The Fairground Mirror Effect…

Over the past couple of days I’ve felt a bit more sociable, the sunshine does wonderful things to me – fairly sure a few of you can relate to that. I’ve made more of an effort to catch up and reconnect with friends that I’ve shut out a bit since relapsing (sorry guys), and used it as an excuse to sit out in the sun in the pub garden (total win-win), which has been so lovely but not without its emotional challenges. I had comments from some of the guys and girls, on different occasions, along the lines of “you’ve lost weight haven’t you”, “you were starting to look healthy, now you look ill” and “you don’t want to carry that, you’ll snap”. Obviously these comments do have an impact (I’m only human at the end of the day), but believe it or not some of their affect is positive and actually serves as a good motivation to fix up a bit. Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t things said in a nasty, shoot you down kinda way, but more as concerned friends not really fully understanding or knowing how to approach the subject (or at least I hope that’s the case anyway).

I’ve nattered on about various other things in my posts but haven’t really touched much on the body image topic and the huge impact that has on daily life and keeping the ED going. Following on from what has been said to me recently, it got me thinking and personally, aside from the calorie counting and obsessive weighing and food thoughts, body image and scrutinising ever single inch of imperfection is the next big deal and bad ‘habit’ I need to change.

I’ve never really, especially not recently, passed (positive) judgement on the way I look to anyone. If someone, a friend/doctor/family member/therapist, asks me how I feel about the way I look and my body, I kinda just awkwardly smile, avoid eye contact and shrug my shoulders in an attempt to brush off the question, without really having to get into any depth about it. In all honesty though, it does bother me, massively, to the point where I’ve stood in front of the mirror and cried because I’ve felt fat and frumpy or I’m so bloated I look about 6 months preggers. I think of having an Eating Disorder as like looking in one of those fairground mirrors. You know the ones that give you 6 foot long skinny legs and Mr Tickle arms or make you look as round as a pumpkin and half your height?! Stick with me on this one, I am trying to make a good point… Standing in front of the mirror you see this really distorted, disproportionate figure, that you’d recognise as you (obviously! If you’re the one in front of the mirror) but for anyone else looking at you, you look like, well, you! The you that people know and love, the you that’s beautiful and perfect to the ones that love your every little individuality and personal trait. But that’s not the person you’re seeing. That’s kinda what it’s like being stuck in an eating disorder. It’s hard to see what everyone else sees. The image I see of myself looking in the mirror isn’t physically altered like the fairground mirrors – might be easier if it was though, but, is zoomed in and over exaggerated on the parts I hate the most, which only helps drive the ED and subsequent depression (yet another vicious cycle)! It’s only since hearing people mention the way I look and seeing photos of myself that took a minute to process, that I’ve actually realised how much of a difference there is between what I allow myself to see and what everyone else sees.

I’m currently at my lowest weight since having my son 6 yeas ago (6 and a half, almost 3/4 actually – he’s always reminding me of the importance the fraction of a year has). My BMI is currently hovering in the 15’s and my current aim (by Mondays OP appointment) is to halt any further weight loss. Which is easier said than done when you only see the “bad bits” that the ED mind wants you to see. I am well aware that I had lost a significant amount of weight (I weigh myself multiple times a day and believe it or not can do a bit of mental maths – but we can discuss that one another time), yet visually, if I had to gage it from just looking in the mirror or scrutinising my body, I’d agree in part, bones are sticking out a bit more than they were but nothing to the extent I thought visible to anyone else. I spent a fair few lectures at uni learning about body measurements, weight loss/gain, fat mass, muscle mass etc. So realistically I should (I do) know that the level of weight loss is bound to be obvious to onlookers yet I haven’t been able to accept or justify that when it comes to myself (another scratch your head moment, I know, sorry!). It makes me feel like a right silly sausage that I’m only really realising this now – after 10 years of eating disorders, 6 years since starting dietetics studies and 2 years of being a qualified Dietitian – that, actually, the same scientific principles that apply for every other living being, also apply to my body! Crazy, ey!!

Body scrutiny and obsessive examination is something that doesn’t get much limelight when it comes to ED awareness and comprehension, hence why I wanted to waffle on about it for a bit (that and the fact I can’t sleep…. again – 12:10am currently). You’d probably need a magnifying glass to see half of the imperfections I see in myself – the worst thing is, rationally – I know this but irrationally – I can’t accept it. If I say to one of my nearest and dearest anything about feeling chubby or not liking parts of me, they’ll tell me to stop being ridiculous and they can’t even tell or haven’t even noticed, which is flattering (thank you), but doesn’t change the self confidence and what I see. I think people around me at times (correct me if I’m wrong) find it really tough to get their head around and appreciate the struggles with body image – they see this underweight, slim woman that I fail to see myself. I know in the back of my mind I don’t have rolls and love handles and people would laugh at the thought of me having them, however, in my eyes I don’t have a perfectly flat stomach and toned waist and that is exactly what fuels the continuous ED cycle. It’s a very black or white, all or nothing, toxic way of thinking. You’ll be reassured though, (I hope,) to know that I am well aware that there’s no such thing as an absolutely perfect waist and even the most toned, slim, healthy people still bloat out like balloons after a bit of over indulgence or food that doesn’t quite agree with them. I think, and this has come from sprawling everything out right here, right now, the problem lies in the acceptance of imperfection and, dare I say it, uniqueness and individuality and of myself in general. I tend to be way to quick to beat myself up about the tiniest little things (aren’t we all at times though?). I hadn’t noticed or been aware of this until recently but I guess having that conscious awareness is the first step in the right direction or am I clutching at straws?! Failing that, all the mirrors in the house will meet with a mallet and I’ll endure the countless years of broken-mirror bad luck, if I have to!


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