Do not read if you are sensitive to topics about body issues, weight loss, eating disorders.
I’ll start off with a sad reality: I don’t know one single girl that is completely content with their body. If anything, whenever I compliment a girl, I’ll get some reaction like “What, are you mad? No way! I hate my [insert body part here]!“
And I must honestly admit I’m the exact same.
The taboo topic
I never really touched on body issue topics on this blog. It’s always been a tricky topic for me. I’m honestly still trying to find out how to go about it.
I’d like to start off by saying: body issues are more than just the feeling of feeling “fat” or “ugly”. They go deeper than that. Suddenly they dictate how you identify, how you carry yourself, how you take care of yourself.
What makes body issues dangerous is the fact that the way you see yourself is subjective and there’s simply no outer perspective that could convince you your view might be distorted.
As a young teen
Growing up, I only saw my body as a shell to put clothes on. Not really caring about how I looked like, I was quite carefree with my body. I didn’t even consider whether I looked good or not, because that’s not why I had the friends that I had, or the love my family gave me.
When my mother said I looked pretty, I decided that I was as I went on with life.
At 13 my mindset somewhat altered. I was very chubby but nobody really commented on it or pointed anything out. The little girl just ate her crisps and enjoyed sharing sweets with friends.
Nobody really gave a crap about how I looked, and honestly speaking, neither did I. Looking back at old school photos now, I’m just going: what I was wearing? Hideous! I don’t know what I was thinking.
But the thing is: I didn’t care what I was wearing back then. No wonder I left the house in such mismatched styles.
Confronting different beauty standards
As some of you know, I’m Vietnamese and one thing I can tell you about Vietnamese culture is that their beauty standard is tall, skinny, fair. Besides, Vietnamese people are straightforward, and they don’t mean to be in an offensive way.
They are brutally honest, mostly for the sake of helping someone. So when my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins saw me, and they said, “Wow you’ve gotten big,” it was a harder pill for me to swallow than they thought.
I can’t really find a perfect translation for the word they used but let’s define for this story that when they said “big”, they meant chubby. Not even chubby, they meant fat. My cousin even went so far as to tell me to “use this dance practice DVD to exercise” and to “only come back when I’m skinny”. Ouch.
To my mother and my Vietnamese relatives, this was nothing. Just words, even playful jokes to make me reconsider my eating habits. But to me, those words shaped my relationship with my body until today, 8 years later. My relationship with my body was no good anymore. It grew worse with each day, each week, each year.
From 7th and 8th grade on, everyone around me started worrying about their looks. Whether that was because of the celebrities they looked up to or whether to convince guys.
They began talking about make-up and shaving and losing weight. I didn’t think it should’ve been a topic when you’re that young but, of course, I started worrying, too.
On top of seeing myself as a fat whale initially, I also started worrying alongside my girlfriends: about hairy legs, arms, armpits, mono-brows and pimples on my skin.
I started stressing about it and was keen on going through with some ridiculous diet (I tried many) but always got back into worse eating habits, where I would binge-eat in stressful and depressing times.
This was also when I developed my depression. Needless to say, this didn’t really make anything better. I started despising my body and my lack of consistency. Soon enough I thought of myself as a failure.
Developing an eating disorder
I was in London a year ago. Feeling a bit sad. Also a bit broke. And I hated my body. I reached the point where I just didn’t care anymore and I stopped eating for a few days.
I didn’t do it on purpose. It was my depression playing the biggest part in that so I just didn’t feel like eating and I didn’t feel like going out to get any food (when I ran out of food).
Of course, this has stopped me from going to my internship for a few days because at some point I just felt so sick. I had to eat because I felt dizzy but I couldn’t eat because my body wasn’t digesting anything and nothing would go in the right way.
I had to go to the doctor who fixed my developed eating disorder. He got me fixed and I slowly regained the ability to eat normally again. I had lost a good amount of weight, which made me happy when I saw the number on the scale, but I realised the mentality of my behavior wasn’t worth it. It didn’t put me in a better place, it intoxicated me.
After six months in London, I went back to Germany where I sought out my therapist again. I talked to her about my body issues, what I’m dissatisfied with, how sometimes I just wanted to starve to get fastest weight-loss results.
I told her that my thyroid malfunction causes me to gain weight easily and makes it hard for me to lose weight because it has a negative effect on my metabolism.
She asked whether I would be willing to try and work with her to accept myself for whom I was, no matter what I looked like. I was skeptical and at first, I declined.
I didn’t feel like I was at the stage where I would just forget about my body issues and the urge to diet and starve myself so easily. It had all been ingrained in my mind for years.
It came to a point where I couldn’t talk to my friends about my issues anymore. Whenever I would start talking about how I felt about my body, they would point out that they had it “worse”. They were “bigger” than me, they had these “dozen other problems to deal with” and what the hell would “tiny me be worried about”.
The thing is this didn’t help at all. Yes, in perspective, everyone has something they’re unhappy about it. And there are things you like about a person that that person might hate, too.
I never understood how the trouble of someone else was supposed to cancel out your own. It’s not like them having their own problems would make mine go away or make them any less valid to me. I just shut up about my body issues altogether and it ate me up alive.
A few weeks later, I hit a low again and that’s when I desperately wanted to get better. Now I don’t necessarily feel more content, but I’m trying my hardest to nourish my body and take care of it.
After some awareness exercises, as stupid as it might sound, I’ve really accepted my body as my own and accepted it as my temple. My boyfriend plays a huge part in making me feel more comfortable in my skin, too, which I’m so grateful for.
I still wish I would look different – but I’d like to achieve that whilst being healthy, not obsessively hateful towards myself.
What’s your story?