Body Dysmorphia

This is a hard post to start.  Since puberty, I've struggled with body dysmorphia.  I don't think I'm uncommon -- many of my female friends have a horse in this exhausting race.  But to keep things focused, I'm going to talk about my own struggle.

The emotions I most closely associate with body dysmorphia are fear, hypersensitivity, and fatigue.  I'm constantly nervous about being "outed" as a fat lady, and every curve, roll, wrinkle, or scar becomes a huge trigger, and I fixate on it to the exclusion of nearly anything else until something distracts me, or I get so tired, I have to let it go.

It feels horrible.

looking down

I'm certain that hormones have a big role to play.  I notice that around ovulation, the anxiety and preoccupation dissipates, but then right after, there's a big hormonal dip, and it starts to weasel its way back in.

I've also noticed that it's worse if I'm off my game -- if I haven't slept enough, or ate well, or exercised enough.  If those things are off, all my feelings about my body flare up.

It's also, really, all about me.  Most other people can't see what I fixate on, unless they're stuck in their own cave of insecurity and want to bring me down to make themselves feel better.  But the people around me mostly tell me I'm crazy and that I'm strong, and lovely, and smart.  It's nice to have that affirming feedback, but sometimes it has the opposite effect -- it makes me distrust them, because it feels like it should be so obvious that I'm fat, short, and dumpy, and their unwillingness to feed my disease and help me fix it using some really restrictive diet or exercise plan is a betrayal.

And that's sad.  And unproductive.  And pretty damn shitty for them, when they're being so nice to me.

So, I've decided to try to address the core issue: my body dysmorphia and low self-esteem.  If I could accept that my baseline body is just fine, my general happiness would be more stable. Further, I could make greater gains at the gym and with my body, because positive reinforcement for making life changes works better than negative reinforcement.  I think the dieting industry proves that.  Self-flagellation only works in the beginning.  Accepting my inherent wholeness and ability to change seems like it would get me further than the exhausting cycle of feast vs. famine, indulgence and punishment, I've been engaging in for years.

Today, I downloaded Gala Darling's Pep Talk for Dark Days. I'm hoping it will get me through today's funk.  I also signed up for her Radical Self Love Bible School.  It's a 3-month course where she sends you journal prompts to create an art journal that serves as a personal guide book to self-love.  Since I've made mixed media art journals for years, this seems right up my alley.  We'll see if it helps.

I'm also reading Nourishing Wisdom, by Marc David.  From a review:

One of the traps which many of us fall into when we become aware of the relationship between nutrition and health is that we establish a set of dietary rules according to which we label foods as either "good" or "bad." Once a certain food has been assigned to the "bad" category, we might even become critical of ourselves and others for desiring or eating that food. The more zealous we are in our conviction that we have found the one right way of eating, the more limited we become in our understanding of food and our interaction with it.
This title sets out to dispel the myth that there could ever be a standard dietary system guaranteed to meet everyone's nutritional requirements. The author, a nutritional psychologist, approaches his mission from a truly holistic perspective. Rather than proposing yet another ideal diet based on the perfect composition of specific nutrients, he explores the multidimensional dynamics of nourishment, reaching far beyond the purely scientific and chemical aspects of nutrition.

I'm hoping it will help me break out of the "good" vs. "bad" food mentality I return to when I'm triggered, and allow me to understand my food choices from a holistic perspective, as part of a much larger picture of a full life.

So that's what I'm starting with.  If you're on a similar journey, won't you share with us what you're working with to help you shed negative self-esteem and adopt a more kickass attitude?