(TRIGGER WARNING!! Anyone who has a history of eating disorders or mental health problems may find this triggering)
My body and food have always been problematic for me. For as long as I can remember I have felt shame around food, I have felt shame about my body and I have never been comfortable with myself. Not a day has gone by in the past 25 years or more that I haven’t thought about food and my body in a negative way.
People who identify as women or femme, in particular in Western cultures, are taught that they must not take up too much space. It is engrained in us that it is our mission in life to be as small as we can possibly be.
Be thin, be dainty, be quiet. Fit into this nice little box and don’t step out of line.
I am a woman. And I have grown into a body that is 6 foot tall. I have always been big. Since the age of 12 I have had size 9 feet. Trouser legs and shirt sleeves are never quite long enough, I struggle to find women’s shoes that fit me, and you will always see me in a crowd, towering above other people, no matter how much I try to disguise myself.
I am a person who will not fit into the box that society tells me I should be in no matter how hard I squeeze and fight with myself. No matter how much society shames me or I shame myself.
In fact, I have discovered that the more I try to squeeze myself into that box, the more my body panics and the bigger I become.
As I have begun investigating my disordered relationship with food and my body I have discovered that it has affected me in many ways that are not in anyway related to eating, but in the ways I move about the world, experience the world and see myself and others.
For instance many people remark on how quiet I am. It is true, I have a very quiet voice. I find it almost painful to shout and if I find myself talking “too much” I spend the evening after revisiting and analysing what I have said. I am not adept at “small talk”. This introverted part of my self is something that I have been learning to accept.
But that, along with my slightly stooped gait, and my somewhat reserved nature in social situations all stems, I believe, from trying to diminish myself in some way. It stems from trying to make myself smaller. Less visible.
To take up less space.
As a child I was aware that there was something different about me. I knew I was bigger than the other girls and most of the boys in my class and that this made me not quite right. I also had other issues with attachment that stem from being a child of divorce and this ingrained in me that I wasn’t wanted and I associated this with my body. As I got older, the rules and regulations on what a woman’s body should be started to become more apparent. I realised at the age of 11 that there was a box. There was a box and I should begin my work of trying to fit inside it, because at that time I was wrong. My body was wrong and I was not OK. I should be ashamed of myself because I did not fit in the box. And I realised that what all women were busy doing is trying to fit or stay in there identical boxes.
And so my eating disorder started at eleven years old.
By the age of fifteen I despised and hated my body so much for not fitting in the box that I ravaged all out war on it, I starved it, punished it, hurt it, purged it and tried my best to control it in what ever way possible.
This is a war that has continued in various levels for 15 years.
For a few years now I have been trying to reach an armistice with my body. I’ve grown tired of fighting it. I’ve grown tired of trying to fit in the box even though I never will.
I know now that all this nonsense about trying to fit into the box is just that. Nonsense.
There is no one size fits all box because there is no one size fits all body.
I, and most others, in this Western culture have been sold the idea that if you are fat then you will not be happy. You will not be loved. You will not achieve what you want to achieve. You are not healthy. You are not capable. And that you should try to become smaller AT ALL COSTs.
And now I can see all this propaganda that has been thrown at me and continues to be thrown at me and all people in Western society for years for what it is.
Lies to get you to feel bad so you’ll buy stuff and stay small.
I know that these are lies because I am living proof of those lies. Because I am fat and tall and I take up space yet I am loved. I am fat and I am happy (when I let myself be) I am fat and I have achieved great things, I’ve gone great places I’ve met great people.
But even though I KNOW this on an intellectual level, even though I know that I can’t fit in the box because the box is bulls**t, even though I know fighting my body is futile, even though I know that the more I try and control my body and food the worse it gets and its a never ending cycle of restrict and control, binge, hate myself, repeat, I still continue to do it anyway.
And so does everyone else I know. Even people who fit in the box are terrified at the mere notion that they won’t fit in it much longer, and there life is spent trying to stay in the box!
It is so hard to escape the cycle because it is perpetuated on so many levels everywhere I turn. It is on every billboard, in every magazine, on every advert. It is in the supermarket, it’s in the conversations I have with friends and family. It’s on my group chat. It’s at the doctors and in the books I read and now it’s inside my head in a constant stream, a continuous, monotonous gnawing ache in the pit of my stomach that whispers you are not good enough as you are, your body is not acceptable, you are wrong, you should be ashamed of yourself, you MUST FIT IN THE BOX.
Last year I became ill with a suspected auto immune disorder (I am still having on going tests) And I am sickeningly aware that in the back of my mind I was pleased that I was so ill because it made me lose weight. And I know that my disordered eating mind is happy because now I have a medical reason to restrict my food, to control my food, and maybe, just maybe I’ll lose more weight. And I’ll get a bit closer to fitting in the box.
For my whole life I have assigned food a moral value. I’ve thought that what I weigh and how much space I take up has been associated with my self worth for so long.
But now I’m ready to fight. I am continuing to battle. Not against my body. But for my body. For my mental health.
Instead of attacking myself and punishing myself I want to attack the notion that my body size has any attachment to my worth.
Instead of starving and restricting and binging on repeat I want to find ways I can enrich and nourish and care for my body and mind.
Instead of trying to fit inside the box, I want to smash the box to pieces and set myself free.
My body is not the enemy. Food is not the enemy.
I may not be perfect. Or dainty. Or thin.
But I am OK.
My future is a journey to grow, learn and celebrate me. I hope that you can learn to celebrate yourself too.
If you want to find out more about how to break free from diet culture and or eating disorders I recommend seeking professional medical advice, but also the Food Psych podcasts HERE and the work of Isabel Fox and Duke HERE are good places to start.
I am currently using the Recover App from the Recover Clinic, an eating disorder centre, to help me resolve my eating disorder for good. To find out more visit The Recover Clinic HERE or watch this video from Grace F Victory who is a current patient of the Recover clinic.