Or maybe not?
My body. I wish I could say that I’m comfortable in my own skin, but the truth is…I’m not. I never have been. When I was younger, BC (Before Cancer) I have vivid memories of starting countless diets and food journals. My New Years resolutions always involved my weight and I remember thinking, “Yes! This will be the year that I will discover my real body. The one that is waiting for me under all of this fat.” But sadly, that ideal body that I had imagined in my mind was never uncovered.
It didn’t help that I grew up with my brother calling me names (as all brothers do), having to do with the fact that even though I was never extremely overweight, I was also never “skinny.” Even though I was never the biggest kid in class, I was always big, especially in high school.
It wasn’t because of laziness, I was always active. During my first eighteen years of life I went to dance classes, swam, played water polo, football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, and ran track and cross-country. However despite all of these activities, I could never figure out why my teammates all had bikini-ready flat stomachs and I was always just a tad pudgy. Too chubby to ever feel confident enough to be comfortable wearing a bikini in public.
Then in 8th grade when I was 13 and extremely hormonal, I had my first eating disorder. Without even realizing it, I had become borderline anorexic. I would to school everyday after having had only two spoonfuls of cereal. During lunch my best friend and I would maybe drink a diet coke and spend the rest of our time either wandering around or attempting to play volleyball (we had very big dreams back then of representing team USA as beach volleyball players in the Olympics). I remember once asking my beautiful, slim best friend wether or not she was hungry. In retrospect I was probably asking her this because I must have been. She replied, “Not really, I’ve decided to starve myself until I can fit into a size 3.” She couldn’t at the time have been bigger than an American teen size 5, while I on the other hand, must have been around a size 9.
So I stopped eating, without even realizing it and would push around my food during dinner time, only consuming the bare minimum. By the end of the school year, I was about a size 5 myself.
After the school year, we would see each other during the summer – a summer during which my mother did everything in her power to get me to eat again. She succeeded and I went back to a size 9, (then 11 and eventually 13).
Recounting this story more than 10 years after the fact makes me sad because there was no way of me knowing about my thyroid back then. No one had yet told me that my metabolism worked slower than it was supposed to, and this saddens me to this day.
If I had been able to regulate my thyroid then, maybe I wouldn’t have disliked the body that I saw in the mirror every day – a body that inexplicably was attached to my head, and the eyes that stared back at me with disdain.
The problem is that it’s not just me and my body, it’s every girl who grows up playing with Barbies and can’t figure out why they don’t grow up to looking like Victoria’s Secret Angels. But I think even if we all had Giselle’s proportions, I’m sure we would still find something wrong with our appearances. Because that’s just what it is, isn’t it? Our western culture dictates for us to consume and consuming the images of bikini clad models with less than 5% body fat makes us feel as if because we don’t look like them there’s something wrong with us.
This is what I always thought – that there was something wrong with me. To be honest, sometimes I still think this way.
However one thing I learned is that above all: we must learn to love ourselves if we are ever to find happiness and peace in our lives, and at the end of the day…cancer taught me that there are worse things in life than worrying about being “fat.”