13 December 2011

Body Checks: The New Calorie Counting

Body image, BDD, weight restoration, hatred of 'hippo pictures'......there seems to be a new theme of posts appearing that are moving away from the eating, from the calories and from the food.

This is another layer of my eating disorder being stripped bare and laid out for me to try and get my head round. Hang in there with me, I'm warning you, this one could take a while.........

So, I was sat in my therapist's office on Friday, holding my favourite pink cushion to my stomach, legs twisted and crossed up a blanket (it was EVEN cold on the ward, yes!) and sitting with my arm crossed across my chest, holding on to my cold, hard shoulder bone, you know checking it was still there.

I was brought out of my, "is there more fat on this, do my thighs look chubby today, I can feel my stomach fat, my leggings are digging in" thoughts by Mrs W announcing that she was going to start some work on 'BODY IMAGE' with me to work on my BDD and resistance to weight restoration.

Starting with telling me about the new 'Body Check' journal I have to keep.

Me? Body Check? I automatically wondered why I was having to do that "I don't do that, I don't body check" Unless of course, she's talking about taking pictures of my body or obsessing about old pictures or poking my fat stomach? Oh, those body checks. Right, here goes...

I suppose it was easier to ignore or not notice the checking and my body in general as much when my preoccupation was fully on food and calories. But recently, as my MPs are settling in, and food is out of my control, as I am gaining weight,  these body thoughts are creeping in more and more...they warned me. 

It just shows my inability to think about anything else to do with my ED when I was still restricting, when my whole life was consumed with the eating side of anorexia, the calories, the portions, the scales, the weighing of food, the starving. When I thought I wasn’t REALLY AN, it ‘was just about the food’ that I am just being a fussy eater.  I am realising now, it might not be that, I might be AN! It also reminds me how deep rooted these thoughts are. This plus the general confidence and body image side of things has taken priority over every other single aspect of my life. 

Realistically, the body checking started a LONG time BEFORE the starvation, it's these checks that led me to 'give in' and listen to my ED thoughts and change what I was checking. Am I just vain? Do vain people do this? Why do I do this? (I'd like to add here that I think this is where people think AN sufffers are just self obbsessed and vain and that is all it is - I don't think they consider that we use this as ammunition to HATE ourselves and drive me to starve)  I have always poked, prodded, taken photos to beat myself up about, spent hours, days even, in front of the mirror, hating every inch of my fat, ugly, disguising body. Hours of my life spent in the gym, in the swimming pool, distracted all the time by my fat. Self hate is so deep rooted in me that I don't even know what I look like any more. I have called myself a barrel, podgeo and a hippo for as long as I remember - and ALWAYS CHECKED for the bits of my body that confirm these nicknames. I still do

Now in recovery, after destroying my body to stop these daily, hourly, minute by minute checks I am worried about how much is going to come out from this body checking diary thing because today I haven’t recorded it all but it's constant. 

Every time I go to the toilet I hold my stomach and hope it goes down when I pee. I poke my belly and look at my fat belly button and when I pull my leggings or jeans back up I look at how my stomach looks In what I am wearing. I check my hip bones, front and back, I spin around to check how my butt is growing. When I am talking to friends or in sessions I cover my stomach with cushions and clothes and play with my shoulders and collar bone more than I realised I do. I notice when I was sat in Costa that I often sit up straight and feel my spine and hip bones from the back and although I said to Mrs. W that I didn’t think my legs bothered me I noticed how much I touch my knees and feel the tendons and ligaments behind the knee a lot and obsess with out my thighs look all squished and fat when I'm sitting down.

I also need to be HONEST with myself here, because I feel guilty because I know I take more picture’s of my body than I let on to Mrs. W too. It might not be a lot compared to how many I used to take when I was losing weight, but I know I take more pictures that other people probably do. To ‘check’ what I look like. But I suppose more than that I spend a long time looking back at old photographs, ones I took of myself specifically because of my ED, for my own thinspro for my ED and weight loss and also looking at pictures of days out before and during losing weight to try and figure out what I think about my body.

To put it in perspective, I don’t actually have enough space in my journal or time to write them all down. To write how often I look at my stomach, or glance in the mirror and tell myself I look awful and ugly or think about how thin my hair looks, the condition of my skin all my fat and everything. Every time I look in the mirror I give myself some sort of grief about how I look or I worry about how I look. Too fat but too ill as well and you know, not perfect. NBD right?

It's these new NBD moments of checking my body, always, always the bits I hate the most, which keep the spiral of self-hate alive. They are the NBD moments that make gaining weight scary, they are the checks that my ED drives my to do. They are the check, the preoccupation and the obbsession which should tell me I'm still battling AN, despite eating. The Body Check NBDs are the biggest NBDs now and this is where the real hard work starts. 

Anyway, I need to remember that every time I go looking for the bits I hate I figure out the same thing, I hate it. Not really a productive way to spend my life is it? I know the answer. 


  1. I think there's something to be explored by the "feeling the bones" concept. A sort of disconnect between the actualization of feeling what we feel -- and thus truly does exist... and what we see.

    By feeling the sensation of the bone it would follow logic that the bone is in fact there... and protruding. However, I think oftentimes people with eating disorders (I'm such an atypical patient.. so I'm speaking of others rather than of myself) don't connect this with the other parts of their brain when they "see" themselves... and see the distortedness...

    It's such an interesting thing, isn't it? It's accepted that the bones are there to be felt... but it's not at all accepted that they are visually capable of being seen... in the mirror there's a layer of fat over them...

  2. I find it fascinating and didn't think I had such a screwed image of myself.
    I am starting to 'see' the bones through the awareness of feeling and noticing them recently but DONT believe that I am anything more that 'thinner than i was' rather that 'emaciated' or 'looking anorexic' I just don't seem to put myself in that category or think I look 'that thin' that people think I look 'anorexic' when they see me. It's all about awareness of our bodies I think and I hope that in time and with continued work on this through sessions with CBT I will understand and accept and SEE more - not just feel!

    I find it frustrating and fascinating at the same time you know?

  3. Hello, this may seem a bit weird and random, but I've wanted to say this to you for a while but I can't message you on twitter for some reason!

    I am following you on twitter and have to tell you that your strength and determination is inspiring. But the main thing that I really admire you for is your HONESTY, not only about the bad things but when you have been successful too.
    Too many people are so quick to talk about their woes and troubles, which is fine, but sometimes it's easy to forget about the good steps too. You not only share when you have made a 'good' step but also how it brings up questions and fears,and you are willing to explore it, even though it may be incredibly hard. and through this I KNOW you will be successful in your recovery and will go on to make such a difference in this world. I apolagise if I am presuming too much, this is 100% my view, but I just had to share my belief in you, because sometimes belief from a total stranger can feel different then friends or familys belief. I hope that one day I will have the strength to embrace recovery in the same way. I know, through some of the guys I'm friends with on there who are amazingly supportive, that you have piles and piles of support, but I'm always here if you need someone new. :) Sami x