Home > Health, Los Angeles, Personal > my bulimia / my beautiful body

my bulimia / my beautiful body

A row of skinny clothes hung in my mom’s closet through my childhood.

“I’ll wear this when I’m skinny again,” my mom would tell me as she perused potential skinny outfits at the store. “I’m sick of being fat.” She’d that last word as if she was reciting the name of a mortal nemesis from the comics she loved.

I didn’t understand.

Me and mom (icon)She was the most beautiful woman I knew. Her features were breathtaking, her love even more so. She was perfect.

Somehow, bewilderingly, she didn’t know it. As if her words weren’t enough, she had a closet full of unwearable clothing that told me so.

I didn’t hate my body when I moved to South Korea after graduating college. 

There wasn’t much I liked there, though. I was broke and desperately lonely far away from my family.

I ate to drown my blues. I ate and and I ate and I ate, whatever I could buy with the pennies I didn’t send home to pay my bills.

One evening I ate even more than usual. I sat on one of my apartment sofas feeling disgusting and weak when it hit me: There was something I could do about it!

I began purging not because I hated my body, but because it was my illusion of control in a situation where I felt very little of it.

Take that, food! You can’t beat me!

As if the food was keeping track.

I didn’t hate my body when I moved to Los Angeles for law school a few months later.

But I couldn’t help noticing how much skinnier than me everyone was. In my hometown, it was always size 0 and size 2 clothing that was on sale. Who could fit those? In Los Angeles, it was always clothes for the morbidly obese–size 8 and up–that were on sale.

I looked at myself and liked what I saw. But I remembered my mom, and how much she hated what she saw … no matter how much I loved it. Perhaps the fault was in my perception. Perhaps I was too quick to see beauty in the things I held dear.

I wondered what other people saw when they looked at me.

I kept purging.

I didn’t hate my body when I moved to Japan after law school.

In fact, I thought it was pretty darn cool my body had carried me to such a fascinating place with such a rich history.

I taught small kids English. I tried to engage sullen preteens. I conversed with adults who paid for an opportunity to speak English with me.

One of my students was a Nagasaki bombing survivor. She invited me to her house and told me all about her experiences in the days after the bombing. Through her words, I experienced history, the world and life in a way no textbook could match.

I traveled. I made friends. I wrote my own friends back home with my reliable internet connection. I was surrounded physically and virtually by people who loved me, and seldom felt driven to binge.

I don’t remember purging once in Japan, nor afterward. There was too much else to do and be.

WE LOVE ENGLISH!

Like draw posters for my classrooms

I didn’t hate my body when I moved back to Los Angeles a couple years later, or re-registered as a film extra.

I’d loved working as an extra during my law school days, although I always felt pangs when they said they needed only women far skinnier than me.

The man I was dating was working on The Big Bang Theory. I thought it would be fun to see him on the job, so I was excited to hear they needed extras one evening … until I heard who the casting agency needed.

Hot hot super hot women needed!

I translated that to “size 4 and under, please.” I texted the man who’d later become my husband to say I didn’t fit the “super hot” bill for the next day’s work. He couldn’t believe what I was texting, because (a) I was super hot, he told me, and (b) he wasn’t sure why the casting agency was requesting super, flaming hot ladies for a school cafeteria scene.

I went. I worked. I saw my future husband working.

I was happy, size 10 and all.

Today I found myself exulting in the fact my new size 8 jean skirt is loose on me.

That’s amazing! I told myself, before feeling a cold rush of say what?

Is it? I wondered. Why is it amazing? Why is 2 or 4 or 6 better than 8 or 10 or 20?

I took a few minutes to reflect on my body. I still don’t hate it now. I’ve never hated it, even when I worried that other people might. I wasted so much time and energy worrying that my body might disgust other people that I never, ever want to fall into believing any body’s beauty is in how it looks. I want to strive actively against this madness.

Why do I write this here, now? Because I want you to know that every time I’ve written about body love, I haven’t been writing to you.

I’ve been writing to me. I’ve been writing to myself, reminding myself to see my body not for what it looks like, but what for it enables me to experience.

I love my body. At size 6, at size 8, at size 10, at size 16.

I love how it connects me to my mom, and to my sons.

To my friends. To the soil. To the grass. To the sea.

I love my body.

Tonight I write to you.

