Body Dysmorphia

Sometimes I get something rolling around in the old noggin that wants to come out. Usually it’s partially for my own processing but more so because I think it’s important for people who experience the same things to know they aren’t alone and that often people you would never expect, share the same struggles.

As I was winding down last night and having a shower, I realized just how much self-loathing I had for this meat suit I walk around inhabiting. I loathe my physical form. Detest my body. I realized just how strong and pervasive that negative voice is. First, I think a little relevant personal history is in order.

Up until I was about 18, I was very skinny. 30-inch-waist pants. Then as my metabolism slowed down and I became less active, I drove more than I walked, and I had my own money to eat all the fast food, junk food and sweets that I wanted, that all changed. Strangely, I don’t really remember the change. I didn’t see it happening. Then one day I was buying 40-inch-waist pants and thought “Weird. When did this happen?” I started self-educating about nutrition and such. I saw many fads and trends come and go. “Fat is bad! No wait, carbs are bad! No wait, only plants are good! But wait it’s far more complicated…okay, look everything is bad, you’re just screwed, okay?”

Fast forward to 2004. I was married to a vegetarian and I discovered the South Beach diet which was the first “diet” that actually made sense to me as even though it was packaged in a kind of fad way, it was just simple science. Here is how your body processes the various things you put into it and why you should mostly eat these kinds of things. In 5 months I went from 214 to 174. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like “me.” I looked like me. Everything just felt and moved right, like a machine that was correctly tuned. I was described as “skinny” which shocked me. Someone once said I had had the physique of “a typical Austinite. Someone who bikes and does yoga and stuff.”

Fast forward to 2010. I started going to hot yoga 3-5 times a week and got into the best shape of my life. The weird thing was, that while I was happy with my physical form, I still didn’t see it accurately. I felt healthy and happy but still thought I could use a little improvement. I still felt a little flabby and self-conscious. I look back on pictures from that time now and I am shocked because what I see in those pictures now is NOT what I saw in the mirror. I would kill to look like that again right now.

I got divorced and eventually old tastes and habits caught up with me. A few pounds came back, then a few more. I’ve written many times about how I am like a drug addict with food. Staying “on the wagon” is very difficult for me. I like crap. All the stuff that is probably the worst for you are the things I love and want to eat. Even though I got there before and kicked the cravings and bad habits, I haven’t seemed to be able to get back there, but that’s a whole other lengthy discussion of its own.

Fast forward back to the present as I realized how much I despise my own meat suit. That’s not a great way to live. It permeates everything. It decimates your self-confidence. I walk through the world uncomfortable with myself. Uncomfortable being seen by other people. Uncomfortable being on film or stage which are two of my passions and careers. Uncomfortable existing like this.

Now one very important point not to be glossed over, is that I am very happy with who I am in all non-physical ways. I am not perfect and growth and self-improvement are a lifelong never-ending journey but in the grand scheme of things, I have worked very hard at being the best version of myself I can be and I am very happy with my head, heart, and soul. I think I’m a damn good partner, if I do say so myself at the risk of sounding conceited. I think I’m a fucking catch. And even though I have been fortunate enough to have been loved by some astoundingly incredible partners, that voice in my head still tells me “No matter how great of a person you are, there’s no way anyone could be attracted to you because of your disgusting meat suit.”

Now, I know that’s not true, intellectually, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real or valid. And with every failed attempt at changing my ways or improving my diet, that voice gains power. “You fucking piece of shit. You claim to be so unhappy with your physical form and yet you’re stuffing your face with crap again.” Yeah, that voice is a real asshole.

I recently heard a podcast, Penn’s Sunday School with Penn Jillette and his guest, Dr. Joel Fuhrman who was explaining what he thinks is the healthiest diet and all the reasons behind it, including cancer-preventing foods and such, and it just depressed me. It seemed so overwhelming and completely unattainable to me knowing my lifestyle, tastes and habits.

The one good thing I have taken away from this recent bout of thinking, realizing, and frustration, is that at least I never give up. I never stop trying. I never stop learning, and seeking, and telling myself that I am going to do it. I never just give up and resign myself to my fate. I have been there before so I know it’s possible. Yes, much of it is totally vanity driven, but also the older I get the more I think and worry about long term health. I want to be happy and healthy in my meat suit. I want to live a long and enjoyable life. I don’t want to wait until I have a heart attack or cancer before I am forced to do something about it or die. Which I think is why it has been weighing on me more lately. It feels like every day that I “fail” to accomplish my goals, is one day closer to a dark day somewhere in my future where something goes horribly wrong and I don’t know if that day is tomorrow or 10 years from now or never. I have been so, so fortunate so far that my checkups have always been great and my health has been trouble-free despite my bad habits, but I don’t want to keep pushing that luck and testing those waters. I know these flesh machines take more care and maintenance as they age.

I want to love all of me again, not just my non-physical traits. I want to walk this world comfortable in my skin. Adept at operating my flesh machine. Confident in all my many layers. I don’t want to feel like an awesome person trapped in a flesh prison that I loathe. I know that we should all love ourselves however we are, but if we are being honest here, I just don’t know how to do that. I’m most certainly not proud of that. May we all have success in our journeys toward more kindness and love toward ourselves and others. Whatever your battle is, whatever journey you are on, you are not alone, no matter how it may feel.

1 Response

  1. Damn, really feel for you here. Here’s a take for you: it’s not you, it’s the endless, relentless, predatory obesogenic environment you (and I) are immersed in. We are surrounded by Nice Things To Eat that will give us amazing pleasure hits – entirely ENGINEERED to do so. You’re fighting exactly the same brain circuits that snare alcoholics and class A drug and gambling addicts, no metaphor but the actual same thing – and billions of dollars have been spent to get you and I into this state.

    One of the nastiest things that the industrial food-pushers do to us is remove taste from a lot of food: real taste, the variety of things, is replaced by salt and sugar in precise amounts, not too much. Less taste = less satisfaction. We eat bigger portions/whole cartons/ bags because we’re searching, searching for that happy hit that never comes.
    What’s the answer? I’ve managed it by cooking for myself again, resisting industrial food, and ditching breakfast. I don’t eat until I’ve been up and about for at least three hours. Avoid honey or sugar coz it triggers hunger and messes with you. Nothing spectacular has happened aside from losing a stone and being way more energetic, took three months but that’s ok. I still eat like a horse every evening, but it’s the good stuff I used to eat, and I’ve lapsed (cake! Treats coz it’s dark and cold!) and seen it creeping back but all it takes is getting organised with more of my (awsome tbh) home cooking, not less.
    Hope this helps a bit, all power to you 🙂

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