It started out as a quick glance, we all do it. The peak passing a window, seeing your reflection at a mirror. Everybody knows logically, that when you starve, many aspects of your body are influenced and impacted. Vitals, weight, chemically and of course effects the brain. So what happens when your body goes into starvation mode, and when you look in the mirror all you see is a distorted image staring back? Even when someone weighs more than you, or the same, and yet you see yourself massive compared to them.
Occasionally though, I will have that momentary glimpse of truth that opens my eyes to the size of my body. Having somebody I love grab me and measure my thighs in front of me, a picture of my legs, looking frail, the collar bone joining with my shoulder. Once, before chemistry lab, I was standing in front of a glass cabinet, finishing my coffee, as I looked up I saw some frail legs, ankles together, knees knocking, and a large sweater engulfed the rest of the body. I was shocked and thrilled at the same time. Having no concept of my personal size, portion sizes, or the correct way I perceive my body, This was a quick eye opening moment, that hit me, for all of a few seconds.
It has become obsessive and a daily, if not hourly thing, for not only me, but many of you as well. I have become so focused and obsessed with body checking. In the morning when I wake up, after going to the bathroom, after I get dressed, after I eat. I check my legs in the reflection on the glass doors as I walk across campus.
It isn’t only me that I am checking out though. I am checking out other girls as well. The questions and observations are haunting, “Do their legs tough when they walk?” “Are their ribs visible?” “Look at their long arms.” “I bet they don’t eat THAT.” I don’t only body check myself, but the others, and it starts a vicious cycle. I am well aware that it isn’t the mirror itself, but how I perceive myself. I know logically, that my body has not dropped x lbs in the past few hours due to what I eat or not eat. Still though, part of me believes that it will impact my stomach or midsection, and what I consume will stick directly to those fat cells encompassing my body.
Comparison and body checking has ruined me. It is a destructive thought pattern and mindset that is constantly flooding not only my thoughts, but my emotions and impacts my actions as well. The panic mode I go into when I see and add the calories of what I consume just sends my anxiety through the roof. I was so intrigued to find this article though, that brake down the chemicals (Tryptophan and Serotonin) of the brain in response to starvation as well as eating.
Being a biology major this was so fascinating to me to realize that with the receptors being added (to achieve the same effect of somebody who drinks a lot of caffeine) when there is a flood of the chemical it is way too much for the body to handle. So the chemical and physical effect from eating and the heightened anxiety is true.
Either way, the body checking needs to stop. Whether the mirror needs to be covered, or I need to change my mindset and stop comparing myself. Something needs to be done for the body checking. It is body shaming of self to the extreme, which will have nothing but negative outcomes in the long run. The way that we perceive ourselves vs. How other people see us, is shockingly different. While I still am trying to come to accept this, it is a fact. We, especially those that struggle with an eating disorder, are much harder critics on ourselves. Stop being a bully to yourself.
Benefits of Starving and Why You Don’t Have a “Chemical Imbalance”. TETYANA ⋅ JUNE 12, 2012 http://www.scienceofeds.org/2012/06/12/anorexic-brain-neurocircuits-behaviour/
Body checking. Eating Disorders Glossary. http://glossary.feast-ed.org/2-eating-disorders-symptoms-and-behaviors/body-checking