Wednesday 15 May 2019

Body image in anorexia recovery

Laura shares her experiences of overcoming negative body image whilst recovering from an eating disorder. 

“A body does not have to be a prison. Instead, our bodies can be precious vehicles for life.” - Jenni Schaefer

Recovering from an eating disorder has also meant attempting to rebuild a positive body image. My focus has been forced to shift from hating and starving my body to nourishing it with the food it deserves. It’s changed from cursing my arms and legs and stomach for being too ‘big’, to allowing my body to regain the weight it desperately needed to.

It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not there yet. I have never felt comfortable in my skin. I always, and wrongly, believed that if I was thin, I wouldn’t have a problem. I equated thinness to happiness, and I thought if I achieved what I perceived as a perfect body, I would also achieve a perfect life.

But when I fell victim to anorexia, for reasons far more complex than simply what I looked like, I realised I had been wrong. The voice in my head was never pleased, no matter how much weight I lost. I had to be thinner. If I wanted to feel better in my body, I’d just have to lose more.

It’s only now that I can see how wrong this voice was, and how disordered its logic. It’s only now, with hindsight, that I can see that at my thinnest, I was also the loneliest, saddest and emptiest version of myself. At my thinnest, I hated my body more than ever.

Over time, I’ve learnt that my body image is dependent on how I feel inside. On a good day, I can breeze through without a thought to my weight or shape; on a bad day, when I feel anxious or sad or stressed, I am painfully aware of the size of my body and the space I take up. On those days, I want to starve and shrink my body more than ever before. Perhaps I think if I am smaller physically, my feelings will be smaller too, or maybe I just want to disappear completely. Who knows the rationale behind an eating disorder? All I can do is tell myself it is wrong.

The thing is, we are all so much more than our bodies. We are the sum of the friendships and relationships we invest in, the hobbies we love to pursue and the talents and strengths we possess. As it turns out, your body image is just a reflection on how you feel about yourself. If you dislike who you are, you’ll dislike how you look, regardless of your weight or shape. I am learning to appreciate my body for what it can do instead of how it looks. Shifting our focus from the size of our thighs to the contents of our hearts can transform the way we see our bodies for the better. 

Positive body image comes from the inside: nourish yourself, respect yourself, and slowly you can grow to love yourself.

My name's Laura and I'm currently studying for a Master's degree in journalism. I'm really passionate about improving student mental health having been unwell for a lot of my degree, and I'm one of the editors here at the Student Minds blog. I believe sharing our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read. Especially the line 'your body image is just a reflection on how you feel about yourself. If you dislike who you are, you’ll dislike how you look, regardless of your weight or shape' which helps me to understand why I became so focused on weight loss and appearance, in reaction to not liking how I was behaving in life and how lonely I was feeling. I'm so grateful to have stumbled upon this post. Thank you x