In today’s North American society, the topics of body image and weight are on the tongue of every individual regardless of gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and even age (childhood obesity and playground bullying, anyone?).
School is starting and I'm feeling mixed emotions about this. The great thing is that I will be back at my university studying what I love best - nursing. The workload is heavy and tough but I love learning about my future career. I love seeing my friends and having a good laugh. I enjoy practicing my skills on dummies (it actually is pretty fun...!)
For some reason, I often feel that I am the best version of myself during the summer. I feel less stressed, I get outside more, and I become more carefree and accepting of my appearance. So when September arrives, I begin to experience mixed emotions. While I feel hopeful and optimistic for the new season ahead, I also feel sad to see the end of warm, happy summer days. However, all of this is somewhat of a new experience for me.
Recently, I enjoyed a visit from my sister. She has lived in Tokyo for the past six years, but always manages to get in at least one annual visit to the homeland, usually in August. The visit itself was not out of the ordinary; what was of note was my reaction and feelings during it. I've finally come to the point where I'm not comparing myself to her all the time, not feeling "less than," but actually respecting our individuality. My sister is three years younger than I am; both of us are bright, but she always seemed (to me) to have the upper hand.
I was recently reflecting on how the current social ideals of over-consumption and indulgence can coexist and, in fact, thrive in a society that also proclaims that restraint and thinness are the keys to happiness. As part of this dichotomous reality, there appears to be a new and growing trend among young women to engage in binge drinking episodes as well as to adopt extreme dieting and weight loss routines.
Let me introduce myself: my name is Brooke, I'm a mom (still very awesome to say), wife, sister, daughter and graphic designer extraordinaire. I battled bulimia and anorexia for many years and I'd like to say that I've kicked ED out of my life, but I know that he still lurks around when I'm vulnerable.
She could be the next Einstein, a world class athlete, or your friendly neighbour but if she’s what North American society deems to be ‘attractive’, the only thing the media cares about is how X product makes her eyelashes ten times fuller, Y shampoo makes her hair voluptuous and sexy, and that her tennis uniform is flattering. The message is that we should envy her because she has something we should all desire: the face, features, and body society defines as ideal.
During my one-year experience with anorexia nervosa, I had nightmares every time I went to sleep. None of these dreams were about weight loss or body image. Instead, they all portrayed a complete loss of control. Suffocation and incarceration were nightly themes. But, in particular, one storyline recurred when I was asleep and even during daydreams:
I've been reflecting on how much my body image has improved in the last few years (amazing as I'm "over 35".) We were doing an exercise on body image in a group last week and I was surprised with my positive thoughts and feelings about my body. I like the way my jeans fit now and how my arms aren't so skinny. I shun fashion magazines and the "heroin-chic look” of some models. Fifteen years ago, I thought I was huge at this weight. Now, it feels right. Had I finally learned to love and accept my body?
My writing generally invites people to take a look inside my mind but today, I invite you to look inside my old closet. It was full of clothing that was every size under the sun.