Body Positive Journey: Pain–How Physical Limitations Shaped My Body Acceptance

Written by Amanda, a Fattitude Intern

#TW Eating disorder related behaviors

The antique mall reminded me of an old tired dog with watery brown searching eyes. Decrepit, covered in dust and silent, it emoted something despite its stillness. It was both endearing and sad.

It was entirely devoid of movement, except for my coworker and me. He was a friendly man in his fifties; I was sixteen.

To enliven this dull afternoon, he generously bought us both lunch. We feasted merrily.

After eating, he tested his blood sugar. This piqued my curiosity, so he explained his diabetes and his weight management plan. “Did you know that you could eat six Hershey’s chocolate bars a day and yet lose weight?” he asked.

This single comment ignited a fire that would burn out of control for years.

Was it really that easy?. . . I immediately began to scheme. Less than six months later, I had lost 30lbs.

No matter how much weight I lost, I never felt less ashamed of it.
No matter how much weight I lost, I never felt less ashamed of it.

My body revolted. My feet and hands felt so cold, I had to jog next to my bed – sometimes for hours – to warm them enough to fall asleep. I fell into a depression (as my efforts failed to attract the friends I had hoped for). I felt dizzy and weak. A cardiologist told me I was going to die if I didn’t gain weight.

During one of my lightheaded spells, as I ached with hunger, I seized a bag of someone else’s tortilla chips. I fed like a vampire, transformed at the sight of blood. The fangs dropped into view, my eyes turned red, and I lost myself. Something primal had usurped my body, something Other.

Afterwords, I felt relieved. My hunger, which I had been allowing to torture me for months, had taken a beating and scurried off. Like taking a swing at a bully, it felt good.

This incident, however, signaled the beginning of the most violent stage of my eating disorder. I began to lose control of my impulses, and then to compensate, I started to make myself throw up. When that wasn’t enough, I compulsively exercised.

Signs your loved one has bulimia: petechiae around the eyes and broken blood vessels in the eyes.

I viewed my body with contempt. I was waging war: Veni, Vidi, Vici. I was trying to colonize it into a hospitable space for my ego to thrive.

My body had other plans.

I destroyed my metabolism, and I couldn’t stop binging. I binged myself to 25lbs above my starting weight. Eventually, my metabolism leveled out, and my efforts to make peace landed me back at my “normal” weight.

I tried to bury the hatchet. I minimized my body issues as much as possible. Years later, though, my body opted to become my primary focus again: I suffered a herniated disc.

By the time I received any meaningful medical care, I had spent weeks in pain and many hours wailing uncontrollably on the floor. Many frightful episodes of pain followed. I spent months in a back brace.

More important, this uncovered other serious problems. The months I spent sleeping in awkward positions and slouching in agony caused my familiar systemic musculoskeletal pain (dating back to 2013) to flare worse than ever. I got diagnosed with Myofascial Pain Syndrome.

I am fortunate. For one thing, I am not currently suffering terribly from the complications of an ED. My Myofascial Pain Syndrome (if that’s the correct and/or only diagnosis) may owe some of its severity due to over-exertion, but it’s mostly resultant from a genetic predisposition. As a result, I cannot censure myself much for my current pain issues.

My body has become fitful, demanding, sensitive, and vulnerable – like a child. I have thus made adjustments in my lifestyle to accommodate its needs. I cannot, for example, engage in a therapeutic hour-long cardio session most days. Caring for my body not only eases pain, but it is emotionally rewarding. I listen to, rather than yell over, my body when it speaks to me.

I am making decisions on account of longevity and health, rather than for appearances’ sake. If I tried to subject myself to my old antics, I wouldn’t be able to crawl out of bed anyhow: I’m forced to be gentle, or suffer the consequences of my impulsiveness.

I can see now how truly vain and potentially destructive my ED was; my body’s much frailer that I thought. In hindsight, though, it has always been steadfast – nurturing and supporting me, even as I abused it. I feel guilty about that. It is the linchpin to my existence; and yet, I used to imagine sawing it up like a ham.

Despite this repentance – and the pain and limitations I struggle with – I am marketed at and sometimes tempted. Magazines beseech me to apply myself to a body-sculpting program, to pick another fight with my body.  “No pain, no gain,” is their crude mantra. I laugh inside.

You can’t always leverage pain in exchange for what you want. Sometimes, pain is just pain.

*This blog post is the opinion of a particular Fattitude intern – and does not necessarily reflect the position of Fattitude, Inc.

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