Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Waist Not


copyright Jean Fran "Worth" (deviantart.com)

Copyright Jean Fran (=roseonthegray)”Worth” who writes:

“My waistline should be neither inversely proportional nor directly proportional to my worth as a human being.”

I want to bold her words, italicize them, and put them in a bigger font, but I’ll restrain myself.

I searched for this picture after a message from someone about how, even in recovery, she still compares herself to other women and feels bad about herself as a person if they have a smaller pant size.  Doesn’t matter if they are taller or shorter than she is.  It’s the number of the size that matters.

Sound familiar to anyone else?  I’d like to say that while I was anorexic I did not compare myself to other people.  That it was only about me.  And for a great deal of the time, that was true.  But not always.  In fact, there were times that I would delay going into treatment because I wouldn’t be the smallest one there.  One of the most difficult things–no, the most difficult thing–when I went to Rader was that I wasn’t at my lowest weight.  I wasn’t at a low weight at all.  I was above my ideal weight.  Everyone else will be thinner than me.  Everyone is going to think I don’t need to be here.  Everyone is going to think I suck at my eating disorder.  Everyone is going to think I’m faking it.  (Why the fuck was I worried that I sucked at my eating disorder?)  But there were other reasons, besides my waistline, for me to be there.  And I am so very thankful I did.  Not just because I got back on track quickly, but because of the spiritual growth that happened.  But that’s another topic.

Waist size.  Jean size.  Shirt size.  Bra size.  Admit it.  Even when we say, “I’ve always just compared myself to myself” there are times when we’ve compared ourselves to others and felt bad because we didn’t measure up–in an inverse way.  We were a measurement up rather than a measurement below.  And for some reason, that translated into “I’m not as good as that person.”

But I love Jean’s words: My waistline should be neither inversely proportional nor directly proportional to my worth as a human being. (There, I italicized them.  But I refrained from bolding and using a huge font.)

Where do we learn that our waistline does matter? Look at the TV.  Reality shows: America’s Next Top Model, The Biggest Loser, Project Runway. And how many lead actresses on television dramas and comedies are overweight?  And how often is the overweight person cast as the one who blunders, who’s too loud and brassy, who’s not as smart?  Look at magazines.  I find it so ironic that fitness magazines promise “Six moves to Six Pack Abs” and feature a model who has so little body fat that she should probably drink a six pack and have a healthy fat-to-muscle ratio.  These magazines don’t feature women in their thirties, who have a couple of kids, whose hips have appropriately widened and have nourished their bodies well enough to support life.  Look at fashion magazines.  How many women off the street can actually fit into those outfits?  Whom are designers making clothes for?  Pre-pubescent teens with no hips or breasts?

These are our role models from the time we are young.  We see these women on a daily basis.  And magazines and fitness shows and advertisements for the miracle diet pill tell us we need to look like them and if we don’t, we’re just not good enough.

It’s an extremely difficult thought pattern to break.  I had a yoga teacher give me a mantra: Om Namah Shivaya.  Roughly translated: I honor the divinity within me.  It took me years before I could begin to believe this.  I was too tied up in measuring up to impossible standards.  But after I entered recovery, I really began to challenge myself to repeat this mantra every time I started comparing myself to either my old anorexic self or to another individual.  Eventually, I got the tattoo, in Sanskrit, on the inside of my left wrist.  I wouldn’t let myself get it until I truly believed it.

But do I have moments of doubt? Yes, as evidenced by my fears before going into Rader.  What do I do to challenge those thoughts?  Yoga has probably been the most therapeutic thing for me.  Yoga taught me how to listen to my body and to respect my body and to appreciate my body for what it could do for me–right here, right now, as is.  Not in the future.  Not “if I lose ten pounds.”  Not “if I fit into my old jeans.”  Not “if I’m toned and buff.”  But right now, in this present moment, just as I am.

I got rid of old clothes, which I know is a very difficult thing to do.  And I refuse to talk to other people about my exact weight or what size I wear and I don’t let them tell me their weights or sizes.  That way I can think to myself, if I find myself comparing by looking at someone, “My perception is so flawed, my comparison is totally inaccurate.”  That gets me through the moment.

I have a list of things I am proud of.  Things that have nothing to do with my physical body.  Things that define me more than my size or shape ever could.  I think that when we are sick and during recovery, quite often so much emphasis is placed on weight recovery that we forget to also focus on who we are inside that body.  Talents.  Likes.  Dislikes.  Hobbies.  Achievements.  Dreams.  Goals.  Personality traits.  These are the things we need to focus on.

So I guess I have no easy answer as to how to change that tendency to compare and then base your self-worth on that comparison.  It’s an ingrained thing for some of us and it will be hard to break that automatic thought process.  But my suggestion would be that each time you find yourself doing it, name three things about yourself that you are proud of, things that aren’t connected to your shape or size or the number on your jeans.  Write these things on your mirror.  Cover a journal with them.  Write them all down in one list and keep adding to it as you discover more about yourself.  This is a journey.  We do not wake up one morning, suddenly in recovery, with all negative thought patterns gone.  Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the time to grow.

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May 25, 2010 - Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. You should have bolded them!

    1) I’m a good worker and try and help my co-workers and those that call in.
    2) I’m good daddy to my new little cat. She loves me!
    3) I’m a good son to my parents. I try and help them whenever I can. I try and make sure that they can do things they enjoy.

    Comment by David | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  2. There are days when finding 3 things would take the bulk of the day.
    there are some other thoughts that come to mind in relation to the quote… simply because im quite literally too squat to have a waist at all. but damn, it sure never stopped me from trying to create one. and that’s probably all i should say about that.
    i love you. i relate to your lack of comment frustration, and i have nowhere near the readers you do. sometimes the feedback is as or more important the the words. simply the validation of knowing you’re heard.
    i love you.