One of the very first stick figures I drew here was about self doubt expressing itself in thoughts beginning: You’ll never, you can’t and you’re not good enough!

The voice was seldom right. In fact, it was terribly wrong 99.9% of the time.

I broke up with it.

justlook-b

justlook 2-b

I’d like you to break up with yours.

‘Cause, see …

My mom would have fit in all those skinny clothes at the end.

Cancer stole her weight, her vigor and, eventually, her life from her.

I can still see her closet jammed full of skinny clothing she would never wear.

What a waste. What a tragic, senseless waste of time and the one precious body she had.

I wish I could tell her now how beautiful she always was, fat or skinny, bald, blonde or brunette. I wish I could have trusted my own vision earlier instead of believing her truth must be the truth I was simply missing.

I can’t tell her any of this. She’s been gone five years. I can’t tell her how she was a million times more beautiful than all the most extravagant clothing in the entire world put together.

But I can tell you something.

I can tell you that your body is breathtaking.

It is the source of your hugs and your tears and your belly laughs and sandy feet and forehead kisses and goosebumps and running for a second just because you can and stepping on the elevator and feeling the raindrops on your face and holding a crying friend and kissing your lover and stroking your dog’s fur and smelling the ozone before the storm and holding up an umbrella and driving a car and paying for Girl Scout cookies and and and and and.

It is your vessel of a billion ands.

I hope you will learn to see it through the eyes of a four-year-old, who has no reason–yet–to believe that one body is or should be any better than another.

And more than that, I hope, wish and pray that when you finish reading this, you will move away from the computer and wiggle your limbs while looking up at the stars. That you will take a moment to feel your body for the myriad miracles it grants you, and to feel deep down into your bones

my body is beautiful

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  1. April 20, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post. It’s important to learn to accept our body as it is. Very well written 😀

    • April 20, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Thank you! It was one of those burning “I have just gotta get this out right now” ones. What a load off. Aaah.

  2. April 20, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    You write with such passion and beauty. 🙂

  3. April 20, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    This is such an amazing post. You are so right and you set such a good example for your children. Thanks for sharing this and yes, our bodies are super hot and totally great and we should love them and break up with the stupid voice in our head instead of trying to change our body! Thank you!

    • April 20, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you! I really want my boys to grow up seeing bodies how it took me a long time to learn to see them. I actually said something about disliking some part of my body a few months back, and then was horrified to discover Li’l D was there. I can’t remember how the conversation went down, but I remember feeling so firm–once again–in the importance of working to see right, for me and for them.

      • April 20, 2015 at 9:25 pm

        I have to remind myself not to speak bad about my body (even if I do feel that way) in front of the kids. And no remarks re body images in general.

  4. April 21, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Such an uplifting post…so beautifully written. I try so hard not to, but am in constant debate with myself over the disconnect I see in the mirror vs. My mind and whether I’m good with it– It comes and goes, that confidence but maybe reading your post a few more times will set me straight So glad you shared with us!

    • April 21, 2015 at 4:37 am

      I have those moments where that voice creeps back in: This can’t be good enough. Sometimes they last for days more than moments. But the more practice I get walking away from them, patiently (versus commanding myself to stop feeling or thinking something, which never works), the easier it becomes … like I’ve cleared a trail in the woods and now I just have to follow it. Sending love and encouragement always, but especially for when you’re lost in the woods. ♡

  5. April 21, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Great story!

  6. April 21, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Such an amazing and important post. If only we could all accept ourselves. We can never truly be at peace until we do.

  7. Deb
    April 21, 2015 at 5:21 am

    We learn to shame ourselves through the eyes of the world who judge everything we are and do. But through the eyes of a child, that is where we can see ourselves in beauty and appreciate who we are, because we simply are. Lovely post today 🙂

  8. Meg
    April 21, 2015 at 5:42 am

    I read your blog regularly, not even sure how I started to do so (It is the only blog I read, and I’m not really a tech-savey sort of person). This entry is important and a reminder to live every day ‘present’ in the many moments an ordinary life offers. Thanks, and keep writing. Mxx

