Editor’s note: Discussions of weight loss, overeating, and eating disorders. Please be aware if these are triggers for you. 

Body positivity has become a fairly large movement in recent years. One I fully support. It’s about time that there isn’t just one accepted type of body. Fat people have long been surrounded by stigma just as people with eating disorders have too. Finding myself stuck in the middle of the two, I wonder if it’s possible to balance them without making my anxiety worse. 

Food is the thing that has always been a constant. The thing that I can count on when life gets tough. That feels like a warm hug when all I want is to disappear. Food is my ultimate pleasure. It’s how we bond and connect with others. It’s different from culture to culture and those differences shape our experience within each tradition.

Growing Up, Everything Revolved Around Food

Growing up in the South, literally everything revolved around food. We considered a special dinner a more worthy birthday gift than money. Reached a goal? Food to celebrate! Didn’t reach a goal? Food to wallow. Every holiday, birthday, event, funeral, whatever, there was always the most important question: What are we going to eat? 

This all seemed so normal to me. And, since I wasn’t fat, it wasn’t a problem. Or, at least that’s what I thought. 

On top of this, I’ve always been a thick but athletic girl. Even in high school, playing volleyball and softball and in the best shape I’ve ever been in, I weighed 150 pounds while it felt like everyone else was sitting around the ever-coveted 120-pound mark. 

But I was proud of my strength, my muscular thighs, the way guys would look at me in the gym not because they were necessarily attracted to me but because I was lifting more weight than they were. So, my weight was never really a concern of mine. I probably had better body positivity as a teenager, which is ironic, to say the least.

I was proud of my strength, my muscular thighs, the way guys would look at me in the gym not because they were necessarily attracted to me but because I was lifting more weight than they were.

As I got older, life became more complicated and mental health struggles were more prominent but food was still there, the ever reliable constant. Never having been skinny, it seems that my weight crept up on me and I didn’t even realize it. A few pounds here and a few pounds there didn’t really seem like anything at the time. 

See, I never thought I was fat. 

I mean, sure, I had the internal dialogue with myself that unfortunately a lot of people do where I would feel fat, but I didn’t actually think I was overweight. And, it wasn’t that I was opposed to the label fat because I definitely believe there’s a very strong empowerment that comes with owning it. No, I wasn’t opposed, but I was in denial. 

Realizing I Had a Binge Eating Disorder

I had a terrible relationship with food probably my whole life, but it never clicked. And, wow, did my internal conflicts spiral when it did. 

I’d always been a strong advocate of body positivity and would encourage others to love their own bodies. To wear whatever they wanted, and for others to not fat shame anyone. Yet here I was, realizing I was at the receiving end of my own advice.

As much as I wanted to believe this message, my mental health is flaky and my approval of this movement has led to making some pretty good excuses about overeating. It’s a slippery slope for me. I can justify eating one donut, but that one donut easily and quickly turns into a dozen donuts later. 

I’m not sure at what point exactly I realized I had a problem, but I’m going to guess it was somewhere at the end of a dozen donuts. 

I’m not sure at what point exactly I realized I had a problem, but I’m going to guess it was somewhere at the end of a dozen donuts. 

Binge Eating Disorder is marked by regular episodes of eating a large amount of food in a relatively short amount of time with a feeling of loss of control during the eating episode. It can also include: Eating more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating alone out of embarrassment, feeling guilty or disgusted by overeating, and more. 

It’s hard to escape the allure of food. It’s nourishment. It’s a necessity. You can’t simply avoid it. Which is also one of the ways I’ve justified it. Well, I have to eat, I may as well eat what I want, is a common thought in my mind. But my theory on eating was bordering on the verge of hedonistic.

Could I accept that I had a problem with food, but also love my body? Is that even possible? It certainly may be possible, but my anxiety disorder doesn’t make it easy. It’s hard for me to have a healthy relationship with food while also wanting to eat using the rationale that my size doesn’t define me. 

Food is My Friend. Food is My Enemy. 

I’ve always described myself as being contradictory in almost every area of my life including my eating habits. My internal dialogue sounds a little something like this: Food is my friend. Food is my enemy. I feel fat. I love my body the way it is. I should get healthy. I don’t want to fall victim to diet culture. 

This extremely weird and anxiety-inducing limbo between wanting to love my body but also not wanting to be fat has created a great deal of overwhelming stress. Balance is not something I do well. I constantly feel pulled between the two ends of the spectrum. Cue my anxiety. The anxiety leads to me eating to calm my anxiety. Then that creates more anxiety. It’s a vicious anxious eating circle. 

I’m slowly trying to realize that body positivity for me looks different than what I thought it would or should look like. For a long time, I thought that meant I had to love everything about my body, fully accepting every pound and stretch mark. 

Instead, it’s okay if my body positivity looks different from someone else’s. Just as there isn’t a one-dimensional definition of health, there isn’t a one-dimensional definition of body positivity. 

The anxiety leads to me eating to calm my anxiety. Then that creates more anxiety. It’s a vicious anxious eating circle. 

Part of my journey has to be accepting my complicated, contradictory self. That while I fully support body positivity, the dismantling of diet culture, and the eradication of fatphobia, I still struggle with accepting my own body. 

It’s accepting that I have a bad relationship with food, that my mental health makes it more difficult to navigate, and that sometimes, it’s okay if I don’t feel 100% okay with my body. 

Guilt and anxiety are detrimental to my eating disorder more than anything and accepting my imperfections whether they be physical or mental eases those feelings.

Overall, it is a continuous journey. One that will always take mindfulness and work on my part. I do want to lose weight so that I can do all the active things I love doing without needing to take a break and so I can continue to be medically healthy. 

I once used to think that wanting to lose weight was a betrayal of my support for body positivity, but I now realize that accepting that I want to lose weight while doing so in a healthy way is at the very core the definition of loving myself. It is my hope that I can find healthy and sustainable eating habits while loving myself every step along the way.