I like to think of myself as an open book. I believe most of my friends would agree, you can ask Lydia just about anything. I do not try to hide any aspects of my life, because I believe someone can always benefit from stories. Even though you may not be in the certain valley any longer, someone else is in the deep and dark valley of their story. Sharing also brings freedom and allows me to be transparent with my family, friends, and clients.
Recently I realized a story I had not ever shared, the fight with the woman in the mirror.
What am I referring to? The battle of body image.
Recent social media posts reminded me of my own journey and I thought it might be a good idea to share a snippet into where I once was and where I am today. So here it goes! I hope this finds someone in need of this exact story to help them fight their woman in the mirror.
When I was young I was an overweight child, pre-teen, and early teen. I had no idea whatsoever because my parents always told me I was beautiful and perfect just the way I am. My dad told me I was a princess and my mother never made any negative comments about my physical appearance. My mother also never looked into the mirror and beat herself up, in front of me anyways. I was confident in myself until one day in junior high, a young and immature young male decided to call me “fat”. It was the last day before summer break and I was crushed. It took everything I had to make it home on the bus without crying my eyeballs out in front of my peers. I went home, looked in the mirror and for the first time saw rolls and imperfections.
Over the summer I worked very hard to change my lifestyle and increase physical activity. I kept seeing this chubby little girl looking at me in the mirror and was determined to make her go away. I would skimp on dinners, counted every calorie, eat only whole foods, and exercised obsessively. When I came back after summer break she was gone, the “fat” girl in the mirror, or at least to other people. To me, she was still there. Naturely, I enjoyed all the attention and praise as a young teenage girl and continued to work hard to make “her” go away.
The rest of my high-school was surrounded with sports, running, and my feeble attempts at eating healthy, aka starving myself. I felt pretty good about myself overall, as long as I did not look at the imperfections in the mirror or compare myself to other girls. See, when I compared I failed. I looked around and saw girls much shorter and smaller framed than me. This would lead me down the road of “I am fat” and causing more restrictions. It was never enough, I was never enough. I still believed a lie, and heard the statement “fat”.
Onward to college and a downward spiral hit. Wow, I was a dirty ol’ farm girl who moved to the city. I looked around. Girls are pretty here. They dress nice. They look better than me. As a freshman in college, I began to compare and really fight the woman in the mirror. I began working out and running obsessively. I would count calories and obsess over my nutrition. I had gotten my weight and body fat down to a number I had never seen. I am 5’9″ and I was at 140lbs with 11% body fat. I had the resemblance of abs, and fit into clothes with numbers farther down in the single digits! I was tiny for my frame. I was obsessed. I was still “fat”. Not really, but whenever I looked into the mirror … When I stepped on the scale…. It was never enough.
As my degree progressed and I was close to becoming a real deal dietitian, somewhere in the journey I left her behind, the liar in the mirror and on the scale. I began to find my self-worth in other places besides the reflection. I knew I was smart, funny, kind, and loved by many. I began to love myself and in the process became a better dietitian and friend. I was no longer 11% body fat, but I was happy. I began to ditch the numbers and understand healthy was more than controlling my food intake. It was a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical journey.
Throughout my mid-twenties I struggled a bit, but never had to totally fight her anymore. Every once in a while my self-confidence would waiver as clients, patients, and strangers would try to fit me into a box. I am a dietitian shouldn’t I look a certain way? Apparently. At times I struggled with the concept, wondering if folks were looking at me thinking I am a “fat” dietitian. But somewhere along the journey I realized my vision and beliefs were clouded. I am happy, I am healthy. I love who I am and I see physical signs of health by looking at my skin, nails, sleep-patterns, and lab values. I do not need to fit into a certain number jeans, or see a certain number on the scale. If I can look in the mirror and she is not yelling at me, I am healthy. I am enough. I am no where near 11% body fat with abs. But I am enough. I am no where near the perfect body. But I am enough.
I write my story for you. Ask yourself, will it ever be enough? Are you struggling for an image of yourself which does not exist? Are you pushing yourself to impossible limits and not allowing yourself time with your kids or a date including dessert with your second half? Will you ever be happy or will she always win the fight in the mirror? Do more. Be more. You are not enough.
Your story is not mine. Your story will have it’s own chapters and I have left out numerous twists and turns in the story. Disordered eating and eating disorders are real. Body dysmorphia is real. Many of us struggling with it do not even know we are in it until we finally win. I now believe in health and confidence. I no longer fight the woman in the mirror, I love her.
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