You may or may not know, but this week, February 24-28, is National Eating Disordor Awareness Week. And since we’re a blog that posts on both training AND nutrition, we feel it’s incredibly important to help participate in getting the word out about eating disorders of all kinds–if not just this week, but any and every week.
I know that the majority of eating disorders happen to women–young women at that–but this post is for everyone. If I refer to women more than men…well, it’s probably because I am one, and I know what it’s like to struggle with food.
This whole topic of eating disorders just strikes a chord in me. I feel like I’ve been struggling with my weight my entire life. I was never once the skinniest girl in a room–ever. Someone always has better abs than I do. Someone always works harder in the gym or eats cleaner in the kitchen. Someone’s will power is always better and someone’s metabolism is always faster.
I wish that I could honest-to-God love my body for exactly what it is. And I guess, some days I do. Most days though, I want something to be smaller, something to be bigger, some muscle to pop and some fat spot to disappear. Why am I bloated today? Why are my jeans too tight? Why does she look fabulous and I look so…blah?
Girls are starting to diet in elementary school these days. I heard a ten-year-old say that she was too fat and yet she weighed less than 70 pounds. I know, because I watched her weigh herself. What in God’s name are we doing to the children of our society?
The thing is, I know that women look around and constantly compare themselves to others. I really don’t know a single woman who actually loves her body. And the kicker here is that we are all comparing ourselves to other unhappy women!
When I look around the gyms, I see rock-solid muscle bodies that I just adore. “I wish I looked like that!” I say to myself. Or, “I hope I can look that good when I am in my 40s like her…” or even “She looks that good because she’s young. You’re not young like that, Steph.”
And all the time I do this, I think to myself, “She’s got it made. Life is so easy. She eats what she wants. Her metabolism is on fire. She must be so happy. She’s so lucky! She probably thinks I’m fat.”
And you know what happens when I really get to know these girls that I secretly envy? I find out that they’re all suffering. That they’re all unhappy. That they only see their own flaws when I see none. The young ones in which I excuse the fast metabolisms tell me that they hate the lack of definition in their legs or that cellulite is too visible in shorts. The ones in their 40s whom I adore tell me that they’re overly self-conscious. Their hormones are messed up or they think they’re too muscular, or they’ve lost their feminine curves. No one seems to be confident with themselves even though I adore them! What is wrong with this picture?
And then, out of all the women I’ve envied, do you know how many have actually confided with me about their eating disorders? More than I can count on two hands.
Anorexia, Bulemia, Binge Eating….
Here I was/am the envy of so many and after simple conversation, I’ve learned that society, for some stupid reason, is making us jealous of one another all the while we have NO idea what demons people are struggling against!
It’s sick. I have friends…full grown women…who have fought, battled, and won against anorexia and bulemia. Some are still struggling. And currently, too many people–men and women alike–are fighting against binge eating.
I’ll admit, it happens to me too. “I’ve been clean for a month, let me at that ice cream!”
I ate ice cream every day of the week during my “birthday week” whether I was hungry or not. I gave myself the excuse.
I ate over 8 cupcakes in a day, once.
On holidays, when most people have one dessert, I will sometimes have ten. I’ve deprived myself for too long.
Strong Figure has helped not just others to learn about food and health, but it has helped me more than I can explain. I started this as a food and workout blog over a year ago and boy have I learned a lot about myself, food, and maybe even more importantly, about my friends and all the other struggling women out there battling with their self-percieved flaws.
Let’s face it…we’re all here because we want to be better: look better, feel better, perform better. Food is 80% of the battle. Learning how to splurge a little more often and little bit wiser has been the ultimate food challenge for me. For others? It might be overcoming issues that stem back much futher.
Since it’s a week to promote awareness, I want to let everyone who is struggling right now, know that it’s ok to feel that way. Overcoming self-esteem issues is seriously hard and will take some time and dedication. I’m no pro on what to do, but I know that it makes me feel better if I eat something that’s good for my body every day. It helps me to think of my food as fuel for performance. It helps to get some exercise in–even if it’s a quick walk with the dogs–each and every day. Some days it helps to go on Instagram and check out all the healthy people and crazy-good-looking Paleo recipes. Some days, that doesn’t help at all. If it’s a bad day, I don’t look at those photos. I try to focus on being happy with who I am, appreciating my strength, my talents beyond the weight room, the people in my life who love me, and I do things that make me happy.
We’re all different and I wish we could stop comparing ourselves to every person we come across. Most importantly, some of us are killing ourselves in a quest to become skinnier. We’ve GOT to make that stop.
If you want to find ways in which you can help the fight against eating disorders, visit NEDA or Proud 2B Me.
And if you’ve missed these posts we’ve published, make sure you check them out–we are super opinionated on social constructs and we don’t hold back:
Why No One Should Pursue the Thigh Gap by April (our most popular piece to date)
Thigh Gap? My Thighs Tough! by Amber
Do You Want a Thigh Gap Infographic by Erik
Bikini Bridge by Steph and Erik
Want real life stories of courageous battles? Two of my Strong Figure Ambassadors and best friends have actually written about their personal experiences with anorexia. These women are SO brave and I more than applaud them for their determination, their good health, and their ability to now help others. Read Cammy and Emma‘s stories now!
We are all Beautiful!
Do I sit around daily and think of ways to make my abs pop and find definition in my arms? Do I want my back to be a beautiful display of muscular art while wanting zero ounces of fat to spill over my Lulu capris? Do I want to be a smaller clothing size, the scale to go down, and the muscle mass + PRs in the gym to go up?
Am I realistic?
Probably not. But I know this. And I’m trying to embrace me: I have awesome quads, a strong body, and a generous personality. I have a wonderful life full of good, fun, caring people, and I have my health. I am a lucky girl. And maybe one day, I won’t worry too much if my abs aren’t as perfect as I’d like them to be. Maybe one day, we can all just celebrate the Beauty Within.
For now, let’s put an end to self-loathing, and just be healthy people. Eat well. Splurge little. Help those who need guidance. And stop comparing ourselves to others. We can do this!!!
Amber Vesey says
Stephanie, this was beautifully written. An honest look into your mind, but also the minds of SO many women in the fitness world. Can’t say that I haven’t had some of your similar thoughts, and in addition, I have a chronic medical condition that easily can add weight/bloating/physical changes to my stomach in a matter of hours. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that beauty goes beyond what I see, but in starting my website I wanted to be a positive role model for girls/women for loving themselves whole heartedly. So that means, as I type this currently, even though my stomach is bloated/distended to the point that I look six months pregnant, i KNOW that I am beautiful, and that my beauty is not determined by the reflection in the mirror. My beauty instead is determined by myself, in my smile, in my love for others, and the many other qualities about myself that have NOTHING to do with what I look like but more of the type of person that I am.
A six pack is overrated, at the end of the day, I’d rather have a genuine smile on my face,stemming from happiness and self love than a six pack under my shirt