I know it has been a while since my last post. I have been busy with personal training and with my BJJ training!
A few weeks ago while I was rolling with one of my Jiu Jitsu girls (who weighs the same as me) I jokingly mentioned that I was crushing her under my weight. While I laughed, she looked me dead in the eyes and said “Do you even see yourself?” And then we kept rolling. Many times after training, I have a tendency to just sit in my car before going home. Just to gather my thoughts and get ready for the (short) drive home. And this time, what she said really stuck with me.
That same night, as I was sitting with Ben, I mentioned something about how “big” my legs were but “that it’s okay because I am going to get them lean.” I guess he had also had enough of my self defamation and said to me “What are you even talking about? It’s like you see yourself differently than everyone else sees you.” At that point I had not even told him about what my friend had said. I told him what she said and all he said was “See!”
Well yes. Now I SEE that I am crazy. Ha.
The thoughts that entered my mind next were “F me man.” It is happening again.
Body dysmorphic disorder- A mental illness involving OBSESSIVE FOCUS on a perceived flaw in appearance.
This goes beyond saying “Oh, I need to lose this belly or tighten this up.” Disordered eating and BDD are serious. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) many people who suffer from BDD also suffer from social anxiety, depression, OCD and of course disordered eating. The symptoms of body dysmorhpia go far beyond common exercise or physical goals.
According to the ADAA, here are the symptoms.
People with BDD suffer from obsessions about their appearance that can last for hours or up to an entire day. Hard to resist or control, these obsessions make it difficult for people with BDD to focus on anything but their imperfections. This can lead to low self-esteem, avoidance of social situations, and problems at work or school.
People with severe BDD may avoid leaving their homes altogether and may even have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt.
BDD sufferers may perform some type of compulsive or repetitive behavior to try to hide or improve their flaws although these behaviors usually give only temporary relief. Examples are listed below:
- camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
- comparing body part to others’ appearance
- seeking surgery
- checking in a mirror
- avoiding mirrors
- skin picking
- excessive grooming
- excessive exercise
- changing clothes excessively
You see? It’s obsessive.
Now, I have been totally open about struggling with my past of disordered and binge eating disorder, purging and BDD, but the thought that this illness was creeping back into my life freaked me out. And how do I know for sure that it was creeping back into my life? Once I had my reality check, I realized that even though I thought I was completely okay, it had been affecting me for the past 6-8 months.
- Once you have this disorder, it will always be there. The key is managing it.
- Last year, I avoided getting in a bikini at all costs. I went to the pool ONE time. Spent 20 minutes swimming and put my clothes back on. I may have had a higher body fat than I do now, but I was still in great shape.
- I CONSTANTLY and I mean constantly checked myself out in the mirror. Every time I would walk by one I would look at these perceived deformities. Every time. I would then obsess about how to “make this part leaner” for hours.
- I have been wearing loose, baggy shirts. I haven’t worn shorts in a LONG time. And choosing an outfit that “doesn’t make me look fat” was next to impossible. If I felt fat, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere.
- If Ben touched my stomach, I would freak out. Even if it was just during a hug.
- I also developed a nervous habit of flexing my abs and sucking in. All the time. I literally can’t even help it. It was like a tick. Especially if I had been comparing myself to other girls who were “smaller than me.”
- I couldn’t even sleep on my side because I did not like how my stomach pooched out when I was in bed that way. It stressed me out.
- A few weeks ago my coach JOKINGLY called me fat (I have called him WAY worse) and in my mind I wondered if he really thought I was fat. His joke got to me.
I can literally go on. But that shit is crazy right? I am a HEALTHY 26 year old woman.
The next day, when Ben went to work, I looked in the mirror. Naked. At first all I saw were flaws. Legs that held on to fat, no abs (even though you can see a few now) and just a lack of “leanness”- yes I made that word up. The kicker? I weigh 132 lbs, and I am 19% body fat. Not the leanest, but definitely not fat. Another kicker? Even at my heaviest, I have never been what professionals consider “over-fat.”
It’s all in my head.
I have no idea when I began obsessing over the perceived negative parts of my body. But if I am totally honest with myself, I realize that I have always worried that people looked at me and saw the worst. That they saw all these things that were “wrong” with me. I also think that the fact that people are complete ass holes has contributed to it too. I mean I have been called fat multiple times (even when I had 17% body fat.) One girl called me pudgy trailer trash. Granted the girl who called me that was a psycho. To somebody with BDD, all I saw was the word pudgy. Nuts right?
After I sat in the mirror and counted the many flaws I found, I looked at myself again and said “Michelle, what. The. F***. Are you doing?” I can be hard on myself because I have been down this road before. I have been counseled and had my revelations. I knew I could not let myself keep sliding down this slippery slope.
I cried. A lot. One of the worst things to me is feeling like I set a bad example for others. I’m supposed to be “Fit Michelle.” Fit Michelle can’t be crazy.
Then I made a list. I had to remind myself of a few things.
- I do not eat or train for aesthetics anymore. I need carbs. I need fats. I need food to be able to keep up with my HEAVY training schedule.
- My legs may “hold on to fat” but they are also strong. They are the legs that let me sweep people in BJJ, hold them in my guard, and lift heavy day in and day out. They are the legs that let me kick the s*** out of bags and thai pads. They are the legs that allow me to do 200 unbroken squats after and hour of BJJ and an hour of MMA (the day AFTER leg day!)
- I am NOT fat. Not even. And I am getting leaner every single day. Just from putting healthy foods in my body.
- People do not see negative things about my body. I mean fitness competitors might, but who the f cares? I am not a figure competitor anymore. Most people tell me they notice my smile. My hair. My ass (really.) My perceived image of myself got totally skewed somewhere along the way!
- My dad has always given me words of wisdom mixed with tough love. He told me to grow some thicker skin, let the past be the past, and realize that I am really nice and if girls were talking about me, that they were total assholes or just jealous. Love my dad!
The point is, I had to and still have to constantly remind myself of these things. That I am beautiful. Strong.
Here’s how I manage-
I eat clean 95% of the time. When I eat poorly (or not enough), it truly affects my mentality. I love the feeling of being full and happy and knowing I am putting awesome foods into my body. I also love tacos and pizza and have refused to let myself feel guilty about having either (in moderation of course!)
I stay focused on my goals. To compete in BJJ and MMA. To be strong and healthy so I can set a good example for clients and others.
If I feel myself being negative, I remind myself of the things above. Sometimes I think “Oh, I am eating too many carbs and that is what is keeping me fat.” But sure enough, if I cut those out, I suffer. My training suffers. My sleep suffers. I am a bitch. I keep the carbs!
I have always trained a lot, so this hasn’t changed, but Jiu Jitsu is my outlet for my frustrations. If I am feeling down on myself, having an awesome training session usually lifts me right up!
It has taken a long time for me to be completely comfortable in my skin. And sometimes I slip up. But every day I wake up and realize how lucky I am to have the body I have. It truly is healthy and strong!
I am not a medical professional, and this is just my experience, but if any of this sounds familiar to you, please seek guidance and counseling. This is a serious illness that can lead to severe anxiety and depression if it continues without recognition and treatment.
Please check out this website for more information!