  9. cardamone5
    April 21, 2015 at 5:46 am

    So very true, Deb. I have been battling my weight for a while now. When I say battling, it gives a false impression. At my heaviest, I was an 8. I am not saying this is big, only that I felt big at that size. I have been doing P90x for a year now (four times.) I keep doing it because I am someone who loves predictable and because I never again want to feel as sore as I felt when I started. The weight came and went, but not as dramatically as they said it would. I definitely put on muscle, but I still can’t do an actual pull up (I use bands for that section because I don’t have a doorway in my basement where I do my exercises that would support a temporary bar.) Suddenly, the weight is being lost more quickly (because with Spring, I am outside dong more on top of working out and because I gave up milk.) I find myself skipping and feeling happier as I watch the numbers on the scale go down. This is it, I’m doing it, I think. But, you know what, my body, no matter what size, is amazing, because it enables me to be, wherever, whatever size. I have lots of cellulite, which bugs me to no end, but it shouldn’t: a) because from what I’ve read, it will never go away, and b) because cellulite or no, my body is this marvelous thing that deserves to be honored, not obsessively reduced.

  10. April 21, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Beautifully written, Deborah.

    I’m in a weird place with my body. I feel like I should love it, but, well, it’s never good enough. And I don’t think it will ever be good enough. My pants have a 30″ waist, which is almost unfathomable for a male — especially one that is over 6-feet tall. A few years ago, I was talking myself out of allowing myself to buy 44″ waist pants.

    But it’s not enough – never enough.

    I’ve never purged . . . though I certainly understand the draw to it. And I, truly, do not believe I’m anorexic — I’m just…ultra-cautious. Disciplined. But, I’ll admit, every now & then, if the physical benefits of being “lean” outweigh the mental hardship of “maintaining.”

    Whatever might be going on with me, I truly hope both of my children grow to love activity . . . right now, they’re both candy & ice cream fiends, but there are questions about “is this good for me?” and some comprehension about “good for me” and “tasting good” possibly being opposites (though that’s far from actually being true)

  11. NotAPunkRocker
    April 21, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I can relate to so much of this. My eating disorder started earlier but in the end, bulimia does the same thing to all of us: rob us of life. Some more than others.

  12. April 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Very well stated, Deb, and something that I’ve grown into believing passionately, as well. Since having a daughter and not wanting to continue the endless cycle of “must be skinny, must be pretty, must this, must that” I work every day to make sure she knows she is beautiful because she is Maycee, not “skinny Maycee” or “pretty Maycee”. Just because she is, I am, we all are. My mom dieted constantly when I was little. My grandmother was obsessed with being thin and being pretty, which caused my mom’s low body esteem. I don’t, and I am not. Watch my diet to be a little healthier? Sure. Put on some perfume because I like the smell? You betcha. Do either of those things or anything else because I feel like it’s expected so that others will like me better-no way. No more! Great post. Love ya! XOXO-Kasey

  13. April 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Poignant, wise and wonderful. Thank you.

  14. April 21, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I am sitting, with tears streaming down my face. I do not know how to react to this. Somewhere under the body I have today is the body I use to have and I struggle, every single day to love this body because it is the one I have and it is a miracle. I know it, intellectually I know it. Emotionally? I still struggle to remind myself, some days I win, other days? Not so much.

    You remind me, thank you.

  15. April 21, 2015 at 7:56 pm

  16. April 21, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    This is so beautiful. So challenging. So SCARY! Where I’m at right now, loving my body is too much like a defeat. I am trying not to hate the way it looks – but I’m definitely trying to fix it. Still … this is beautiful. Thank you.

    • April 22, 2015 at 8:16 am

      1. Thank you!
      2. I lovingly and completely disagree that loving your body now constitutes defeat. Loving your body inspires you to make changes that improve its well being, versus trying to force or hate yourself into positive change. (Doesn’t it even sound strange?)
      I’ve composed a responsive post for my other blog in my brain, but it will take me time to write, re-find and add in some of the sources from which I derive my conclusions. Rest assured the post, though inspired by your comment, will be written for everyone I know who’s told me (or implied) similar things! No singling out, just much hope for more love.

      • April 22, 2015 at 10:39 am

        Wow … the warmth and kindness of your response makes me quite weepy! I am so struggling with self-hatred … I know it’s not a healthy or constructive way to feel, but I am so ANGRY with myself for letting this happen that it’s hard to forgive. I’m trying to focus on achieving positive change – and rejoice in such successes as I have – without obsessing over it. I’m more than my flab, right? But it is SO HARD, after a lifetime of feeling trapped in this obstinate, gluttonous body!

