Body dysmorphia, like most mental illnesses, have different tiers of severity. This article is not to judge anyone's journey, no one is next to you, no one is reading over your shoulder. This disorder is a very real disorder that can affect how you live your day-to-day life.
It is described as,
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health problem. If you have BDD, you may be so upset about the appearance of your body that it gets in the way of your ability to live normally.
Walking into every school I've ever been to I've been told that I'm "big."
Yes. They used the word, "big"
They wanted to use the word, "tall".
Being the "big girl" in school, who was also awkward because of the long limbs that if I'm being honest I still don't know what to do with half the time, made me feel like I had limitations. That there were things that I couldn't wear or things that I shouldn't do.
My high school was an arts high school. Think Center Stage with less boys. Why do I say this? Because I had to take dance. Not just any dance. Ballet.
They made the big girl take ballet and put on pink tights and a leotard and then put us in order of smallest to biggest. Staring at myself in the mirror I thought horrible things about myself that eventually lead to an eating disorder.
We are told daily that,
social media is a highlight reel, that even the “I’m going to be real with you guys” posts have been edited and filtered
that filters have been designed to generate the appearance of “perfection” that we will never see in real life.
- & that everyone is different & that's your freakin' super power.
We still compare.
By the way, it's human nature to compare. So don't beat yourself up.
What doesn't help is the fashion/modelling industry using tools like,
Padding to fill out the shape for their “plus-sized” models so that the mass only goes where it is deemed most attractive.
Heavy editing and doctoring.
I had this happen for a client on her branding shoot. When you looked at the edits jumping from photo to photo you could see the difference in the length & size of her legs and face!
- Models have been known to take drugs (like actual illegal, not Tylenol drugs) to speed up their metabolism or dehydrate themselves to stay slender.
You may be thinking that “oh, this doesn’t happen anymore.”
I showed at a fashion show in Toronto in 2018 (I think? I’m hazy on the actual date) where designers were in a competition using sustainable fabrics.
Coming off the runway a model was walking down the stairs, wobbled and fainted. Hit the ground hard and the beaded necklace she was wearing broke. Sending beads spinning everywhere. It turned out that she had decided not to eat or drink anything for the entire day so she wouldn’t be “bloated” for the camera.
I would like to mention that this woman was a model standard, 5'8 and a size 2.
She was also wearing a ballgown, you would have to have had x-ray vision to see through that dress.
So yeah, these things still happen.
They happen in small shows, they happen at big shows.
“Well, that doesn’t affect me. I’m not a model.”
Okay, fair enough. Answer me this, which category are you in?
Are you “straight-size”?
- but what if your hips are mid-size and your bust is straight-sized?
- but what if you have narrow hips and carry mass in your upper body?
Are you “mid-size”?
- but what if you’re athletic? You’re not allowed to be mid-size because this category is for “normal” bodies.
Now imagine being told that you don't belong in a category of your peers because your body is “strange.” That's what we hear, when we're not "normal" we must be the opposite. I think athletic bodies are very rarely considered, which is why I made a size chart and collection to reflect that.
How about “plus-size”?
- what is plus size? What if you’re only sort of plus size? Does that make you “Curvy” but not plus?
- what if only part of your body is plus?
Do you still know?
These categories, straight-size, mid-size, plus-size that are being pushed, although designed to bring awareness to the many types of shapes there are, are having the opposite effect.Here is me. Right now. In my messy studio. My shoulders are a standard size Large. My waist is a Medium and my hips are an XL. I weigh 198lbs and I have been told that I'm not straight size, I'm not mid-size and I'm not plus size. I have been told to remove hashtags and "find my lane." What is my lane?
Instead of embracing women for their shape women are being bullied because they don’t fit into the box that they’ve decided fits them the best.
Do you want to know what I think? Well, you’re still reading so I’m assuming yes.
A size is a communication tool for companies to know which collection of measurements you need. A size is math.
These categories, mixed with the peer pressure of choosing the correct box can also lead to a level of BDD.
- Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can't be seen or appears minor
- A strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
- The belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way or mock you
- Engaging in behaviours aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that is difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking
- Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
- Constantly comparing your appearance with others
- Frequently seeking reassurance about your appearance from others
- Having perfectionist tendencies
- Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
- Avoiding social situations
So what can you do right now if you’re feeling like any of this is hitting too close to home? What I did is I started wearing clothes that flatter my shape. Yes, I’m going to bring this around to clothes - why do you think I started a clothing line? When I started feeling good in my clothes and not trying to hide behind them I began to feel more confident. I began trying new things, like going to the gym (which scared the sh%* out of me as a teenager.) I began wearing shorts! Shorts always seem to be the devil garment, but I got you. Click here for the shorts.
That’s not to say that I don’t still struggle with food now and how my body looks. I do on occasion but I know how to fight those feelings. Here’s what I do,
1) cleanse your feed.
You don’t have to delete, just unfollow anyone who makes YOU feel bad about YOURSELF.
It’s your feed. You are in full control over what you chose to see.
This doesn’t mean you can’t follow them later, but setting boundaries is never a bad thing.
2) give yourself 3 words.
These are the descriptive words that your best friend would say when telling people about you.
No job title
No physical features.
3) Tell yourself out loud 3 things that you're grateful for about your body.
“I’m grateful that my body is able to walk me from place to place.”
“I am grateful that I’m able to play with my kid.”
“I am grateful that I’m able to walk up stairs to do laundry.”
4) Give yourself grace.
Every day is not going to be perfect and you’re not going to be motivated. There is a difference between quitting and resting.
For me I changed what "big" meant to me. Now I want to be big, I have taken it in the context of building muscle and changing my body into what I want.
How can you reframe elements of your body that make you feel good? Words have such an impact on our thought process. Simply by changing the words we use we can start rewiring our brains.