    Comment by marisa | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  3. it is with this, perhaps, that i struggle the most even now. i’ve honestly given up on the idea that i’ll ever shake loose the ever-present “comparer” in my head. occasionally i can shut her up, but i’m not sure she’ll ever be fully silent. unfortunately.

    Comment by michelle | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hi there,

    I stumbled across your blog today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    I think you might enjoy our blog. Angela, the co-creater, is a recovored bulimic. She shares her inspirational story and many other “regular” women and plus models share their stories as well.

    Best to you,
    Elizabeth

    http://www.plussizemodelsunite.com

    Comment by Elizabeth | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  5. Good post.
    After a good amt of time being recovered, I was dumbfounded a few week-ends ago. During my day to day life, I hardly ever think about my size anymore and only on very bad days do I find myself comparing myself to anyone. When it has happened, it’s been in the gym, but with all honesty, has been very rare. I feel confident in my life and how I look is not a factor.

    However, I went to one of the nicer malls in the city where I live and it’s pretty upper middle class. Almost the whole time I was there, I was oomparing myself to all the Skinny girls/women. I kept thinking “they have better clothes, more money, better jobs, AND they look better than I do.” I was aware of it the first time it happened but it took me a few hours to say to myself “Look at what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come! Your worth has no correlation to your size or your job and how much money you make !”

    I’d like to say I felt better straight away but it took me few days to put things in perspecive again. I still feel a little angry at myself for letting my self esteem be effected even for a few days b/c I was comparing myself. I thought I was well past that stage.

    I don’t have any pearls of wisdom to add. Just wanted to leave my 2 cents…

    Comment by d | May 25, 2010 | Reply

    • You say it took a few day s to put things in perspective again. Were there any specific things you said to yourself to help that process along that you’d be willing to share?

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. It’s still hard not to compare and be happy with my size. I guess I might never be “happy” about my size, but it does get better every day. I am getting used to being at my goal weight and seeing all the things I can do now that I am healthy that I couldn’t do before.

    Comment by Cheryl | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • I think that was a big thing for me. While I was sick, I wasn’t aware of/denied the fact that there were things I couldn’t do because I wasn’t strong enough. Then after I was at my goal weight, I was able to walk from the metro to my house–without getting tired. And I was amazed. And I know that back in 2000 when I was purging a lot, I didn’t realize how much energy that took out of me and how it affected my immune system until after I stopped. It actually took a therapist to point out WHY I was feeling better!

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 26, 2010 | Reply

      • I had no energy either, and I lost confidence in myself and my ability to sing. Now I have so much more energy, I never would have believe that gaining weight would have made such a big difference in my voice. It’s amazing. That’s what keeps me from slipping back.

        Comment by Cheryl | May 26, 2010

  7. this is hard. I really appreciated this post, though. I think my biggest struggle is just attempting to find things that make me a worthwhile person outside of my body. In the midst of my eating disorder, so often I would quite literally think “well I may not have ___, but at least I’m thin”. Fill in the blank with whatever. I may not be the best athlete, the best student, but at least I’m the thinnest. It became what I was “good at”.
    I’m getting better (slowly) at attempting to find value outside of my body. It’s definitely difficult, though.

    Comment by Mindy | May 26, 2010 | Reply

    • Mindy, I think it’s difficult for everyone for awhile. It really did help me to write out a list of things I”m good at. That way, when I was having a hard time and not really thinking clearly, I could actually look at a list that was already there.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  8. I’ve recently realized that my ability to compare is not reliable. People that I thought were smaller than me are measurably bigger than me and I still don’t see that as being possible. Even with proof. So, realizing that I can’t trust my eyes has helped me not give much thought to comparing. I still do some- but a lot less now than before.

    Comment by Andi | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  9. A huge problem is that in today’s society, the majority of women that we see on tv/magazines/etc. don’t have womens’ bodies. They look pre-pubescent, and it’s distorting everyone’s view of how a woman should look. Take a look at VS models, Miss America contestants – a lot of them have ribs and hipbones showing, with no fat or curves.

    I’ve always hated my hips because I was told that I got the family “curse” of having “child-bearing hips.” Even at my low weight, I couldn’t fit into tiny sizes because of my bone structure. It’s physically impossible to change and it still upset me. It’s still really hard not to compare, especially when we’re fed these images of what a woman should look like. We’re also told that in order to be happy, we have to look like that first.

    Comment by Jen | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  10. I like this blog a lot. All of my work (for independent study in Visual Arts) has been on body image in relation to eating disorders and recovery and this post really relates to a lot of what I tried to get into my paintings. I still struggle more with comparisons that any other single thing in recovery by FAR. I find myself comparing to ever single person I walk by, wether that be a 60 year old woman or a 10 year old boy or anything inbetween. I am still stuck with dissatisfaction (excuse my spelling mistakes.. I’m not quite the writer you are 🙂 but one thing that I find that really helps me is much the same as your Yoga and what it has taught you…. about honoring the divinity within. I like this quote a lot. I find that when I am having a really rough day what helps me the most is to remember, and even sometimes write down, all of the things my body does for me and all the things I can only do now because I am nourishing it the way I need to. It reminds me that I must respect my body for all it gives me every day, and love it because it’s healthy. I don’t feel like the world is ever going to stop pushing the super skinny onto the public, so I feel like this is an issue people in recovery will always have to face, but I love that you have brought up the idea of how to fight it in this blog. I love reading your blog… keep it up Alexis 🙂

    Comment by Nikita | May 29, 2010 | Reply


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