How Does It Start? A Care Bear Tummy

How did all of this begin for me? What was the root? For some, that may be a difficult question to answer. For me, it’s not. While the watering of the seed, the growth of the disease, and my decision to actually start nurturing a disorder was a far more difficult question for me to answer, pinpointing the seed was not. For me, this all started with my rotund muscular gut that pooches out further than my tits. I have a Care Bear tummy.

But, everyone has one—not an eating disorder, thank God—but a part of their body they hate. Anyone with an eating disorder likely has three. Most people, healthy or otherwise, have some part of their body that they hate. But for someone with an eating disorder, we do not just hate this part. We loathe and despise it. We may often pinch, punch, or scream at it. If we could take a scalpel and cut it off our bodies, we would. No matter how much it might hurt or how much it might cost. There’s a reason they call plastic surgery cosmetic. It’s all about looking good; changing some part about yourself that you have decided is so hideous, so unacceptable, that you literally can no longer live with it. It must be surgically changed.

It may be tiny, wayward tits. Chunky blubberous fat around your tummy that jiggles hideously when you jog in place in front of the mirror (because we all do that). Pounds of cottage cheese on your thighs. Big, bulbous upper arms that have forbidden you from ever wearing anything short-sleeved.

For some, a raging, lifelong eating disorder can start as simply as there… One body part that is perhaps bulging out in a photo that you feel tells the world you are fat and unlovable.

Whatever yours is, this is the part of your body that you will always instantly shield once it is exposed, that is if you ever let it be exposed. It’s the area you pull and stretch clothing around every time you sit down or stand up. When you sit, you double over and cover it as best you can with your hands and arms. “Oh God, don’t look there. Look anywhere but there!” The thought of going to the beach, where people wear bathing suits, makes you nauseous because you know it will have to come, too: that stupid, despised part.

For me, as it is for many women and men who struggle with their weight, it was my stomach. My big, muscular, rotund stomach. While I am of normal height and build, my stocky gymnast body does have one very unfortunate downside. My ribs and hips are literally about six inches apart. I have a short, squashed boxy frame. With no beautiful curvy hips to stretch and thin out my stomach, it tends to protrude in one direction and one direction only. “Onward and outward!” shouts my tummy, leading the pack. I can literally push my tummy out and look like I’m six months pregnant.

I’m not kidding. I am a trophy-carrying Biggest Pooch award winner. It’s really a little frightening to watch. I’ve never measured it before, but I believe it protrudes about eight inches out from its normal position. Six to eight at least. It does this both when I push it out intentionally and when I forget to suck in. I can go from looking like a somewhat healthy, fit person to a total fatty by simply forgetting to suck in, which for normal people is about 98.2% of their day.

For some, a raging, lifelong eating disorder can start as simply as there… One body part that is perhaps bulging out in a photo that you feel tells the world you are fat and unlovable.

Looking back, I am so lucky my strong, amazing tummy stuck with me long enough to see me through all of the horrendous punishment I put her through and came out stronger and healthier on the other side. That’s not how it ends up for many people who ravage their body with eating disorders.

But, what do I always fail to mention, acknowledge or even remotely appreciate when I am bashing my despised part, my stupid, horrible three-rolled tummy? Its incredible strength. I have a super-solid, sporty core. I was a gymnast for years. I tumbled and cheered, launched and caught many of my fair share of stick-thin cheer blondes. I also played rugby some in college, and club soccer. Now, an adult in my mid-thirties, I am still capable of aerialist feats, adventure sports (kite-surfing, skiing, offshore sailing, and aerial silks). With all of the many thousands of pounds I have lifted and carried over the years, I have never once had a back problem. Why? Because I have a stodgy, pooches-out-when-I-sit core.

Now when I meet people my same age or not much older who—because of obesity, illness, injury, etc.—cannot walk up a flight of stairs, pick up anything over twenty pounds, much less surf, ski, hike, climb, dive, or swim, I am reminded how incredibly grateful I am to be healthy! Just healthy. I honestly can’t think of anything that my amazing body, which includes my muscular protruding gut, would prevent me from trying.

Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder […] Your life is worth so much more than whatever body part you are so furiously fighting.

Honestly try to imagine yourself laying in a hospital bed—perhaps after a car accident that has shattered your pelvis and legs, or with a progressive cancer that’s not likely to go away—and you would give anything to have the exact body you have now and would be damn proud of it. Let those tiny, wayward tits fly while you paraglide, mountain-climb, and surf. Who gives a crap if your thighs are jiggling as you run a marathon, play tag football with your kids, join a beach volleyball team, or go scuba-diving. All of the beautiful, captivating little fish down there who will mesmerize you don’t give a flying flip that your thighs are a little cheesy. So why should you? Enough at least to hide them, loathe them, or do terrible things to your body in the sole effort to excise them.

Looking back, I am so lucky my strong, amazing tummy stuck with me long enough to see me through all of the horrendous punishment I put her through and came out stronger and healthier on the other side. That’s not how it ends up for many people who ravage their body with eating disorders. It can end with heart failure, persistent electrolyte imbalance, irritable bowel syndrome, a colostomy bag (do you even want to imagine the rest of your life with that?), permanent ulcers, pancreatitis, osteoporosis, loss of hair and skin elasticity (I experienced that), rotted yellow teeth, and yellow fingers (check, check), not to mention horrific gastric rupture or tearing of your throat, assuming it doesn’t end in death.

Because it can end there. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t do that.

Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.

http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

Your life is worth so much more than whatever body part you are so furiously fighting.

 

Excerpt from the Prologue of What Goes Down: The End of an Eating Disorder, by Callie Bowld.

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