Not-So-Free

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Why is it still so hard? I should be over it. I put my body on trial, found it guilty, and punished it without a chance for appeal, but that seems like such a long time ago now. So, I should be over it, right? But I’m not. I don’t deprive myself of food anymore. I don’t run for hours every day to be skinny. I don’t try to “burn off” calories like it’s some heroic thing. I don’t track, count, or weigh what’s on my plate. And I have absolutely no idea how many pounds encompass my breathing soul. But, I’m still not the care – free girl that I was before I took my body before the judge in an autonomous feud.

My personal struggle with body image is different from many other stories I’ve heard in that it came on so suddenly. I didn’t have negative thoughts or feelings about my body until I did. Growing up, I was always active and health-conscious but I never doubted that my body was a good one or that all food was acceptable to eat. So, when I realized how hard I fell into the lies of diet culture and body negativity, I was shocked that it happened to me. When I got over the shock, I clawed my way out. Or, almost out.

Nowadays I’m free, but not so free. I can’t listen to people talk about “low-carb” this and “100 calories that”. It makes me too uncomfortable. So many of my friends and others around me glorify their diets like it’s gonna be the answer to all their troubles. So, every single time some piece of diet talk intrudes into the conversation, I have to repeat over and over to myself something along the lines of “It’s okay, that’s not real. You don’t have to do that to be healthy” or “No food is bad, you are not a bad person for eating that”. While I’m busy reassuring myself, people around me continue with the “healthy” this and “unhealthy” that. And I feel like if I don’t hedge against those words, then I’ll somehow fall victim to them and end up back in the prison of restriction. Before, those words wouldn’t have fazed me. Now, It feels like I’m always one step away from obsessing again, even though I’ve taken so many steps towards freedom and flexibility in my life.

Besides guarding myself against negative food thoughts, there are reflections to impress. Some days I wake up and I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror because I know I won’t like what I see. But I look anyway. I look because I have to know. I have to know how much my stomach sticks out and how wide my hips are and how puffy my arms are getting. Most of the time I can accept what I see and move on. But on my “not-so-free” days I just get angry instead. Why can’t my stomach be flat? Why can’t my hips be narrow? How come I have sausage arms? Aren’t I doing everything “right”? And I am angry that I feel like that when I KNOW how ridiculous I’m being.

So, I’m fine. I don’t have a real problem anymore. I don’t act on those negative feelings, but they are still there reminding me of what I put myself through. The wrongful accusation and the punishment that followed… Maybe you never fully come back from that. Maybe you’ll always have to live in the in-between. Between loving and hating. Between prison and freedom.

I hope I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just part of the process and it doesn’t last forever. I know this isn’t my usual cheerful, optimistic, empowering post. But sometimes it’s good to put the heavier stuff out there so people know they aren’t the only ones who feel that way. If anyone out there can relate to this, I just encourage you to be open about it with people you trust. Talk about it, ask for prayer, sit down and listen to God tell you how much He loves you. It helps. ❤

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