I grew up in a bigger body, and was constantly reminded of that fact. Those constant messages 'you are fat' or 'don't eat that' - as a youngster, the only way I was able to translate those messages was that I wasn't good enough. I felt worthless and ashamed because I was fat.
I walked around most of primary school years with my head held down because I wanted to be invisible and avoid the pain from the body shaming and teasing from the other school kids. By the time I was 20, I had used food as a coping mechanism for so long and continued to put on weight that my negative feelings towards my body had continued to become worse and worse. I would get told "oh, you'll do something about your weight when you are ready". But really, all I wanted, all I needed to hear was "you are enough, just as you are".
I felt that changing my body was the only thing I could do-to fit in, to belong, to be good enough. And so I started dieting and excessively exercising. And the obsession had begun, and then ED took over my life. I lost a significant amount of weight, but I was still unhappy with my body. And I was still being body shamed, this time for being too thin! So my attention turned to 'bulking up' and putting on more muscle. As I put on weight, my motive was not health, all of my behaviours were still being driven by ED and my negative body image.
But I finally did it - I had achieved the male beauty 'ideal' - I was shredded with a six pack.
And I was absolutely miserable.
I was in such fear of being fat again and experiencing the weight stigma that was so hurtful, that all of my decisions prioritised controlling my body, remaining 'shredded'. This was my crisis point. I wasn't living with purpose. I felt so disconnected from the world. Disconnected from everyone, including my wife. Disconnected from all of the activities I used to enjoy. I had to make a decision. It was either ED, or me-my very being, my true authentic self. I chose me. This meant that I had to really question and challenge my belief that my self-worth was tied to my body size. I asked myself "was my wife and family really going to stop loving me because I no longer had a six-pack"? I knew deep down the answer was no, but testing that theory was an extremely difficult challenge.
Unfortunately, I never sought treatment. I suffered in silence. And I struggled through recovery on my own.
Please know that you don't have to - help is available. But I made it, through the darkness. I put on weight. And no-one stopped loving me. But just as importantly, I started accepting myself. I no longer let my body define me.
I am enough.
You are enough.
Regardless of our body size, we are all worthy of love, of belonging, and of occupying space in this world.