Taking control over my eating disorder

Getting dressed has become such an ordeal lately.

I moved back to Guam with just one suitcase with all my belongings (clothes, shoes, and books included), but I’ve bought a few tops and bottoms over the past year.

Since last September, I’ve gained at least 10 pounds. I probably lost 10 pounds of muscle and gained 20 pounds of fat total, because I stopped working out and I used to be on a fairly strict workout regimen in 2016.

Now the clothes I brought over from California don’t even fit me anymore, and I’ve had to give away a few pairs of my favorite jeans because they can’t possibly button around my waist.

I feel bad every time I need to get dressed because almost nothing fits me right anymore. I end up changing clothes ten times before going anywhere, scrutinizing myself in the mirror. I often just give up and wear the same outfits repeatedly, usually the ones that hide my stomach most.

By no means am I the slightest bit overweight — I’m average for my height now, for the first time in my life.

But the problem I came to terms with four years ago has crept back into my life, this time stronger than I’ve felt it in years.

It’s no big secret that I had (and still have) body dysmorphic disorder, and am recovering from anorexia nervosa. I wrote a blog post about learning to love my body in 2013 after I realized I had a problem and I was underweight. I shared about my body dysmorphia on Instagram last year, while I was coming to terms with my changing body after college.

In 2013, I realized I had body dysmorphic disorder and had been starving myself for a year or so to stay thin. I was so scared to weigh over 100 pounds, so I checked the scale obsessively to make sure I was at 99 at the most. I weighed about 97 pounds and I’m about 5’4-5’5 in height.

What I considered a scary time in 2012.

I took pleasure in buying XXS clothes. I was so proud of myself when I bought a 00 pair of jean shorts at American Eagle (I’d be surprised if I could fit one thigh in it today). Some days, I’d work out at the gym and my only meal that day would be a couple of Hot Cheetos and Sour Patch Kids.

It’s weird because I’m never really aware of it or in control of it. It’s kind of like the voice in your head that tells you to do any task, like when to brush your teeth or when it’s time to go to bed.

It tells me not to eat because it knows I’m going to get “fat.”

When I look down at my stomach, it tells me I’m disgusting.

When I wash my body in the shower, it tells me my mid section is too big and soft.

When I look at myself in clothes that don’t fit right, it tells me to lose weight.

When I look in the mirror, it tells me I’m ugly.

And I listen. Every time.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at telling myself it’s wrong. I don’t know why it’s there or how it came to be.

But it gets worse when I’m going through periods of high emotional stress — like difficult breakups in the past. Now I think it’s back because of work stress, anxiety, and other personal issues.

I let myself go a bit over the past year, eating whatever junk food I want, eating socially (because it’s Guam, and that’s what you do), and snacking like crazy at night.

Left: summer 2012; Right: summer 2017.

So now the voice has gotten meaner than ever.

I weighed myself at 119 last month. I couldn’t believe it.

I told myself it was fine. I mean I’m average now. Is that really so bad? I’m still skinnier than a lot of people my age, so it isn’t a big deal. And I’m getting older so my metabolism is slowing down. It’s normal.

Still, I found myself measuring my waist every day in the morning (since you’re supposed to be your thinnest when you wake up).

Almost 29 inches. You fucking fat bitch.

I pinch my rolls and feel devastated.

The following weeks:

Still too fat.

27 and three quarters of an inch. Better. But still too fat.

I’ll be happy when I’m at 26 again, I tell myself every morning.

I nod with affirmation at the mirror thinking, yes, then I’ll be happy.

But another voice in my head (damn I sound crazy with all these voices) says softly, but when you were a 25 waist, were you happy?

I pause to listen.

No, I wasn’t happy back then. I was hungry.

Not just for food, but for satisfaction with myself.

After staring at myself tonight in old clothes that are too tight, examining my belly profile from different angles, I finally told myself, fuck it.

Even if I did it the healthy way by eating right, cutting out snacking before bed (which I should still probably do because it’s a bad habit in general), and exercising, I would still be measuring myself. Even if I hit 26, hell 25, would I really be happy?

I know if I monitor myself thinking that being skinnier will make me happy, instead of dealing with the anxiety, stress, and insecurities I have internally, I will never be happy.

I need to throw out whatever unrealistic expectations I have for my body.

I’m 24 years old. I’m not 19 anymore.

I have belly rolls, stretch marks, and cellulite.  I feel my fat shake on my body when I walk. I feel my thighs rub together.

But is that all really so bad? And who said it was bad to begin with?

