Warning, this is a very serious post about a mental illness that I have. It is not to be treated as a light subject in any way.
Honestly, this post has been in my head for awhile now, but I’ve been dreading writing it down and giving it life. It’s a side of my life that I honestly hate talking about because it makes me feel so terrible about myself.
But I can’t really put it off any longer. Thanks to Facebook for throwing the reminder in my face, I was at one of my lowest weights a year ago.
Sounds exciting, right? Not when I have put back on almost 30 pounds over the last year.
Why? I know a lot of the reasons why. Most of it is due to complete laziness. It also has to do with stress. Letting my sweet tooth control me. Going through a severe stage of depression. Getting a promotion at work and taking on additional responsibilities. But mostly not putting the time into it like I did a few years ago.
But that’s not what this post is about. Let’s discuss something that has such a stigma around it, and you will rarely hear much about – male body dysmorphia.
What it is about is the fact that even at my lowest weight, after losing nearly 80 pounds, I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I hated pictures of myself.
I lost 80 pounds and could only see the 249 pound person I let myself get to.
And now that I’ve put on 30 pounds and am not even close to my original goal weight any longer? It’s terrible. All I do is look at myself and see the flaws. Constantly.
And you know what is especially hard about it? Is that I am such a hypocrite about body images. I highly encourage people to be comfortable with themselves. I use the word beautiful and share it as often as I can. I make sure to promote healthy self views from a young age.
I think stretch marks are amazingly symbolic of the journey that a person has gone through, especially after childbirth. I have stretch marks. Do I think that about myself? Absolutely not. To me, they are a constant reminder of what I did to myself.
I also have loose skin on my stomach from the rapid weight loss (60 pounds in less than a year). Could I do something about it? Probably. But I am always telling myself what’s the point? I have these stretch marks and this loose skin that I am never going to be comfortable in my own body.
I refuse to go swimming with other people because I have such insecurities with my own body. Is it really that bad? Probably not, but the way I see myself I just can’t get through that mental block.
I wear a compression shirt. Every. Single. Day. Why? Because at this point it is such a security blanket to me that I can’t imagine going a day without it. It squeezes in all my imperfections and hides them away, at least for the day. I can dress nice, and feel good about myself for a little while until I catch my reflection somewhere in something.
I know that it is such a problem for me that I intentionally go out of my way to try to make sure other people don’t feel the way I do about myself. When people say nice things about me physically, I generally do not believe it. In my eyes, I do not see myself as an attractive person, in the slightest. Which is ironic because people tell me my two youngest look just like me and say that they are beautiful. Should be a compliment, right? Right.
My negative feelings about myself physically have been the reason for many of my periods of depression. I start to feel so down on myself that I often will try to seek some sort of validation that things aren’t as bad as I think they are. You know, the cheesy social media post selfies seeking attention, or things like that?
But those never go how you imagine, and you generally do not get the feedback you were hoping for. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy and people aren’t comfortable giving men compliments? I don’t know. But when you’re already feeling terrible about yourself and you throw a final S.O.S. out there and get nothing in return? It’s a really quick shortcut to depression and negative self feelings.
When I did photography I would try to limit the amount of editing I did to my clients because I wanted to capture their true essence. Their genuine beauty. And I was great at it. I would often have conversations with clients who would ask for things to be removed and I would push back and tell them it’s a part of them that they should own and feel beautiful in their own skin (things that aren’t temporary like birth marks, moles, etc – not things like pimples that come and go).
But when I see pictures of myself? I want to edit one picture for hours. I want to make that person an attractive person. Because I’ve never felt that way about myself, maybe at least I can manipulate it through editing, right? Not quite.
Body dysmorphia is terrible. I should be proud of how far I’ve come, but all I can do is yell at myself for how close I was to my goal, and how much I’ve let slip away.
And what do I do about it? Nothing! I could be doing more exercises to tone the areas I’m extremely uncomfortable with (my stomach and my chest), but I don’t. Because no one is holding me accountable. Stupid, I know.
I started running a month ago. And I’ve put on 5 pounds. How flipping discouraging is that? I’m doing more strenuous activity than I’ve ever done and my body just mocks me.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to fix my body image issues. I wish I did. I wish I could stop looking at a mirror or a picture of myself and just stop seeing a distorted funhouse mirror version of myself. But I can’t. I don’t know how long I’ve had these feelings. I was in amazing shape when I was in my first year of college (before marriage), but pretty quickly started putting on weight over the next 10 years. When I look at the picture above I wish I could get back to that. I tell myself I would be happy now if I were that person again.
But I know I wasn’t happy with that person when I was there, either.
I could lie and tell you it’s not an every day battle, but it really is. Every day when I have to put on this shirt. Every evening when I climb into bed (which, surprisingly I can’t sleep with a lot of clothes on so that certainly doesn’t help). Every time I see a picture of myself. Every time I look in the mirror and notice my hair is not looking good. Or that it is staring to recede. Or that I look terrible with facial hair. Or that I wish I didn’t have to wear glasses. But putting contacts in is such a hassle. Or that I never feel comfortable with my clothing style. Or how I struggle when I run. Or that I constantly question if I’m eating the wrong things or the wrong amounts. Or thinking about all the toning exercises I should be doing but never do. Every day when I see people who just make things look so effortless.
I wouldn’t wish body dysmorphia on my worst enemy. It literally eats you alive from the inside out. Honestly, I’m surprised I never battled with an eating disorder as much as I don’t have self love for myself. I think it’s because I just stopped looking in the mirror for a long time. And I “noped” out of a lot of picture opportunities.
Someday it will get better. I’m trying to learn to love myself, but it’s not easy.
So the next time you hear me give someone a compliment about the way they look, know that I am saying it with a lot of intentionality and meaning. It is not a superficial remark. I don’t ever want anyone to feel about themselves the way I feel about myself. And if I’m giving you, or someone close to you a compliment? It’s coming from deep in my heart and carries more weight than you probably think (in a making you feel positivity sort of way, if that makes sense).
Today I’m praying boldly and selfishly. I’m praying that You help me overcome these negative feelings and help me to start loving myself. Please continue to guide me towards living a healthier life. I hope to be healthier to live a longer life to be able to do more good in this world for You.
I want to be able to be more active with my loved ones and spend more quality time with them. To be a support and role model for my children.
Please help me in overcoming my control issues with food. And help me in having more will power to be more active and do the things I know I should be doing. My body was given to me by You and I need to be treating it as the gift it is.
You ARE beautiful. Every single one of you. I hope if you hear it enough it will eventually start to sink in.
With all my love.