Ever since I was in middle school, I had struggled with body dysmorphia. At the time, I just that it was the “normal thing to do” when trying to be skinner. However, I wasn’t doing it to feel better in my skin, but to be liked by others. It wasn’t until my 20’s that I started overcoming body dysmorphia.
And it all started with therapy. For the longest time, I avoided therapy as I didn’t think I had a problem. I didn’t fit into any of the diagnostic requirements for an eating disorder. And I didn’t want to take the space of someone else who needed it more than me.
However, through therapy, I was able to remember two key events that triggered my poor relationship with food and my body.
I remember I was in the cafeteria eating lunch when this boy came up to me. Of course, I thought he was cute so I was excited. When he came up to me, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I absolutely said “yes” because I was so excited he liked me!
Mind you, we were so young we had no idea what being girlfriend/boyfriend meant. At the end of the day, I got into my mom’s car and was waving like a maniac at this boy. I was so excited to tell my mom I had a boyfriend.
Anyways, not long after that, he broke up with me. That wasn’t what hurt me. What hurt me was that he was dared to ask me out. I don’t blame him or his friends as we were what? Maybe between 8-10 years old?
This is when I started to feel that something was wrong with me. Was it my body, face, hair?! I wasn’t sure.
Fast forward to middle school, I didn’t really think of that moment in elementary school until this time frame. I feel middle school makes more sense for when we start to discover girlfriend/boyfriend relationships.
This was another time, in which my sense of something was wrong with me was sparked again. I was at my best friend’s house. And I was crushing on this boy. Of course, my best friend was like “maybe he likes you too” or “why not go for it?” But can you blame a girl for being nervous?!
I was nervous that he wouldn’t like me back. Anyways, her older brother came in and said, “Maybe he won’t like you back because of your oversized belly button” or something along those lines. At the time I didn’t realize that the “oversized belly button” meant overweight.
But deep down I know again that something must be wrong with me. And I knew it was my body.
Middle School to High School
During this time period was when I was very restrictive with my calories. I was scared to eat any “bad” food. For me, I demonized, all types of fat and desserts. If I did eat something “bad” I would work it off through exercise.
I was your “do cardio until you burn 1,000 calories type” of person. In hindsight, I never really burned that many calories. But I would not stop until the elliptical said “1,000” for calories burned. This was also when I had major conflicts with my parents.
I was lying to them about how often I was exercising. I would get very angry if they bought me a dessert. There was this one time my dad wanted to make a coffee cake and I completely freaked out. He didn’t understand why I was so mad. It wasn’t my dad who I was mad at. I was mad at the damn coffee cake!
This fear also translated into other areas of my life. For example, I loved flirting with boys especially when you’re starting to know each other. However, when it came down to being boyfriend and girlfriend I would freak out.
The relationships never lasted long because I’d break up with them. I wanted to hurt them before they could hurt me. But through therapy, the root of that fear was that they would reject me when it came to sex or something like that. I was scared of what their reaction would be to seeing me naked.
Senior year until now
I remember when Kelly Clarkson’s song “Stronger” came out as that was a huge turning point for me. I didn’t really give a fuck anymore about what people thought of me. This is when I started to some self-confidence in myself.
I still experienced food fear and body dysmorphia thoughts, but it didn’t overcome my life like before. However, after dealing with digestive issues and getting off birth control, those thoughts started again.
This is when I knew I needed someone else’s help. I need someone who was completely objective. Don’t get me wrong my parents, boyfriend, and best friend all helped me. But I really needed someone else to help me find the root cause and begin helping me rewire my brain.
how to begin overcoming body dysmorphia
Now that you have a big chunk of my life story, there are some key things that are helping me to heal. In my opinion, trying to heal your thoughts is one of the hardest journeys you’ll be on.
Your mind is very powerful. But you have the tools to rewire your brain to no longer hear those negative stories. These are manageable tips you can start now to overcoming body dysmorphia!
Seek a Therapist
I have said this a million times, but therapy is very important. I have found that I am more likely to listen to my therapist than a loved one. They will meet you where you’re, but they will also challenge you a bit.
I have learned so much about myself outside of the body dysmorphia. It has helped me to heal. If you’re struggling with relapses in digestion or can’t get your period back. There may be past trauma/beliefs that aren’t letting you fully heal.
I personally go to Clinical Support Options in Western Massachusetts.
Purge your Social Media
This is something I do frequently! Often times we get stuck in this comparison trap. Social media (especially Instagram) creates this misconception of people’s lives. I’m telling you 90% of the stuff you see is only the good things or not real at all.
If there are specific people, that trigger you to be negative towards your self, unfollow them. Even if there is nothing wrong with them. Simply unfollow them. Removing those types of triggers will help you heal.
It doesn’t mean you can never follow them again. Another thing to do is to follow self-love and positive women. This has been HUGE for me! You begin to feel less alone and you can even find women to connect with.
Be aware of other triggers
This is also very important in healing. Every woman (and man) has different triggers that can revert them back to old habits. For me, it is tracking my food, weighing myself, going out to eat too often, and certain foods.
As you talk through and heal those thoughts, I would stop doing those activities. I don’t believe you need to weigh yourself or track calories. Throw out the scale and delete the app if you’re using them!
That is what I did and I have never felt freer! As for specific foods or restaurants, when you feel ready you can use them as challenges. For example, Kate Noel does fear food challenges. She challenges her mind to see that if I eat cake for a week, nothing happens.
Do daily affirmation
This is something I do every morning to get my mind in the right mindset. I have a small notebook, in which I write an affirmation 10 times. My favorite has been:
“I am beautiful and my body is stunning”
You can do whatever affirmation feels good to you. However, doing it 10x is important. The more your brains see it the more it believes it.
Do 10-15 minutes of meditation
I recommend 10-15 minutes as the typical length of guided meditations. This is a great way to visualize what you want your life to look like. Visualizations are powerful for the mind as they can see what will become.
Meditation is also another way to uncover possible root causes. I was very aware of my root causes going into therapy. However, sitting with myself gave me the ability to explore how I felt and how it connects to me now.
You can work up to 10-15 minutes, so don’t feel it is 10-minutes or nothing!
Be aware of your thoughts
At the end of 2019, I learned something that rocked my world forever. Thoughts are simply suggestions. Let me repeat that…
“Thoughts are simply suggestions!”
You can pick and choose what thoughts you want to listen to. It is very freeing to know that if a thought doesn’t serve you. You can let it go. Let me give you an example:
Say you are getting ready for a party and you put on your favorite dress. The first thought that pops into your head is, “This dress would fit better if my body was thinner.” This thought serves absolutely no one. So what do you do?
You let yourself hear it, decide if it serves and if it doesn’t you let it go. To take it a step further you can replace that thought. Instead, you can say, “I look gorgeous in this dress.” Change a negative to a positive.
I hope these tools help you begin to take the steps in overcoming body dysmorphia. I do many of these tips daily (especially the last one). And I always always recommend you seek a mental health specialist.
There is nothing wrong with seeking help. Thank youu so much for reading!