You see, if I have a constant negative loop playing in my head about all the bad that I am, when you judge me or hurt me or call me out for being anything negative, I’ve already beat you to it, baby. Theoretically, according to my body hatred and inner critic, you can’t throw any hurt at me that I haven’t already been putting myself through for years. So, good luck with that.
Except, my body hatred and inner critic are wrong because it still hurts when people hurt me and in the meantime, I’m just constantly hurting myself. And the super disturbing effect of constantly hurting myself is that I create phantom bullies that actually don’t even exist. I imagine hurt before it even materializes. I imagine people hate me that have never given me a second thought. I imagine people hate me that actually end up kind of liking me. And I’m particularly adept at imagining phantom tragedies that might materialize if I stop hating my body.
Early on in my recovery from eating disorders, I finally made a list of all of the tragedies my self-hatred was protecting me from. It went something like this: If I stop hating my body, I will die from a heart attack; If I stop hating my body, my children won’t be healthy; If I stop hating my body, my husband will leave me; If I stop hating my body, people will hate me; If I stop hating my body people will talk about me behind my back; If I stop hating my body, I will be disgusting. If I stop hating my body, I will be foolish; If I stop hating my body, I will be stupid.
It wasn’t until I had all of these imagined tragedies written out in front of me that I could see how utterly insane they all are and how deeply I had internalized the messages of Diet Culture. You see, I needed to hate my body in order to keep it in the eating disorders and I NEEDED to keep it in the eating disorders because that was the only thing keeping me safe from all of this tragedy BECAUSE if I stopped hating my body, if I started to eat food like a normal person again, if I stopped punishing my horrible body with exercise, I would get fat and, as anyone living in Diet Culture knows, fat is the epitome of unhealthy, unworthy and unlovable, right?
But it’s not, friends.
The truth is the stress, depression and anxiety I carry with me when I’m in deep Diet-Culture induced body-hating mode is worse for my heart than making peace with having a bigger body. The truth is teaching my children that restriction, starvation, deprivation and punishing exercise are “health” will be extremely damaging to their overall health in the immediate AND the long run. The truth is any man that would leave me because I gain some weight is not a man I want as a husband. The other truth is, my husband is not the kind of man who would leave me because I gain some weight. The truth is that my father was the kind of man who treated my mother’s weight gain like it was some personal offense to him – something that made her unworthy and unlovable. The truth is, I did not marry my father. The truth is I have absolutely no control over what people think of me whether I am fat or thin. The truth is people who gossip about other people’s bodies are not really being very good humans anyway, so fuck ‘em. The truth is that probably the most disgusting, foolish and stupid thing we can actually do is to waste our one precious life constantly fearing fat.
Hating my body, being afraid of becoming fat, Dieting, developing the inevitable eating disorders from that Dieting, never protected me from any of those phantom tragedies. These things only created actual tragedy in my life in the form of depression and anxiety; in the form of mental illness, which, is the opposite of “health,” friends.
I still talk about my body hatred in the present tense because it is still sitting on a shelf somewhere in my heart. My inner critic (which I envision as a tiny weeble-wobble dressed in my father’s work overalls) is still in their too – rocking back and forth – just biding his time. In moments when my PTSD is triggered or I feel threatened in any way, my body hatred leaps from the shelf and smothers me in a soft warm flood of shame and my inner critic suddenly blows up to the size of a hot-air balloon and starts ranting the soundtrack of its fear. But through acknowledging the reality of these negative loops in my head and in my body and understanding what it is that they are there for, I’ve also learned to turn them back down to their more manageable size. I’m now able to say, “oh, there you are again, okay. Well, you know, actually, I don’t think that makes a whole lot of sense so how about you just pipe down because I have better ways of keeping myself safe than your tired old methods.” Sometimes, lately, I’ve been able to stand up to my body hatred and inner critic immediately. Sometimes, there are a couple of sleepless nights between their sudden looming and my ability to talk them down. Sometimes there is a morning or a whole day where I just don’t get out of bed while they are doing their best to convince me that no, I really am a complete piece of shit that people have the right to treat like garbage. But sooner or later, I get myself back in the driver’s seat of the bus and those two animals just get drowned out by the wiser, calmer voices that I’ve drawn closest to me.
Tell your Inner Critic, with love, that you are grateful for its concerns, Teamies, but that you got this because you totally do.