One my favorite things to do when I'm at a coffee shop is to eavesdrop on strangers conversations (I know it's a bad habit). There's something so entertaining about trying to figure out the context of a discussion. Just the other day I overheard two girls who I thought might have been in high school, judging by their petite frames and mannerisms, talking about their lives. As I listened intently, I found they were talking about their college experiences, mostly about which sorority they were in and what they wanted to accomplish after graduation.
I started to tune out, feeling as though I was wasting my time, until I heard them talk about their home lives. It seemed a little too personal to discuss for what sounded like was their first time meeting. I soon found out they had met in order to discuss their struggles with eating disorders.
One of the girls, who I found out was the same age as me, talked about how she had a blog discussing her journey with her eating disorder. The other girl seemed to be about three years younger and went into detail with her struggle with her weight and feeling as though her body was the only thing she could control when her parents went through their divorce. What I thought was a friendly meet up turned into heartbreaking stories about their struggles with body image.
Last month I wrote an article for Harness Magazine called "Stop Complimenting Your Friend on Her Body" and for me this experience only solidified body image is an issue still alive and well in today's society. Young women even more so today face extreme amounts of pressure to look a certain way.
Growing up it was inevitable to feel like I wanted to change things about my body. I went to an all girl high school and about a quarter of my friends had eating disorders. Whether they were full blown or closeted they were extremely prevalent.
When it came time for college, my friend who had suffered from anorexia in high school decided that she wanted to study Dietetics. It helped her have a better relationship with the food and what she put in her body. We would talk about the different elements that go into maintaining a healthy weight and how balance the bad food we put in our bodies. She explained to me that there are a wide range of eating disorders that don't get publicized but has specific names.
One day when I went to visit her, I mentioned how three of my closest girlfriends had a odd relationship with food. One would restrict herself to only eating small portions of extremely healthy food. The other would skip meals in order to decrease the amount of calories she consumed. My third friend would eat only funk food and then throw it up hours later. She explained to me that there are a wide range of eating disorders that don't get publicized but has specific names.
While I'd like to say I was completely immune to it, this way of thinking wore off on me my junior year of college. I did a complete 180 with the way I lived my life. I started eating healthy and working out, to the point where I was basically starving myself in order to be skinny. I remember my 21st birthday my sister came into town and made a comment that I looked super skinny. In my head, it felt like an accomplishment but to her she said it to voice her concern.
Clearly I realize now how that dumb that mentality was, I was putting my body through hell for the sake of my appearance. And looking back at it now I was never satisfied, there was always something I felt I could do better. Did I learn a few things about balance? Absolutely. But I would never go back to counting almonds as a meal. I love almonds but they are snack food. I also learned that I'm a weirdo and love eating kale. But that doesn't mean I'm going to eat it at every meal.
The sad truth of it all is that it doesn't get any better the older you get. I've started to take notice that it actually seems more prevalent. When you break it down, it's a matter of how you allow yourself to feel. If you are happy in your skin, that great. But don't let others appearance be your basis for how you look. Your body is unique and you should accept it for the amazing things it can do.
Have you ever struggled with your body image? Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.