I have been unkind to my body for years.
At the tender age of 10, I would spend my summer afternoons engrossed in Shape magazines.
I mirrored what the woman in them did, hoping to look just like them in a few years. To be perfect. Hoping my body would be a certain size—flat here and full there. That was the age I started to exercise.
As I grew into a teenager, it became clear that my body just wasn’t made like those magazines. I was a young girl of strength—thick thighs and broad shoulders. My girlfriends and I would go to Abercrombie and Fitch, and I remember squeezing into a size six T-shirt (which is actually a size zero if we’re being completely honest, Abercrombie) and thinking, “my arms are so fat.” All my 16-year-old brain wanted was for my arms to fit into that damn Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt.
I couldn’t understand it. Why was I so curvaceous, even while on a diet, while my girlfriend who ate pizza daily for lunch was as thin as a pencil? I hated my body. I was also clueless on how to take care of her. I thought, “Well, if I don’t eat, she’ll get skinny,” but when you starve yourself all day at school, you’re going to be really hungry during your 4 o’clock after-school television programs.
And so, the binging and purging commenced.
The first time was interesting. I think I was surprised that I could actually make myself throw up. I convinced myself that I would only do it sometimes—but then sometimes became all the time. I was a pro at hiding it, and I was also ashamed at how well I hid it, wishing someone would catch me in order to help me.
Nobody ever did. And when I went to college, it became a lot harder to hide—and so, I became even more secretive. I stopped going out—I just wanted to be alone.
I’m not sure exactly when my breaking point happened. It was probably after stealing my roommate’s peanut butter during a binge that I finally told my mom. She said, “Go see a therapist.”
So I went to see a therapist—just once. And even though I should have gone more, her words stay with me still. She said “Go travel. Get out of your mind and your idea about your body by seeing the world.”
And boy, did I.
The next year, at the age of 20, I convinced my parents to let me spend a semester in Scotland where I met the best people, saw Europe, and traveled to volunteer in Tanzania. I didn’t have the time to be concerned about how fat I was because I was having the best time of my life. I was in awe of life. I slowly went from binging and purging all the time to only some of the time.
However, you can’t travel forever, and eating disorders are a lot more complex and sticky than changing locations can fix—and more complicated than this article has time for. I think the key thing to remember is that an eating disorder stems from a disordered way of seeing your body; and so to heal, perhaps we need to move away from the mind and into the body.
I turn 30 in a month. As I look back on the past 10 years, I realize that it’s been 10 years unconsciously dedicated to healing my disordered thinking.
Through my 20s, I continued to travel. And then I met my husband, who doesn’t let a day go by without telling me I’m beautiful. And I found yoga, or maybe yoga found me.
And as I write this on the verge of tears, I am reminded of the feeling yoga invoked.
It was the first form of movement where I found connection. It wasn’t just exercise designed to manipulate my body to look a certain way or fit into a certain box. It felt good. It was like a flick of a switch, and I was left in awe that my body could move the way she did.
Yoga was my lifeline; it saved me, as it probably saves many. It became (and continues to be) a daily practice that moves me out of my mind and into my body. My only wish is for others to discover that for themselves too.
From a young age, I didn’t think my body was good enough.
I would see all of these beautiful models in magazines and wonder why I didn’t look like that. I couldn’t understand why, even on a diet, my thighs stayed thick. My journey of disordered thinking, of disordered eating, led me through so much pain and stopped me from living so often because I was entangled and engrossed in thoughts of how my body should be.
And today, though I am better, I can’t say for certain that the disordered thinking will ever fully heal.
What I’ve noticed between young me and present me is that the spaces between my thoughts and my reactions have become bigger. There is more time between thinking and spiraling down, which allows me to move in a healing direction. I have a toolkit to help, which includes travel, yoga, and a support system of people who love me regardless. I reach out for that toolkit daily to be reminded that this body is enough, and that life is too short to worry about fitting into a sh*tty T-shirt anyway.
You are beautiful; don’t forget that.
Author: Sammy Hart
Images: Author’s own, courtesy of Kate Hood
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis