Here’s the truth. When I was 13 years old I was going through a pretty difficult time in my life. There were issues going on with my family relationships and it felt like my world was getting out of control. As I entered the awkward-teenage puberty phases of life my body also began to change—and with this change came a massive dip in my self-confidence. The body that I had grown to love and take comfort in was transforming and I wasn’t sure how to deal with it all. I already felt out of control and afraid with what was going on in my personal life, so rather than talk to anyone about it, I thought it would be best to try and suck it up and move on.
I remember so clearly one morning when all this was going on. I was getting into the shower and I decided to inspect my body in the mirror. I grabbed my stomach, pinched my thighs, and made a shrieking face of disgust. I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t like what I saw but I couldn’t stop myself from inspecting every inch. What I did not realize then was that the deep pain in my stomach was the feelings of shame, sadness, and anxiety I was holding deep inside me. I did not want to talk about it and it was easier for me to blame my body.
In refusing to try and understand it all, I blindly blamed my unhappiness on being too fat to be loved and accepted by others and myself. Once this irrational notion fully sunk into my mind, I decided to make it my mission to lose weight. I truly believed that this was what would make me happy again. Well the story from here is that my quest to lose weight to find happiness never happened. My diet turned into a destructive eating disorder that consumed my life for many years. I lost a lot of weight and was never happy. With a few years of therapy, a lot of tears, hard work, and support from my family I was able to make a full recovery.
In looking back at it all I really am struck by how it all started. I often wonder what would have happened if I talked to someone about my family issues, fear of losing control, and increasing feelings of depression and anxiety BEFORE I decided to try and control it all with a diet. Holding in my emotions led me to blame and harm my body. It took a long time for me to realize that changing my body would never change my life.
I talk about this because I think this is what happens with many individuals with eating disorders and issues with body image. So many times I hear my clients talk about how they hate their body or believe they will be happy once they fix or change something about their self-image. My heart feels for them because I know what it is like to fall prey to the illusion that weight loss will equal happiness. I yearn to help them explore the deeper issues lurking beneath the surface so they can heal and deal with what is really standing in the way of their happiness and fulfillment with life.
By Jacki LaRusso, LGPC, Therapist, Anorexia/Bulimia IOP Lead Therapist at The Body Image Therapy Center DC office. If you would like to get in touch with Jacki please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.