3 Lessons Learned from A Lifetime of Body Image Issues
TRIGGER WARNING: the following material may be triggering for some individuals - please read with caution.
I’m no expert on body image. Nor have I suffered from an eating disorder. I’m just a man antagonized by body image issues all my life.
Along the way, I learned some life lessons. I hope those suffering as I do will find them useful.
Everyone’s a Critic. You’re Always Too Fat or Too Skinny
It all started at a very young age. I was too tiny. The doctors, family and the bullies knew it.
Eventually, doctors declared it time to “put some meat on them bones.” This decree shaped my whole life.
I ate the best in rich, sweet and fatty foods. My parents, wanting what was best for me with the information they had, spared no expense. Taste buds rejoiced. Within a year or two, I went from classroom runt to the opposite.
Teasing, beatings and medical concerns remained. Only the insults and proportions changed. Big or small, everyone’s a critic.
Living through zero-tolerance schools as the nerdy fat kid was dangerous. You either take the beating or defend yourself risking expulsion. The teachers and administration were useless. I was lucky I wasn’t killed.
Bruises healed but not the mental anguish. Psychiatry in the 90’s was frowned upon. Besides, you never fully escape poor body image.
Dangers of Love and Low Self Esteem
I grew up and moved on. High school was far from my tormentors. I found friends and ex-girlfriends that remain in my life today.
However, mentally I was still that nerdy fat kid. I knew my place, my social status. People took advantage of this.
By University I met a beautiful girl. She was skinny, rich, popular and had a nice family.
In my twisted mind, she was above me. I wasn’t good enough. I was the beast to her beauty. She knew it too.
The next year and a half was a nightmare. She used her power to turn me against family and friends. I’m not proud of what I did and said. If I stepped out of line she would remind me who was master.
I couldn’t leave. She’s the best I could get. Besides she’s a professional liar. If things ended I would be made the monster. Who believes a beast over the beauty? This mental abuse had me long for those elementary school beatings. Those bruises people see.
Eventually, I was free and in a new city. In retrospect, leaving her was my first small step towards healing, but you are never free from body image.
Happiness and Healing is Everyone’s Right
I started my Masters a more confident man. Comfortable with my skin but not my fat.
I went on my first few diets but they were about losing weight and looking “better”. They were doomed.
I found love in my future wife, Tina. We helped each other through our body image issues as a team.
Soon, I saw myself as sexy. I liked my fat. Best of all, I looked in the mirror and old photos and I didn’t see a fat man. I’m a happy sexy man.
Just before the wedding I got bad news: diabetes. I was in shock but it is reversible. I just needed to lose the weight I started to accept.
This diet wasn’t about fighting for a lower notch on a belt. This time it was to enjoy a long life with my wife. I feel much better but the diabetes remains.
This time the diet is for my health. We all know; this diet isn’t for body image. This time my diet isn’t for losing weight. This time it’s for my health. It is for my health! It’s for my health? I know It’s for my health. I swear it’s for my health.
Shawn Wasserman (@ShawnWasserman) is the Internet of Things (IoT) and Simulation Editor at ENGINEERING.com. He has a Masters in Bio-Engineering from the University of Guelph and a BASc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.