TRIGGER WARNING: EATING DISORDERS, TRIGGERING PHOTOS
I love the city of Los Angeles.
It felt like home the moment I set foot in Hollywood, in a way I’d never experienced before.
This city has been so good to me; it has opened up so many of its doors and welcomed me creatively.
I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without Los Angeles.
But, there’s no question, LA can be a tough city. It can be a hard place to exist in.
Los Angeles has a reputation for being superficial and beauty driven for a reason. And while it’s not as bad as some people may think, this town is definitely focused on looks. Add in the crazy pressure and beauty standards set by social media and all the toned, perfectly proportioned starlets walking around everywhere, it’s hard not to feel inadequate sometimes.
But, in all honesty, sometimes it’s just hard to exist anywhere. We live in a society where we are constantly judged on how we look, a society where nearly every magazine cover, almost every actress, and pretty much every advertisement insists that we – as women – look a certain way. And if we don’t resemble the ideal, we’re made to feel less than. Less sexy, less desirable, less worthy, less of a person.
I try really, really hard to practice self-love and body positivity. It’s been a long 26 year journey, just getting to the point that I can even say I love my body, much less believe it. And I do believe it – I truly love my body.
And yet, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself wishing it looked different, or comparing it to other womens,’ or talking badly about my stomach or boobs or butt.
Let’s back track. I had an eating disorder though much of high school – what doctors diagnosed at first as “athletically induced anorexia,” but what mutated into full blown anorexia by the time it had reached its peak. I would work out for hours at a time (I was already running cross country and track every morning, but I’d also go to the gym after school), and I cut my calories so severely that I was barely eating anything. I was already so skinny that no one noticed I was getting skinnier. Of course, when I looked in the mirror, in my mind I looked gigantic. I had full on body dysmorphia and, thanks to society, I’d become convinced that big was bad, and that skinny was sexy.
My emaciated body was far from sexy. It was frail and fragile – not the strong, athletic body I needed to run 50 miles a week. But skinny was the only thing I knew how to do – it was the only thing I could control about my looks. I wasn’t particularly pretty. I mean, I wasn’t bad looking, but I was awkward and curveless and no boys ever asked me to the homecoming dance or out on a date. But I was skinny – and when, at some point, my mind convinced me I wasn’t skinny enough, I started starving myself.
If you’ve read past posts on my blog, you know this story. Thankfully, I got help and made it through a treatment program. I gained 25 pounds, going from 99lbs (and I’m 5’8” btw) to 124. I vowed never to let my weight drop that low again.
But in college by insecurities remained, and were perhaps even heightened by my desire to be wanted – to be found sexually desirable by frat boys (eesh my priorities needed some work). And again, in so many ways, my thin frame seemed like the only real thing I had to offer (sad, I know). All the drinking and pizza eating I’d been doing freshman year had caused me to gain some weight, and I immediately went into freak out mode. Freak out mode became bulimia. I didn’t want to stop drinking, so I just started making myself throw up. I’d stick my finger down my throat anytime I drank alcohol, or anytime I ate something that felt unhealthy.
I remember one night in particular, maybe a Wednesday or Thursday evening, when I was staying in my apartment doing homework (this was senior year and I wasn’t drinking nearly as much, and only on weekends). I was totally sober, had done a crossfit class that morning and had eaten a salad for dinner, but had also eaten a handful of animal cookies for dessert. I was racked with guilt and disgust after eating the cookies. I was literally shaking I was so stressed out about it. I went in the bathroom and threw up for five minutes, until I was crying over the toilet and feeling absolutely helpless. A different sort of disgust settled in my gut – why am I doing this to myself? But I couldn’t stop. I managed to only let my weight drop about ten pounds, and figured out how to hover right there – at about 112 lbs. It was enough that no one noticed I’d lost weight, and it wasn’t enough to be dangerous to my health. But it was absolutely damning for my emotional and mental health.
After college I moved to AZ to live with my then boyfriend. The bulimia, while not as severe, was still intermittent. If I had more than two or three drinks (which was very often – we drank a lot) I had to throw up. If we ate out somewhere and I splurged on something fried, then I had to throw up when we got home. I managed to live with him for almost two years, and he never figured it out. One night, toward the end of our relationship, I told him the truth – that I was vomiting at least once a week on purpose. I don't think he knew what to do or how to be supportive. We were already a mess, and I think this news was just too much for him. A month or so later we broke up, and I moved back to TX for a few months before moving out to LA.
Since moving to Los Angeles, my weight has stayed consistent at a healthy number. Building a supportive network of friends out here has really helped me to stay strong in the face of my eating disorder and insecurities. Discovering feminism and the idea of self-love has given me a reason to fight – to fight back against the nasty voices in my head telling me I’m not pretty enough, skinny enough, good enough.
I still struggle. Every single day I have to remind myself that I’m beautiful, that I am enough. There are times when I eat something unhealthy and my instinct is to break down – my instinct is to fall back into the dangerous habits I developed over the last ten years of my life. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard sometimes.
Everyday I see pictures of girls and women who are skinnier than me, “prettier” than me, more successful (by whatever standards) than me. All of those terms are subjective and meaningless, I know that. But in some ways my mind is wired to think along those terms. That’s the way the world has conditioned me to think. And it fucking sucks. So I shove and push and dig myself out of those feelings. I claw and bite and snarl at the notion that there’s only one kind of beauty, one ideal body, one model of success.
I long for the day when I no longer have to claw and shove and fight. I hope, one day, I will feel completely at ease with who I am and how I look. But I know that takes time. All I can do is try my best to love myself. So I work fiercely to embrace self-love and to practice positive self-talk. I work fiercely to remember that another woman’s beauty does not negate my own. I work adamantly to remember that, at the end of this life, it isn’t how I looked that matters. It isn’t how flat my stomach was or how big my boobs were.
Life is too short not to love yourself. It’s an ongoing process for me, but it’s a journey I’m so glad to be on, and one that has been incredibly fulfilling. It’s made me vulnerable but strong; it’s left me scared, but showed me just how brave I am. The journey toward self-love isn’t easy, but it’s so, so worth it.
Thank you for supporting me on mine, and know that I support you wholeheartedly on yours.