After puberty, when I was around 13 years old, I saw a big change in my body. It literally felt as though, overnight I had grown hips, wider thighs, breasts and a butt. All of a sudden my body felt foreign to me. I started to get attention from men for having curves, and felt really uncomfortable in my own skin. I became self-conscious of wearing bathing suites and started comparing myself to all of my friends. They were skinnier, prettier, funnier than me– I thought. I developed a strong shield as a result, only allowing my real self to be seen in certain circumstances. I was 16 years old when I was diagnosed with anorexia. Somewhere along the way I became obsessive about wanting to lose weight and I was committed to doing it at any cost. I started dieting and exercising excessively. I got below 90 pounds and had to get help. I couldn’t participate in sports anymore, because I had no energy. One of my favourite things to do, running, couldn’t be done while I hurt my body this way. I became isolated and feared going to school every day. I started to see a counsellor who really helped me get on the right path. By the time I was half-way through grade 11 I had recovered my weight and many of my friends and family members appeared really relieved. Some came forth and told me how worried they had been, and how sickly and sad I had seemed. I thought I was fooling everyone, but I was hurting my loved ones and myself more than I could comprehend at the time. I was at a healthy weight but still suffered with strong body dysmorphia all throughout university. Whenever something challenging arose in my life, I’d resort to my old ED ways and start starving, bingeing, and exercising insanely. No one really said anything, other than a few individuals who’d comment on my yo-yoing weight. I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire time, but felt completely lost in my own body. I had sold the lie to the world that I was healed, but I knew I was not. I really struggled with my body image when I got a job in TV after university. I was so focused on how I appeared on the screen that I couldn’t fully enjoy what I was doing. I could be telling an incredible story about love and loss in Egypt or a horrific car accident, and be only half in the zone. The other half of me was listening to the cruel lies that played on repeat in my head, telling me I was awkward, fat, incapable and unworthy. I worked with a team of incredible people, who probably didn’t fully know what I was going through, but not one person ever made me feel any of those awful things. In fact, my managers and co-workers were nothing but encouraging and supportive. It was me who was standing in my own way.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve now become a yoga teacher and am really in my element. I love what this practice has done for me. It’s healed my wounds from the past and challenged me mentally, physically and spiritually. Before going to yoga teacher training a few weeks ago to become certified, I had been practicing at Power Yoga Canada for around 2 years. My life started to change and my view of my body really shifted. It actually scared me how much I was starting to accept myself. I was hearing constant cues from teachers to love myself, listen to my body and not judge it. I couldn’t accept this new outlook while holding onto my violent view of myself that allowed me to punish my body, abuse it and confuse it. It’s like taking deep breaths in and out when you’re stressed. You simply can’t be thinking negative thoughts while simultaneously thinking about your breath. It’s impossible, seriously…try it. My damaging body beliefs couldn’t withstand the power of self-love. Whether I liked it or not I started to fully accept myself and actually really like my body. I started to treat it with respect by keeping a balanced diet with lots of room to enjoy fun foods and began giving my body regular exercise in the name of health and rest in the name of relaxation. I made a strong commitment to dropping any residual body-hate that continued to weigh me down when I signed up for yoga teacher training. Every day, whether I shared it with others or not, I was drowning out the evil voice in my head that said I needed to change my body and began dropping the behaviours that kept that voice alive, one by one. The obsessive mirror-checking, menu scanning and calorie counting had been so incredibly exhausting that I couldn’t wait to crush the demon once and for all.
I feel really at home in my body now. I really appreciate what it allows me to do every day, how it allows me to be strong and soft all-at-once. I still have moments where I catch myself criticizing a part of my body but I immediately snuff it out. I don’t accept this violent attitude towards myself anymore. I may always struggle with body dysmorphia (literally seeing my body as being bigger than it is) but I at least have the tools to disregard what my tricky eyes see and snap out of it. The Canadian Mental Health Association says anorexia affects up to 4% of women in Canada. I’m certain the numbers have gone up since one 2002 study, which said 1.5% of Canadian women between 15 and 24 years old have an eating disorder. I know this mental illness affects many men as well, and individuals in different age ranges and those with different sexual orientations. That’s why I’m writing about it. Countless friends have told me about their own body struggles and I see far too many people suffering daily. I’m starting a body-love revolution, right here near Toronto, Ontario. Together we can support each other in finding self-acceptance and treating our bodies with respect and care.