Well, the same question could be asked about eating disorders and body image!
Eating disorders are perceived to be all about vanity and how you look but in realityits just so much more than that.
So…what does come first then?
My personal experience of body image has been a very blurred journey and one which is ever changing. In 2011 I started to swim and exercise as I believed ‘I’ll be happier when I’m more toned’. Only, the thing is, I had no idea where this path would lead and it was only once anorexia took hold of me that the ‘bad body image’ became more of an issue than I ever imagined possible. No matter how much weight I kept losing, I hated what I saw! There has never been a time, whilst in the grip of anorexia, that I have looked in the mirror and been comfortable with my reflection.
Recovery, round 1, was so confusing and a difficult road to walk as the more I gained, the more complicated the body image became. I was gaining weight and getting my life back and I finally had the energy to live! Yet there was always a niggle in my mind that I still wasn’t comfortable with how my body was looking and I missed my skinny body. I missed seeing the bones that I once hated seeing! How could this be happening to me, I asked myself numerous times a day.
Anorexia is a very clever and deceitful little voice that is constantly telling you that you are never good enough or worthy enough unless you listen to that voice. It is a very cruel and hurtful voice and yet one that can give you an immense sense of achievement even though everyone around you is telling you the opposite of the voice as they are worried for you. An eating disorder stems from a very deep personal issue and its surprisingly not usually about what is stereotyped! They come in all shapes and sizes and quite literally no one size fits all when it comes down to it.
As I progressed to fully recover I learnt how to accept the weight gain because gaining my freedom again meant so much more to me than being stuck in the cycle of restriction. This freedom lasted a fantastic 5 years and I can honestly say I was living life free of the voice and free of anorexia. I even joined a gym after being terrified of stepping foot back in one in case I relapsed! I was so so proud of myself for how far I had come, but little did I know that Orthorexia was waiting to take hold of me!
I have only recently learned this of myself as in 2018 I was possibly the happiest I had been for a very long time and I loved what I saw in the mirror. But the numbers crept in and my desire for the body fat percentage to be as low as possible took over as I believed that this would make me even more in love with my reflection! Becoming aware of how unhealthy this obsession was, I took it upon myself to quit the gym and will only return when I feel ready to in the future.
Now, with nothing to focus my mind on; along came anorexia again as I was back to needing to feel in control of something. Control is such a big part of eating disorders and this is where the lack of understanding comes from as many people can understand the desire to feel in control yet can’t understand how it can be projected onto a life necessity such as food!
Here I am writing this during my recovery journey round 2 and this time I am learning how to accept my body for whatever shape it may become and be thankful to my body for everything it does for me on a daily basis. All bodies are supposed to be different shapes and sizes and that it was makes each person beautifully unique!
So, what comes first; body image or the eating disorder?
- Hayley x