  17. April 22, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Beautifully written. I do exactly what your mother did. My whole wardrobe is filled with ‘skinny’ clothes. I even buy clothes that aren’t my size because I will ‘eventually’ fit into them. A very guilty habit. Stay beautiful!

  18. April 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I also feel like I never had an issue with my body until recently. I feel like my husband has certain expectations and if I look through his eyes, I see fat. But if I look through my new eyes, I see a beautiful aging woman.

  19. April 23, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Love this, and needed the reminding. I’ve forgotten to tell myself that I love and accept myself as I am today. That I am okay today. And I love who I am as I work towards a healthier me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  20. April 24, 2015 at 1:02 am

    This is powerful Deborah. Sad that society places such an emphasis on a person’s worth by their outward size and attractiveness.
    My struggle is not particularly me, but my 16 year old daughter, who struggles to see herself as breathtakingly beautiful. Always trying to remind her of her great worth.
    Thank you for sharing! 🙂
    ~Carl~

  21. April 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

    What inspiring words! How true, accepting ourselves means accepting our body. Thanks for sharing.

  22. April 24, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Amazing and beautiful! I have never been one with image issues so much. I guess the end of college is about the last time I ever encountered those sorts of feelings honestly. But of course now I’m lost in the sea of carrying babies…so it’s hard to be concerned with weight when the gain is inevitable. How brave of you to share such an inspiring moral.

  23. April 28, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    My mother was a size two. I don’t know when it happened that she became that way, but I remember the day she looked at me, at about age thirteen, and said with a sneer, “You’re fat.” I was a size eight. Within a year I was a size 2.

    I had my daughter and gained forty-five pounds. Within a year, I was a size four.

    I remember renewing my driver’s license when I got divorced. The photo showed my cheeks sunk in, eyes hollow. I looked like someone kicked my dog and ripped my soul out. Size two. Smaller on a good day, depending on the designer.

    Almost exactly twenty years after my mother first said that to me, I had gotten in a gym and moved on to a comfortable size six–hey, muscle and happiness will do that. I left the anorexia and sometimes bulimia behind. I got engaged. Then medication packed on forty pounds. I got married a size 12.

    Today, I’m a size eight. And I dare anyone to say a word when I pick up a bag of chocolate covered pretzels and declare that my dinner. I almost wish I still had that driver’s license photo, just to remind me where never to go again.

  24. March 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

    This brought me to tears. I had my own struggle with anorexia for different reasons (I actually did hate my body) and I’ve come to accept and appreciate myself for the size 14 I now am. But my mom like yours has a closet full of skinny clothes that truly are a waste. Even I myself have been clinging to all my “skinny” clothes (size 2’s and the likes) and they’ve got to go. I’m on a mission this weekend to clean house, cause I do NOT want to live life wishing I was anything other than what I am. Thank you… you’re better than any psychologist 🙂

  25. February 9, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve been 46 pounds lighter (not a healthy weight), and I’ve been 25 pounds heavier in this lifetime (not healthy, either). I have clothes in my closet ranging from size 0 to size 12, and I hang onto the range (though fewer at either end), because they are my favorites of those sizes, I have room to store them, and you never know what life will bring, health- and size-wise. While I no longer diet, I do exercise daily and manage my food intake so as to not go back on blood pressure meds. Barring sickness, I expect to remain in this normal-for-me middle range.

    I have the weird ability to detach and honestly assess that in my opinion, no…my body is no longer classically beautiful (if it ever was). And yet I also love it and accept it more than ever for what it is and does for me today. My feet are calloused and hammer-toed and my body has scars, one significantly disfiguring, from damage incurred living life vigorously–from having wonderful fun over the years pursuing my sport. So no, this decades-old body is not exactly beautiful–the artist in me will not lie…but I’m rather attached to it, anyway. 😉 It doesn’t have to be assessed “beautiful” for me to like it, in other words. I think after you reach the age where some of your friends are dealing with significant decline, disability, or even death, that you can maybe develop a deeper appreciation for your body, just as it is. It’s an appreciation that goes beyond the surface aesthetics, and one which embraces with respect its faithfulness to you despite the insults it’s been subjected to over the years.

  1. April 24, 2015 at 2:25 pm
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