I think I have an extremely mild version of body dysmorphia. There. I’ve said it out loud. Body dysmorphia, not at all to be taken lightly, is a serious disorder involving the belief that your appearance is unusually defective and in need of being hidden or fixed. Half of those diagnosed with this condition spend over three hours everyday attempting to conceal or correct their perceived flaws. If said perceived flaw had any actual merit, it is typically minor, though severely exaggerated. While relatively common (affecting 1-2% of the population; I assume the US population), it is prevalent equally among men and women (thusly proving my initial point!). So, no, this is not a disorder to be taken lightly. Please read on, I will link to some support networks to tap into. You are not alone.
I don’t think my insecurities are at all unique, but growing up, I’ve always harboured the notion that I’m a big girl. Intellectually, I know I’m not. Emotionally, I’m a big girl. So once I crossed size 10 into size 12, I was fairly solid on the fact that I had become a whale and with it came the layered outfits and the large sized clothing and the leggings, in lieu of jeans. Man, I refused jeans for so long that I began to actually believe that I don’t wear jeans on principle. The lies we tell ourselves!
…and it has never helped that throughout my life, when encountering family friends or relatives, I’d get hit with the “ahhh udee, you’re putting on weight o!” Nigerians have a knack for unsolicited insults in the guise of harmless observations. Kicker? I’d get that commentary after said noble observer hadn’t set eyes on me since I was a straw-like adolescent. In my head, I’m screaming, “You realise I was a child when you saw me last, right? I’m a damn woman now! You see these hips?!” Still, the comments stuck.
Enter OrangeTheory Fitness in July 2014. I’m at my heaviest and least confident. But I had found the holy grail! Fast forward eight months later, despite the tears (cried in my car after a workout twice, cos I was so tired and it was so hard and I couldn’t get 12 minutes in the orange!) and the monetary commitment, I am a better woman for it! Can’t lie though, I have not lost a tremendous amount of weight, but I am stronger, I feel better and I’m more mindful. Yes, it has taken me eight months to get into better mental thinking about my health. Shoot, juxtapose that with a lifetime of caring somewhat, but doing nothing. As if I need to defend myself!
The real mental challenge in all this has been in the shredding down from large sized clothes to mediums. Now I have no clue what size I am. Am I still the comfortable large or the work-in-progress, getting-there, more-toned medium? Do I take the risk of attempting to slip into a medium, only to be sorely disappointed and re-begin my “I am enough for this damn top” mantra? This is my current struggle. Eight months in, still super confused. Interlace that with all this new-found confidence. Just a mess.
Anyway, the moral of the story: losing weight, scheduling regular work out sessions, eating clean, replacing sodas with water… (in the face of sufficient resources) is a mental realignment. My perception is still skewed. I’m not fitting into a size 6. Jean shopping still causes me anxiety. I dislike hate loathe burpees. But.What.Ev.Er. I’m happy, that’s all I need.
If you are reading this and feel like you or someone you care about is experiencing any form of insecurity about your/their body that goes beyond the fleeting “damn I ought to get to the gym” three-second thought; if you need someone to talk to, please use the following helplines (USA & for the state of Georgia):
- National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Helpline:
Provides support services, help, and guidance to people struggling with eating disorders, their loved ones, and families.
- National Mental Health Association:
Provides free information on specific disorders, referral directory to mental health providers, national directory of local mental health associations, and a Stigma Watch.
EATING DISORDER PROFESSIONALS
Karen Shaw Burch, MFT
Joanne Pulley, MS, LPC
1 | Gynecologist
If you have health insurance, which is without question the most clutch thing a woman can have, find a gynecologist. But even if you don’t, there are women’s clinics scattered all over the country! So do your research and find a gynecologist that you like with a comfy reception area. I recently found a doctor’s office that I like. It’s close to my workplace, the receptionists are nice, and the nurses are even nicer! They always tell me they like my lipstick. When I once told my nurse that I didn’t want to look at my weight on the scale (it was #scalefreesummer time), she took me seriously. She told me to close my eyes and held my hand as I hopped on the scale, wrote down my weight, asked me to hop off and we never spoke of the number again. See that? Clutch. And make sure it’s a doctor’s office who will attend to your questions even if you don’t have an appointment. Again. Clutch.