For the first time in my life, I’m finally able to wear my bras without a huge gaping hole at the top. I’m finally fuller. I’m not stick-thin and my teenage body wouldn’t be attainable even if I threw up every day and starved myself.

I finally look full and healthy.

I look the way Woman Chloe should be, and I need to stop hanging onto Teenage Chloe.

I need to let go because the only person standing in the way of me feeling beautiful and happy is me — and that tiny mean voice inside that tells me I’m not enough.

Left: 2011; Right: 2017.

How I Survived 10 Days Without Instagram

In some ways, summer is my least favorite time of the year. Most people love the freedom to do whatever they want, but when I have too much free time I get bored. And when I get bored, I get stalker-y.

For most of this summer (truthfully, for most of the time since I downloaded the app in 2012), I used Instagram as a constant distraction. I idly refreshed my feed every few minutes, looking through the pictures my friends liked to see if anything caught my eye. More recently, I began a mini mission at the back of my head to find quality indie models and follow them, and hopefully get inspired enough to somehow become as beautiful as they were. I also thought that if I found models who looked enough like me, I could feel better about myself because I looked kind of like them.

I must have spent hours a week absorbing pictures of beautiful long-limbed girls with perfect waist-to-hip ratios, flowing ombre hair, and breasts uncannily generous for their weight. How could I ever compare?

I’m not sure how I started this obsession in the first place. Maybe it stemmed from when my ex used to follow dozens of beautiful girls on Instagram like the ones I began to like. When I came out as bisexual, I realized I had nothing to lose by shamelessly following as many gorgeous models as I liked. Maybe this act was some kind of a “f*ck you” to my exes who indirectly made me hate my own body whenever I saw they were checking out other women who I thought were more attractive than I was.

In any case, this obsession began to slowly chip away at my already fragile self-esteem. Spending hours a day looking at models with ‘perfect’ bodies does something to a person’s mind. I carried the weight of feeling imperfect on my shoulders—I spent a lot of time looking at my body in the mirror and criticizing myself for what I perceived as flaws, always comparing myself to the models I could never completely imitate.

In addition to comparing myself to other girls on Instagram, I often compared my life in general to what I saw other people doing through their pictures. This made me feel emptier inside and increased my FOMO—which is the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting, or better than what we’re currently doing. This fear leads us to feel like we’re not doing anything productive or special with our lives because we’re comparing it with what we see other people doing on social media sites.  I never felt like I was having enough fun at the moment because everyone else seemed to be out living their lives to the fullest, while I was half-watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my couch while scrolling through Instagram on my phone. I’d see one of my friends post a picture of herself lounging on a beach in Rio, a picture of another friend skydiving, or a selfie of a friend posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, and every other imaginable activity that looked more fun than what I was doing at the moment. (By the way, these are all real life examples. I hate my friends and their awesome lives sometimes.)

I sat on the floor of my room one night wondering how I could get myself out of this problem. The solution was easy: get rid of it. I needed to get rid of the toxicity that this stupid app was causing me, and it was literally as easy as pressing a button. I decided right then that I would go a week without it and see how I felt about myself and my life.

The first day was the hardest, but even then it wasn’t too bad. I deleted the app from my phone the night before and signed out on my laptop, which helped me out a lot that day. The impulse to check Instagram came up so many times throughout the day by habit, but instead of feeling mad at myself or desperate to get back on, I found it funny and interesting to see how often the urge resurfaced. Staying away from the app was a small change, but I didn’t feel noticeably displeased with my body at all that day, since I didn’t have the venue to compare myself to anyone. I did notice myself thinking about different models and girls I followed that day, though, and thought it would be a good idea to unfollow all of them if I decided to use the app again.

Around day three, I started bargaining with myself. The mind is a tricky thing, and it tries to reason its way around what you resolve not to do, so it can get back into its comfort zone. I came up with weak reasons to go back on Instagram, like I thought my friend was going to tag me in a picture, and I told myself it would be rude of me not to go on and like it. But really, Instagram etiquette is trivial and I had to be strong against my own mind tricks. This was a small change in my life, but it was actually a big change in my behavior and daily habits, so it was interesting to find out what I’m capable of and how much self-control I could exercise.

By the fourth day, I started to really think about why I was doing this challenge and how bad I felt about my body. I talked through my self-esteem issues with my cousin and a couple of close friends and resolved to do more things with my life that made me happy internally so that I could feel better about how I looked externally too. I decided to do things that empowered me, like writing, exercising for my health more than my looks, and eating better. After this day, it was easier to finish the challenge without the fear of relapsing.

