Mirroring Health Without Mirrors

I have had an interesting past few days. Nothing dramatic has happened; my routine is virtually the same as it’s always been, except for one minor detail that I hope makes a lasting impact.

As I have previously mentioned in my blog, I am currently in recovery after years of suffering from an eating disorder. Heck, I’ve made a whole separate tag on this blog to dedicate any thoughts or progress I feel like sharing, and today is one of those moments.

I have tried recovering multiple times in the past, but this time I refuse to look back. That means rather than changing dramatically overnight, I have made gradual changes over time as I develop a healthier mindset and relationship with food and my body. From transitioning to a vegan lifestyle to becoming more aware of my emotions, I see the pieces of the puzzle coming together toward a positive picture of well-being.Even becoming more consistent with my blog has been a step toward finding a healthier identity for myself beyond how I look.

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I really wish I could possess that self-love that says, “Screw everything, I look fine.” But when you are your worst critic, actually putting those words into action is so much harder.

That is where my most recent change comes into play, and that is how I use the mirror and “check” my body. For those unfamiliar with disordered behaviors, people with EDs usually fall under two categories: they completely avoid looking in mirrors or seeing their bodies, or they become obsessive with looking at their reflection and using different methods of determining their shape. I am in the latter group. I have gone through different phases of how severe my “habit” was, but any mode of checking my shape and size, chances are I’ve done it.

Before doing anything different, I simply became more aware of how often and how long I body checked. In the back of my mind, I always knew that what I was doing was excessive and unnecessary, but for me, doing those habits really became second nature to me, automatic and mindless. Just keeping track of my behavior really put myself into perspective the time I was wasting when I could focus my day on more meaningful activities.

It’s also important to note that the only person who actually pays attention to your body attentively is yourself. Nobody sees your body from angle of looking down your feet. Nobody studies every lump or bump or curve. Nobody is measuring the size of your thighs or pinching your soft spots (which if you look for fat on your body, you’ll find it. Having fat doesn’t make you fat; it provides you with insulation and life).

When you’re in a disordered mindset, usually logic doesn’t apply. The thought processes involved in devoting effort in maintaining a certain “ideal” size don’t consider your well-being. Saying I automatically notice my body in any form of reflection I pass (even making an effort to intentionally pass a reflection just to “check”) or could spend a solid chunk of time just studying every inch of my figure sounds ridiculous, but when you’re someone in my position in that frame of mind, it’s hard to question.

Especially when you suffer from body dysmorphia, actually understanding my own size is pointless. I am a very visual person, so I like to see everything to give myself peace of mind, but my vision is clouded. What I see as a huge problem or drastic change in my body, anybody else would never notice. Also, when I body check for too long, my sense of realism dissolves and every feature turns into something foreign, like a form of dissociation.

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Look at me, spewing in those self-love quotes! I hope someday I can really embrace what I preach.

It’s only been a couple of days so far, but I have not once body checked. I have only used the mirror to do my makeup, and any look at my full body has been a fleeting glance to check on outfit. For someone who has body checked for so long, you would think this would be a real challenge to me, but thus far, I really haven’t minded. In the back of my mind, that little ED voice is wondering if my shape has changed any, but at this point, I’m holding out strong.

For those who have never dealt with these thoughts (and I pray you haven’t and never will), I would compare an ED to an addiction, but instead of being able to quick cold turkey, you can’t just avoid the issues and never have to approach them again. I have to eat several times a day, and I have to use a mirror to know I look presentable. At any moment I could slip, but I’m finding the strength to realize relapsing is not an option anymore. I am the only person who can save me from myself, and I’m not about to let myself down.

If you need the reminder today, know that you are beautiful, just the way you are. Your body is a temple, a walking masterpiece. Every cell is working constantly to keep you alive, to allow you perform whatever challenges life throws at us, even the mindless ones we take for granted. But this outward appearance in way determines the appearance of your soul. Your relationship with earth’s gravitational pull has no effect on your relationship with the people on this earth.

I will keep you updated on my continued progress as I gain further insight into what right now feels mindless, eventually delving into how I perceive others, as well. It’s all part of the process into reaching a place of optimal wellness, and I look forward to see where it takes me.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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