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January 5, 2021

Sticks & Stones: What it’s Like to Grow up with Body Dysmorphia.

This topic is an extremely vulnerable and personal one for me.

Let me start off by explaining what body dysmorphia is.

It is a mental illness that makes us see our bodies completely differently than others do—in a negative way. A seemingly “normal” body to everyone else can appear vastly different in the eyes of someone suffering from this. We pick at every flaw, feel actual hatred for what we see in the mirror, and are desperate to fix ourselves—desperate to fix a beautiful, healthy body.

This often leads to eating disorders, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, and an unhealthy inner dialogue.

I have suffered with this since the tender age of 10.

Flashback to 1991: I was sitting on my couch eating ketchup chips and watching Growing Pains (any other 80s kids out there?). I didn’t have a care in the world other than whether my hair was crimped enough or whether that mustard stain would come out of my favourite tie-dye T-shirt.

Suddenly, like a punch in the stomach I hadn’t braced for, a person I admired and aspired to be like made a comment about my body. Who made the comment is irrelevant, as well as insignificant, as I don’t even know her anymore. What is not insignificant, however, was the way her one comment changed my entire life. I can literally pinpoint the moment my spirit was broken.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? That is the point. I am not writing this post for sympathy—I am writing this as a PSA to all human beings. Keep your body comments to yourself, especially if you are speaking to an extremely vulnerable adolescent.

That was quite literally the last time I put something into my mouth without thinking about what it could do to my body’s shape. It led to a lifelong battle with food, an obsessive workout regime, and extreme lack of self-confidence. One. Comment.

Was I predisposed to growing up this way? Possibly. Who knows how the brain works; the classic question of nurture versus nature. I do remember being told how beautiful I was by my dad quite often, and my mom threw out compliments like confetti. Even still, this one comment triggered me in a pivotal way.

Bottom line is our bodies are no one’s business, and the words you speak can have a lasting effect on someone.

As a grown woman, my eating disorder is still present in my life; however, I have the tools and knowledge to manage it. Do I still think about everything I put into my body? Sadly, yes. But I now live on well-balanced, healthy meals.

Do I still work out every single day? Yep. However, now I work out to maintain my health and heart and so that I can see my babies get married. Not to look better in a bikini.

Don’t, for a second, mistake what this woman said to me for being a favour—growing to be such a health-conscious adult, some may try to argue that point. It came at the cost of my mental health, self-esteem, and innocence.

My hope is that someone will read this and share it so that I can make even just one person think twice before commenting on a child’s body; small, or large. Don’t comment on anyone’s body. Just don’t.

I will leave you with this fact: a large body can be healthy, and a small body can be unhealthy. We do not have the knowledge to decide which is which based on appearance alone.

I wish you health—both mentally and physically.

~

 

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