On the last day, I made up a few rules on how I wanted to use Instagram after the challenge so that I wouldn’t get back into my old habits of comparing my body and life to others:

  1. No “stalking.” No looking at who’s following whom, no looking at the Activity page to see what pictures my friends are liking. It’s none of my business and it doesn’t feel good to think about insignificant things like these.

  2. Unfollow all people I don’t know in real life. I just want to use the app to keep up with my family and friends.

  3. Only use the app at far apart intervals, maybe once or twice a week at most. This way I won’t use it as a constant distraction all day and can focus on what’s going on in the present, in real life.

I unfollowed everyone I didn’t know in person (at least 30 people) besides my favorite celebrities, even my super-fave-crush-models (I paused for a second to consider if I really wanted to remove two of them in particular from my life). I felt good. I avoided logging in all day because I was afraid of what it would be like, or if I would reverse all the progress I’d made. But going without something that was such a part of my daily routine taught me that as much as I think I need something in my life, or if I think I have a problem I can’t get rid of, it’s always possible to take small steps to get better. Getting rid of bad habits is a process that takes time, and most especially compassion for yourself. It’s not easy to change something about your life right away, so go easy on yourself if you mess up at first.

Post-challenge, Instagram is a lot less of a problem than it was for me before. I don’t use the app habitually anymore and delete it from my phone sometimes because it’s actually kind of uninteresting for me now. But now, I realize that Instagram wasn’t a problem I needed to work on as much as low self-esteem and jealousy were. Instagram was only a venue for me to compare myself to other people. I could take Instagram out of my life, but I can’t take away the comparisons in real life. Jealousy and insecurities are problems I know I need to work on, and I plan to explore them eventually.

I wrote this post initially as motivation for me to follow through with this mini challenge, but it was difficult for me to publish it because this problem is embarrassing for me. Why would I want all my friends (and strangers who might read my blog) to know how much I let a stupid app affect my life and self-esteem? As embarrassing as it is to admit I have this problem, I know it’s something other people probably struggle with too (to some degree—maybe not as intensely as I experienced it). If you’re going through some kind of emotional stress because of social media, know that you’re not alone. We’re going through uncharted territory by letting social media sites into our lives and their effects on our minds can be troublesome. It’s important to step back from these sites occasionally to make sure we don’t get sucked into them—to put our phones down, and remind ourselves of what we have in real life that makes our lives awesome, without having to share it with everyone online for it to be real.

Here’s a daily log I kept during the experiment, if anyone’s interested in seeing my process.

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Love Your Body Because YOGO

YOGO: You Only Get One.

“Why do you live in your body like you will be given another? As if it were temporary. You starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. Tell it that should be completely different. You tug at your soft flesh, wish it thinner, wish it gone. You fall in love with those who praise the way it sighs under their hands, but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?”

–Warsan Shir (I got this quote from Tumblr so I’m not 100% sure the source is accurate)

I came across this quote months ago and it touched me. I’ve gone through periods of my life when I hated parts of my body. Everyone always told me how skinny I was, but I didn’t see it. I saw a belly that covered the rock-solid abs I wanted. I saw boobs that weren’t big enough. I saw a big fat mole covering my face. And after gorging myself this summer, I see a butt that won’t fit into my favorite size 0 shorts, and thighs that ripped a seam in my jeggings.

Coming to terms with loving my body has been an uphill battle since middle school, but I’m getting there, slowly. This summer has helped me greatly.

Today I went to a follow-up check-up with a nutritionist I’ve been seeing for a few months. All summer, I’ve looked forward to this check-up because I got to tell her how much I’ve progressed this summer.

It started in May, when I saw the nutritionist because I thought I had an eating disorder (don’t worry, it was a false alarm). She told me, however, that I was very underweight (which I already knew) and that I needed to gain about 15 lbs to be healthier.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but the thought of gaining weight used to scare me, subconsciously, although it took me a long time to admit it. I’ll be honest, I was only 97 lbs and I’m 5’4. My body image standards probably stem from knowing that most of the women in my family are very thin and are around my height. And being constantly bombarded with images of beautiful women everywhere didn’t help either–from Victoria’s Secret commercials to those unrealistically thin girls on Tumblr with the huge thigh gaps, and images of skinny-yet-busty women are everywhere. You get used to it, but that doesn’t stop it from chipping away at your self-esteem.

So this summer, I decided to just say, fuck it.  Maybe I won’t be Victoria’s Secret Angel thin, but I’m going to eat, exercise, and have fun doing it. I started keeping a food journal, but eventually stopped because it was too tedious. I probably overdid the eating this summer (I’ll blame/thank my parents for feeding me so well and so much), but the exercising was the key to the increase in my self-love. I still have some body image issues (I mean, who doesn’t?), but what really helped me grow personally and love my body were exercising, eating healthier, and blogging.

