Strength, Beauty, and Positive Body Image

I used to have a serious eating disorder.  Growing up a dancer, I always believed I had to be skinny.  When puberty hit, my thighs and hips grew according to my Puerto Rican DNA. I heard friends in the dance community talking about starving themselves.  To me, that sounded ridiculous.  I LOVED food; especially rice and beans (cliche?).  What didn’t seem ridiculous was using laxatives.  Laxative use eventually escalated to purging.  Purging was annoying and disgusting so I decided to eat as little as possible.   Before you knew it, I was a an out-of-control anorexic/bulimic.  I hid my disease well.  I was a vision of perky perfection:  straight A’s, a super-hot boyfriend, amazing drive and ambition.  Those are the ones you need to watch out for, the girls who seem like they have everything together.  On the outside, life was perfect.  On the inside, I felt like I was drowning. I always wondered if that’s how everyone felt in high school.

Fast forward to today, I’m the same weight as I was in high school.  The difference is I move heavy objects daily and eat real food often.  I finally love myself and recognize my imperfections make me beautiful.  How did I get here?  It was a long, slow process.  The first thing I did was develop a healthy relationship with food.  Instead of viewing food as the enemy, I began to view food as fuel.

I next learned that my type A personality and intense drive would be the death of me.  I couldn’t control everything and everyone in my life, though I tried.  It was when I realized that my disease was a symptom of a serious control issue that I morphed into a laid back type B personality who learned to go with the flow.   I have intense respect for those type A’s who can handle all that self-imposed pressure.

Another step to healing is discovering your triggers.  My biggest trigger was stress.  I had a few relapses over the years and they were always stress related. For any recovering addict (I view eating disorders as another type of addiction), knowing what triggers your desire to self-sabotage will enable you to begin the healing process.  When reviewing my journals I saw a pattern:  traumatic stress (break ups, death, etc) = starve and intense daily stress (finals, no rent money, etc) = binge/purge.  Once I discovered those patterns, I was able to stave off the disorder by being proactive during times of stress.

The most important step in getting healthy was the “Put off/Put on” method.  When reading the Bible, I discovered Ephesians 4:22-24 which states:  “22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”   I realized I would never fully recover if I just told myself I had to stop the madness.  To truly recover I would have to replace the negative desires with positive desires.  My negative body image thoughts were replaced by daily affirmations.  When the compulsion to binge presented itself I would go for a run instead.  I “put off” my old (selfish) way of life and “put on” a life centered around Christ and giving.  It’s truly amazing how quickly life changed for me once I took myself out of the equation.

I am healthy now.  I’m more than healthy, I’m fit to burst with the joy and love I feel every single day.  God truly works in mysterious ways because I know now that I went through all that craziness in my teens/twenties in order to relate to my clients and help change lives.  The key to a positive body image is to recognize beauty in strength, move heavy objects often, eat real food, and to give of yourself daily while being open to receive God’s blessings. Life is a beautiful journey.  Enjoy the ride!