My Body Image Story - Hitting my lowest (part 2)
CW: Weight loss, dieting and body talk.
I think it was about halfway through my junior year, my mom and I started on the Atkins Diet. It was a low-carb fad diet at the time. Basically, it’s exactly what Keto is today. Diets just go through a popularity cycle with some rebranding if you haven’t noticed. I ate under 20 carbs a day for almost 2 years. I got so scared of carbs that still to this day, I can’t help but stop and think about carb counting before eating pasta or bread. As you can imagine, such a drastic and shocking way to eat resulted in weight loss. I lost about 70 pounds pretty fast. Going into my senior year of high school, I felt more confident and really came out of my shell at school.
I’m grateful for this period of my life, because I think it really changed me as a person to, at least on a very surface level, think of myself differently. It helped me be more confident and fun going into college, which allowed me to really enjoy making friends and meeting people. But, of course, as soon as I started to eat normally again, I started gaining weight. By the end of college, I had gained about 30 pounds back. I was still struggling with my body image and loving myself. There was always this underlying sense of urgency and anxiety that I had to fix my weight. If I wasn’t working on losing weight, then I wasn’t trying or good enough.
And although what seemed like a boost in confidence, the weight I loss didn’t fix the underlying problem – I didn’t like myself. I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t think I was pretty. I didn’t think I deserved love. I didn’t think I was desirable. Losing weight only did one thing – it made me smaller.
I yo-yo dieted with calorie counting for the next several years on and off again. After graduating law school, I moved back home until I found a job. I had to leave Raleigh, which was my home and still has my heart, back to Charlotte where I really had no friends and didn’t know anyone. I felt like I lost my sense of self with being detached from everyone I was closest to and feeling so lonely. Loneliness always breeds desperation. I became desperate to make friends and to control anything I could, which included eating.
I started eating under 1200 calories a day and mostly eating only one meal a day. I’d save my calories for binge drinking, which was the only way I felt like I could try to make friends. I’d go out heavily drinking in hopes of trying to meet people. It didn’t work. There was this overwhelming sense of loneliness and despair, which is why I was probably trying to shrink myself. To just disappear. Because, it felt like, nobody could see me anyway.
So with barely eating, I started losing weight pretty fast. The compliments started rolling in about how great I looked. But, no one asked me if I was happy. I was so painfully broken and alone. Any time I see famous people praised for their weight loss (which is super problematic in and of itself), I often wonder what pain they’re going through. I see so many people lose weight during times of great personal pain, including myself, and that’s the only thing people see and think it’s a positive thing. Weight loss most often comes from deep, deep pain or trauma.
I was weighing myself every day. Every pound mattered to me. The weekend I hit my lowest weight was also the same weekend I hit my lowest personal moment. I hated myself. I hated the things I was doing and the person I’d become. It was so hard to feel that way yet also feel like everyone else around you finally started approving only because of the weight loss. During this whole time, I was single too. Romantic love was the biggest rejection I continually faced, and it was a constant driving force behind losing weight. I thought if I was just skinny, men would like me. It wasn’t true. I shrunk to my smallest self and was treated so badly by men. The validation I was seeking from them was completely misdirected. I needed to love myself.
Although this middle part of my story is really hard to look back on, I am so thankful to look back now and see that I was really just hurting. I didn’t know how else to control the hurt or the pain other than doing what I’d always done - try to fix my weight. I so clearly see now that your weight and your happiness will never be in correlation with one another. In my final post next week, I’ll share how I got where I am today. It’s funny all the small things that turn into big things.