I’ve never been athletic in any capacity, but I’ve been trying the less-coordinated sports over the summer. My 4 parents are all regular runners (my mom co-coaches a running group and my dad was training for a 50 miler this year) so their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I went for jogs with my mom and her running group once in awhile, which was really helpful because they’re all super nice and encouraging, strong women. Seeing women who are 20-40 years my senior kick my ass with endurance and distance was also a good motivator–if they can run like badasses in their 40s-60s, why can’t I do the same in my prime?

Running alone was also helpful for my positive body image and increased self-esteem. Not only did it feel super rewarding to push my limits without anyone but me to push myself, but it was a good opportunity to get some me-time and sort out my thoughts. I highly recommend running–but I’ll also add that people who don’t run very much should start out very small (as I’ve learned from Zen Habits about creating lasting habits). Running was also great for me because you can’t really mess up when you do it, unlike most sports. I have zero coordination, so running was a good way for me to stay fit without having to actually be that athletic.

Aside from running, I started really getting into yoga. Luckily there was an amazing deal for yoga classes at FIT House Davis, where I got to go to yoga for 10 days for $10. I’ve wanted to do more yoga before, but going with my mom and having a set time and date to go were great for getting me to actually do it. If you plan on getting into exercising, (whether it’s yoga, running, or anything else) I recommend going with a friend, family member, or any type of partner who you like enough to follow through with your workout meet-ups. A workout partner can help keep you accountable and can motivate you to actually exercise, since you have an obligation to meet up with them.

Yoga made me feel strong and healthy. I’ve honestly never sweat as much in my life as I did while doing Vinyasa (makes you sweat like a motherf*cker). I’ve also never felt as content with myself and my life as I was when I did yoga and meditation.  I promise to do a whole post about de-stressing and yoga/meditating later, but for now, I very highly recommend yoga to everyone–whether you have body image problems (you can get an awesome body quickly by doing yoga), stress issues, anger problems, and so on.

All the working out that I did made me really hungry. And personally, I don’t give a shit about being skinny when I’m hungry. We only eat vegan food at my dad’s house, and I don’t eat red meat at my mom’s house, so I ended up eating very healthy while I was back home for the summer. I missed the days of frozen cheap Totino’s  pizzas and bags on bags on bags of sour Skittles, but I got used to their absence when I didn’t have an opportunity to eat much junk-food with my family.

I have the biggest sweet tooth you’ve ever seen, but my tastes changed over the 3 months of healthier eating. I started craving fruit much more than candy. I ate the salads my mom prepared without complaining. I craved veggie burgers from the Habit instead of beef burgers. I only ate McDonald’s once all summer–a stark contrast to the weekly (often more than once a week) McDonald’s I had during the school year. If you make small changes in your diet, your tastes will change eventually, and your body will thank you for it in the long run.

Eating healthier and exercising got my me into good physical shape, but I wouldn’t love my body the way I do now if I hadn’t started this blog. Sorting all my thoughts into writing, sharing my stories with the world, and getting feedback on my writing increased my self-esteem immensely. It’s an amazing experience to hear people I know (and don’t know) tell me about how they’ve gone through the same things I have, or tell me that my advice actually helps. Just knowing that my advice is valid increased my self-esteem, and in turn made me feel better about myself overall–body image included. So I thank my super awesome readers for helping me on this journey; I wouldn’t be where I am today without all your love and support.

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I see so many girls around me–girls I love and respect so much–who all go through this same problem. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard my friends tell each other “ugh, you’re so skinny, I hate you” or “I wish I had a thigh gap” or flat out talk about how much they hate their own bodies. It makes me sick to my stomach to see so many beautiful women hate the way they look and in turn hate themselves. I’m sick of seeing guys say “girls, you’re beautiful no matter what” then talk about girls’ flaws to no end. It’s fake. But this is real.

To whoever is reading this right now, I want you to know that you’re beautiful. Even if you don’t think you’re beautiful by society’s unrealistic standards, just know that you are. So do yourself a favor: stop comparing yourself to others. We are all made the way we are genetically, so there’s really no use in hating yourself for something you can’t change. The problem isn’t the way you look, it’s the way ads and our culture that focuses on symmetrical perfection and unrealistic standards. So fuck the standards! Love yourself!

What makes you most beautiful is having a beautiful heart and really loving yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, be good to yourself, and be genuine towards other people. That’s what makes you beautiful~

Lemme be your Zayn Malik gurl, because you don’t know you’re beautiful

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–Chloe