Changing My Vocabulary Helped Heal My Body Dysmorphia
“When you create a problem, you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision: no matter what happens, I will create no more pain for myself. I will create no more problems. Although it is a simple choice, it is also very radical. You won’t make that choice unless you are truly fed up with suffering, unless you have truly had enough.”
— Michael A. Singer, The Power of Now
I’d been creating pain for myself since I learned to criticize my body in the fifth grade — picking apart my flaws, exercising with the goal of “fixing” my body, and having an internal battle every single time I eat.
I am always aware of how my body looks.
I know exactly how my stomach looks in each outfit. I know the angles to pose in, the foods that will cause and lessen bloating, the diets, all of it.
Years of sucking in has become muscle memory, to the point where I’m now learning how to breathe properly from a speech therapist and a vocal coach.
When I went through a separation this year, the heartbreak was so heavy that I could no longer create any more pain for myself. It was during those few days after that I decided to cut the word “fat” out of my vocabulary.
I banned myself from saying that sentence, the one I’d been saying for a decade — “I’m so fat,” “I feel fat,” “I look fat.” I just stopped letting those words pass through my lips. And every time I almost said it, like a bad habit, I mindfully caught myself and said something neutral or positive to rewire my thinking.
One week without that word passed, and I was so proud. More weeks, then a whole summer passed — the most painful and transformative summer of my whole life — and I didn’t even think about saying it aloud.
I was and still am my biggest critic, constantly noticing everything that I can “improve” about my shape, and I’m still deconditioning that.
But I cannot emphasize enough how astounded I was at the immediate shift in my feelings as soon as I changed how I speak to my body.
I had to experience life without the word “fat” in it to truly understand how hard I’d been knocking myself down every single time I used it as a weapon against myself.
I felt like I’d freed myself from a bully that existed inside my head. Every time I’d asked someone if I looked fat or called myself fat, I was completely giving my power away. I wanted so desperately to not look fat, but at the same time I was looking for affirmation that I did look that way.
It was this twisted way of thinking that I believe is actually a call for love (and it’s very, very human).
My relationship with my body is still a battle, but it’s now a battle that I approach with softness when I’m mindful enough to remember to — and I am remembering so much more often than ever before.
There were a few times at very low, seemingly powerless moments over the past few months, when I let it slip and called myself fat in front of a friend. The difference was, when I said it, I didn’t believe it like I used to — it was as if the moment I let that energy out of my mouth, the thought had less power. It became smaller as I observed it leave my lips, and I moved on. I let myself break my own rule but I didn’t punish myself.
Those blows to myself were reminders of why I don’t fight fire (my thoughts) with fire (my words).
The words that you speak to yourself are more powerful than you even realize. Once they’re taken away and loving words are introduced, the quality of your entire life becomes more beautiful.
I realized that my voice is my superpower or my greatest detriment. It holds the power to lift me up and heal me, or it can tear me down into bits and pieces over time.
This has left me believing I’m powerless and looking for love in anything outside of myself, when I’d just forgotten that I’m the one with all of the infinite love that I crave.
I’m remembering now.