Paper Bag

“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”

Oh god, I don’t want to say it. It’s too cliché. I can’t believe that’s what I see! Now I understand why that ad campaign works. Just stare at the floor. Maybe she’ll talk again and say something else and change the topic. Oh no! She’s just waiting for me to answer. Well say something. Anything but the truth! You do not need to add this to the list of reasons why you’re a broken, sad excuse for a person. Well, what else can I say that would answer the question? I see me? No, that would invalidate this conversation. Come on, you’ve only got 4 sessions left with her. I cannot believe you brought this up. You have to say something. It’s too late now. You have to speak. The door is open now and there’s no closing it. Just admit it.

When I look in the mirror I see a fat person. That’s the only way I can phrase it so it makes sense to people who can’t read minds. When I look in the mirror I look huge. When I look in the mirror I fixate on all the fat that is on my body. I don’t care that my new higher weight is a result of muscle mass. I don’t care that my measurements have basically stayed the same except for my hips because I have an ass now. I don’t care that whenever I go to the doctor they make some comment about how great my lungs sound, or how strong my heartbeat is. “You must work out,” they say. But when I look in the mirror all I can see is fat and how much I have failed.

In therapy yesterday this came up, and I didn’t want to talk about it. After she got this out of me I did not say much else and let her talk. She had a lot to say, though, which I was thankful for. Because I didn’t want to admit this. Now just to her because she is my therapist and is only here until the 3rd week of August, and already has heard all of my stories about my family, my past, my present, my fears, my anxieties, etc. I did not want to add that I still struggle with body image on a daily basis to that list. I felt ashamed. I must look so broken and pathetic in her eyes. Just this sad little girl who gets anxiety attacks because she doesn’t know how to let her emotions be so they bubble up inside until the explode at the most inconvenient of moments. Just this sad little girl who comes from a broken family. This sad little girl who hates herself. This sad little girl who can’t even look at her reflection in passing without having to stop and scrutinize every inch of it. I didn’t want her to think any less of me than I assume she already does.* But I also did not want to admit it to myself.

I have been in recovery from anorexia nervosa for over 4 years. In that time I have learned and studied Pilates, weight training, HIIT, and have become a certified fitness trainer. I have dedicated those past 4 years to learning absolutely everything I could about health, fitness, and nutrition. Heck, I could have a degree in it by now. I know exactly how this all works, but when I look in the mirror all I see is failure. Failure because I never reached my UGW. Failure because I even tried to. Failure because despite all my knowledge I still don’t have rock hard visible abs, and I still indulge in sweets. Failure because my body is no one else’s fault but my own. It’s not hard like studying and taking a test. It’s just eating right and exercising and I can’t even seem to do that. I did not want to admit to myself that despite all I’ve learned and all I’ve overcome in the past 4 years I still cannot accept my body. I still hate how I look.

And now I just feel trapped. Because I cannot go back to starving myself. I know that. But it seems like I cannot do it the healthy way, either. I feel trapped. I feel sad, and I feel scared. Scared that I’m going to feel this way forever. I’m only 20 years old. I have hated my body since I was five when I wished I would be allowed to wear make up so that I could for once feel pretty. I’ve got 40-60 more years ahead of me. I don’t want to spend them feeling this way. I have been trying for 4 years to accept and love my body; to make peace with it, but it’s not happening.


4 thoughts on “Paper Bag

  1. I understand. I have the same problem. I’ve never seen anything other than fat, when I look in the mirror. My problem, also, started at the age of 5. How do 5 year old’s end up thinking like this and seeing fat at such an early age? It’s complicated, only we can understand. I wish you the best on your journey. Just know that you are not alone and that there are many of us out here with the exact same problem. At least you are working on it. Good luck! 🙂

  2. You may or may not be able to change what’s buried deep in your mind, but what you can change is how you act upon it – and you are doing that, right now, by continuing to not starve yourself. That is the biggest success of all. I see no failures here. With time, I hope that how you perceive yourself changes, but in the meantime remember that every day you continue to respect your body rather than punish it for a crime it did not commit, is a day of success.

  3. I don’t necessarily believe in 180 degree transformations in the way you view yourself, but I think little steps can add up to a lot of progress. I still struggle with horrible body image and comparing myself to others, and I don’t think it’ll ever go away, but I’ve come so far in the past few years and I don’t want to discount that. And I think you shouldn’t either — you deserve so much credit for the changes you have made in your mind!

  4. Being in recovery from an 11 year battle wit anorexia, I can totally understand this. Ive read SO many books on how to improve body image and the one thing that has helped me the most is actually spending time looking in the mirror (really LOOKING) and repeating affirmations daily. Also, looking beyond your physical imperfections and reminding yourself who you really are, we are way more than are physical selves and liking ourselves comes down to who we are as people, you know?

    Sending love – don’t be so hard on yourself xxx

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