at a gym, which was interesting dynamic as it was to be surrounded by people who were incredibly healthy selling fruit smoothies with all these little healthy extras when I was eating like crap.
As time went on, I ended up working at the gym itself instead of just the smoothie shop. I started to workout at the gym more since I had this free membership and I found that fitness and working out was an amazing way for me to deal with the trauma that I had experienced. I found a joy in working out and found a way to love myself at a time where I didn’t think that loving myself was possible. I genuinely feel like fitness and working out changed my life at that point and because of that I wanted to find a way to help other women feel the same way I did about myself through fitness. I ended up becoming a personal trainer at that gym and that's where I started to experience my first bit of self doubt with my body.
It's interesting when I look back at photos of myself when I was younger because I remember, for the most part, being pretty happy with how I look. In high school I'd go to the gym but I mainly wanted a bigger butt, the size of my tummy wasn't really a concern I had. When I went to college and gained the freshman 15, I was aware of it, but I still felt pretty comfortable in my skin. I was "bigger" than I am now but some of the stuff I wore back then I would never feel comfortable wearing now because of how much stomach they'd show. When I became a personal trainer I was still working off my freshman 15 but, again, I really loved myself. I felt beautiful and empowered when I was working out.
I remember in between a client session and my floor shift I grabbed some panda express for dinner and ate in the lobby, we were encouraged to be in public as much as possible to get clients, and while I was eating one of the other personal trainers walked up to my table. She goes "what do you think you're doing?" and I answered confused, "I'm eating my dinner, should I not be here?" She looked at my panda express as if I was eating shit and said to me before walking away, "If you want to get clients you really can't afford to eat more of that stuff." To this day I still remember my stomach churning at her words. I didn't finish my dinner that night and after that I started looking at myself differently.
It wasn't her words that suddenly changed things, I was always aware that other people were fitter than I was but it never mattered to me because I felt happy. In that moment I didn't feel happy, I felt foolish and I started to wonder if my happiness mattered. I didn't last very long after that as a personal trainer, I realized that my idea of empowerment and happiness wasn't what my clients wanted and I didn't want to compromise my idea for "results".
Less than a year after that happened, after I had quit my job as a personal trainer, I started having some stomach issues. For months I couldn't eat anything without becoming insanely sick. Every night I would wake up so nauseous I couldn't even lay down. After months of doctors appointments, ultrasounds, an upper endoscopy, and different trials and tests I was told I had IBS and that I was lactose intolerant. I was told to cut out dairy and any other food items that made me feel sick which ended up being red meats and garlic. This new "diet" ended up making me lose 25 pounds, I was so skinny that I felt weak all the time. I remember so many people telling me how amazing I looked and how they needed to know what I did to lose so much weight. Each time I told them that I actually wasn't healthy, I was pretty much living off cereal and tortillas. My picky eating didn't change because I couldn't eat certain foods it just made the pool of foods I ate smaller.
Ironically, I didn't really dress to my new body I favored boho flowy shirts and dresses. I wasn't fully comfortable in my skin. Slowly I was able to start introducing dairy and red meat back in to my diet with the help of lactose pills and just learning how to listen to my body and slowly I started to gain some of the weight back. Being able to introduce those foods back in to my diet, plus expanding to finally include vegetables, started making me feel actually healthy. I started gaining some muscle in my arms and my back muscles started getting more defined. Of course I had some people tell me that they thought I looked better when I was skinnier, and there are some days (hell some weeks) that I agree with them. How ironic is it that now that I'm healthy all I can think about is the compliments I would get when I wasn't healthy.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with how I look. I know that I don't look bad at all but sometimes the societal pressures to look a certain way gets to me. I started writing this post because an old friend of mine posted an instagram story and thread about cheat meals and how people who can't stick to a diet are weak and I just got really angry because those are the statements that make me want to look like the unhealthy version of myself. I understand why it exists, I understand that some people need that accountability but for me the idea of a "cheat meal" makes me feel like I should feel bad for consuming food that makes me happy. It makes me feel like that girl who was happy eating panda express and in love with herself is less than for feeling that way. I have spent this year trying to find that balance, eating the foods I like to eat but not hating the aftermath of that when I look in the mirror the next day. My goal has been to feel like a bad bitch 75% of the time when I look in the mirror.
Lizzo said on a Tik Tok video, "it may come as a surprise to some of y'all, that I'm not working out to have your ideal body type. I'm working out to have my ideal body type." I feel like it's almost a little crazy that I should even feel any type of doubts in my body, the average woman is a size 14 and I'm definitely smaller than a size 14. But living in Los Angeles makes you doubt that, living in Los Angeles with all the girls have abs and eat kale every day (no hate to these girls, good on you for doing all that), sometimes makes me feel shitty for loving pizza and having a muffin top. But now I just focus on loving my body, the body I want. I work out so that I can still eat pizza and not feel unhealthy. I work out to have my ideal body type. Will my ideal body type change in the future? Maybe, but I think the one thing that will never change is my love for pizza.
It's taken some time to come to terms with, what I can only define as body dysmorphia, and it's something that I've been spending the last year working through. My sister, who has had her own struggle with weight, and I have had conversations in the past that showed me how bad my body dysmorphia was. It was, for a bit, a point of contention between the two of us. As someone, who receives praise for being thin from society, complaining to someone who is seen as plus size by that same society we struggled with having conversations about body image. She helped me realize that there isn't anything wrong with my body and that the issue itself is my mental view of my body.
I have included some photos to show how crazy body dysmorphia can be, while I am not "big" in any of these photos, I am bigger than I am now and I think it shows a pretty clear view of how body dysmorphia really comes from your own mind.
All the love to everyone. XoXo
High School: Not completely happy, but confident in my skin. Played 3 sports and worked out regularly. Ate ice cream 3 times a week, top ramen twice a week, and regularly would eat an entire pizza to herself. I look at these photos now and wonder how I had the confidence to wear those clothes, I would mentally struggle with going out in those clothes even now. But back then when body dysmorphia wasn't a thing in my life I did it easily.
College/ Freshman 15: Definitely not happy, but still confident in my skin. Drinking a lot with no real diet. Ate lots of quesadillas and spaghetti. Started to workout near the end of the year, but overall no real exercise. While I may have been bigger, I still remember having more moments of feeling beautiful and sexy. More so than I felt in later years.
Personal Trainer: Worked out 1-2 times a day. Started to love myself after a traumatic event, still drinking occasionally and no real diet. Loved panda express! Had moments of self doubt but overall felt happy to just be happy. Until I was told by trainers that I was too big and that's when I started to see my body differently.
Unhealthy: Happy emotionally but physically weak. Eating only 1-2 meals a day. Meals consisted of slices of ham and cereal. Every other meal made me sick. Got lots of compliments on how skinny I was but I always felt on the verge of collapse. Didn't wear clothes that showed off my body very often because all I could see were the parts of myself I wasn't happy with.
In Between: Not feeling weak anymore, but not happy. Starting to eat dairy again, thanks to lactose pills, and definitely overdoing it. Not happy when I look in the mirror and trying to find comfort in food. Endless cycle of eating and still being sad.
Now: Generally good diet and happiest I've been in a long time. I've found a balance between eating the foods I like and liking what I see in the mirror. I'm not nearly as skinny as I once was, but I feel good in my body 80% of the time and most of all I'm happy.