2 | Hair and skin and nails and teeth
There are a plethora of wellness gurus out there, and a million more hair care monks. Just peruse YT for like an hour; the inundation is excessive! I like to keep my regimens simple; who has the time? So my summer routines, for instance, include a mixture of my faviourite oils for my hair and skin, a monthly trip to the nail salon, and a seasonal dentist appointment (so grateful for health insurance!). There. Simple.
3 | See a therapist. See your priest/imam/spiritual leader. See. Someone.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. There is NO SHAME WHATSOEVER in discussing your life with a trained professional. Honestly, who cares who the professional is! If you trust your imam with discretion, see your imam. But as a young woman with a few letters behind her name (all. well. earned), I figure your mental health confidant be someone who has formal training too, ok? Yes, yes, take it to Jesus, by all means, do!, but do not shun taking it a person who can talk you through understanding yourself better. Self-understanding and reflection is crucial, sexy even. There is so much stigma around this, especially in the black/brown/immigrant populations. You don’t have to disclose, but just do yourself that service, if you can. Don’t muddle though life neglecting your mental health!
4 | Get. Moving. Get a trainer, set a running schedule, join a muay thai studio, bribe your friend to become your walking partner. Whatever.
Your young body isn’t going to hold up forever. Yeah, black don’t crack, girl power, or whatever other slogan you go by, but aging is real. Note I didn’t say to become vegan or pescatarian. Move your body, gyal. Sweat is a great way to de-stress, anyway.
1 | Clothes
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more unapologetically vain about my outward appearance. I’m not a four year old anymore; I care about how I look. Actually, I lie. Even as a youth, my mother says I was always particular about my outward presentation. But listen, I have a black pair of ankara pants I plan to wear …soon …ish. Those pants are the reason why I take down my chunky sleep-braids, pull my hair up into a bun of sorts, and carry my ass to the gym at 5am on Thursdays. I’m not playing. Those pants are waiting for me.
2 | Handsome men
The other day after work, a handsome, ~6’3, bald black man saddled up on the treadmill next to mine. As we walked it out before moving into base pace*, I began my internal chant: sweat properly on this treadmill, breathe sexily on this treadmill, keep running on this treadmill. When I tell you that I performed better than I ever have during this one-hour group session, I would be too modest. I was running like a champ, kicking my feet up during 30-second all outs*, sweating in all the appropriate places …my eyebrows, however, remained on point! Beautiful people make you do beautiful things, man.
3 | I’m turning 30 soon
Dude, I’m entering the I’m-grown-I-can-do-what-I-want-Beyoncé phase of my life. I think it’s fair to want to gift myself with a body I worked really hard to craft. This is not for a bikini, although it is for other clothes. This is not to nab a man. This is not to flex on Instagram. This is solely because I need to disrobe in the morning, look at my naked body, nod in approval and power-hop like Shaun T into my shower. I shower twice daily, especially during summer months, so that’s ~60 times a month I stand naked in front of a full-length mirror! If you’re going to look at your naked body with such vulnerable regularity, you might as well like what you see, no?
4 | Oh yeah, and diabetes, I guess…ugh!
I live with juvenile diabetes. She’s like a wicked step-mother you share a small one-room cottage with: if you behave, she might consider not raising her voice all the damn time. Exercise has certainly helped me keep major blood sugar fluctuations minimal. So this is not simply for the sake of vanity. You know, health and well-being, too.
5 | My non-humble self
I don’t think I really believe in the virtues of humility. I mean, the vast majority of Biblical characters were not particularly humble, come to think of it. So yes, I go to the gym because I want flatter abs, a tighter ass and stronger arms. I lift now, dammit. I deserve nice things!
|Healthy Habits Challenge via @tameikag|