There are many articles on Body Dysmorphic Disorder; from what can cause it, to the lengths people go to in order to obtain that “perfect body”, to how our media contributes to this condition. In this post, I write about the thought process behind BDD.
I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy in 1998. I was morbidly obese when I conceived, and my weight topped out during the pregnancy at about 310 pounds. I was lucky I didn’t develop gestational diabetes; however, during the final two weeks of my pregnancy my blood pressure went through the roof. Preeclampsia is nothing to take lightly. Labor was induced.
I thought the high blood pressure complication would go away after I gave birth. I was mistaken. I remained on medication, but it was difficult to control. I had other health issues as a result of my obesity, too. I’d been obese all my life. The yo-yo pattern of dieting was all I knew, and I’d never lost the weight. But I knew I had to do something. This wasn’t just about me anymore. I had a son and I wanted to be around for him.
In January of 2000 I had weight loss surgery. It took a year of careful consideration, talking with others who went that route, and interviewing many surgeons. Some of you may not agree with my decision, but really, this was a personal choice. I still say to this day, weight loss surgery is not a fix; it’s a tool, and it’s something that one should only turn to as a last resort.
In a 2-year span I lost my weight. I went from 282 to 150 pounds. I was wearing a size 6. My doctor was pushing me to follow the charts and go for 135-140, but I knew that was not right for me.
During that time the person I saw in the mirror was still fat. I was assured this was normal. This was the person I’d seen all my life. Two years is not enough time to adjust to this new “me”.
Fast forward 6 years…
My first marriage was falling apart. I’d done a great job of keeping the weight off, but I couldn’t turn to comfort food. I was going crazy. I wasn’t me.
I still saw “the fat girl” in the mirror and I hated her. She was everything that was wrong with me. She was every mistake I’d ever made. She was proof I wasn’t perfect.
My marriage fell apart that year in a most dramatic way. There was much therapy to go through after that bad thing, and in the process I went through much beer. I found I started gaining the weight I’d kept off for so long. I was terrified and now I hated the woman I saw in the mirror even more. When I hit 170 pounds in 2008, I worried about inching closer to 200. I started to panic.
But panic does no good. I kept busy to distract myself. So busy, in fact, that I would forget to eat.
By spring of 2009 I was probably back down to 150, but I wasn’t weighing myself. I just know my clothes fit me again. But by that point I was still in the frame of mind of seeing “the fat girl” in the mirror. Only, this time I was afraid she would get larger. I had no appetite. I didn’t even think about eating. I’d focus on whatever I was doing; sometimes the entire day would go by and I wouldn’t eat, then I’d wonder why I was light-headed. “Oh yeah… I should eat something…”
You may wonder if I was intentionally not eating or if I was really forgetting to eat. Honestly, I’d forget about it. I just … didn’t think about eating. I have no idea if it was stress, if I got distracted, or if the idea of gaining weight just killed my appetite.
That fall I was down to somewhere between 135 and 140. My friends and my family were all giving me the hairy eyeball. None of my clothes fit. I was shopping in the Junior section and I was excited about it (that should have told me something was wrong, right there).
I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see the bones everyone else saw. I thought I was ok… I might be able to shed about 5 more pounds…
I was wearing a size 2. I was 42, at the time. I’m 5’6”.
My fiancé proposed to me that October. By this point, my doctor and everyone else was telling me that I was underweight. My fiancé was calling me during the day asking me if I’d eaten yet. I knew if I wanted to get fitted for a dress, I should probably gain some weight. I’d gain up to 140.
I was probably the only bride in the world trying to gain weight for her wedding dress. We celebrated a beautiful wedding in June of 2010, with family and friends.
As happy as I was, I still didn’t like my reflection. But I was beginning to understand something else was going on here. That woman in the mirror was in danger of being just as unhealthy as the 282 pound woman I used to be, and I was doing it to myself.
Nearly 4 years later, I’m finally at a healthy weight. It still makes me cringe when I see 155 on the scales, and I don’t like to look in the mirror. But I know I have a distorted image of my own body. Losing weight doesn’t change any of that. Accepting yourself for who you are and knowing you are perfect just the way you are changes body dysmorphia.
A lifetime of behavior isn’t an easy thing to change, especially when we’re bombarded with unrealistic images of the “perfect body” from media outlets on a 24×7 basis.
Do I still have my moments? Yes. When I’m especially busy or working on a project, I’ll put reminders in my calendar or write on my whiteboard, “EAT SOMETHING!” I have my daily affirmations I say every morning (some days I believe them, some … not so much, but I say them anyway). As for the woman I see in the mirror? I’m not there yet. She’s still overweight. I’d be happy if she lost at least 20 pounds.
I was weeding through my closet last weekend, pulling out clothes that didn’t fit me anymore. I came across a pair of size 2 slacks. I held them up and saw just how small they were. I couldn’t believe I was that skinny. I certainly didn’t see that woman in the mirror.