CW: Disordered eating, discussions of body image

Happy 2023 friends. It’s officially that time of year again. As I scroll through social media, I already see fitness influencers are capitalizing on everyone’s “new year, new me—I’m going to lose 10 pounds” narrative. The new year comes with a lot of messaging around reinventing yourself, which often centers around re-engineering our bodies. It’s because of this very idea that ringing in the new year is, to me, a horrible reminder of how social media can affect my own relationship with my body. 

Growing up, I was on the smaller side. I was 5’4”, with a small frame—but what most people don’t know is I  silently struggled with my relationship with food. My weight would fluctuate often. If I was stressed or going through something, I’d lose my appetite entirely and suddenly drop10 pounds.I would go days without eating, on the verge of fainting at any second, all while pretending everything was okay.  

It was a cycle that I got used to for my body. 

Unfortunately, life is always full of new stressors so this cycle between “normal” eating and disordered eating would happen monthly.

It was definitely a tough time in my life. I knew my body wasn’t okay. 

However, on top of already struggling with my natural stress response, I had a new challenge to face—the validation I received from others for harming my body. This was one that took me a while to wrap my head around.

Every time I was down in weight, everyone around me would continuously praise me and tell me how good I looked. “Oh my God, you’re so skinny! You look so great. How did you do it? Tell me your secret, I love your body.”

My disordered eating was met with so much positivity that I started to feel like this is what I should look like. It made me feel like what I was doing was a good thing. 

For me, this speaks so much to the fatphobia present in our society. We look at any weight gain as a downfall when in reality, weight gain is normal. Our bodies are meant to fluctuate as we eat and take on life. Our body responds in ways to take care of us and whatever our body looks like, it is still amazing.

I knew it wasn’t good for me. My body was seriously lacking nutrients and I was putting myself at risk everyday—but the compliments were so addicting. I loved being the one that people called “body goals”, but I wasn’t ready for the mental and physical toll it would take on me.

For years I continued to starve myself, searching for acceptance from society and those around me. Any time I would go up a few pounds—which happened all the time—I would spiral. My relationship with food and my body had been ruined. I developed body dysmorphia, a mental illness which distorts one’s view of their own bodies and causes them to hyper-fixate on what they see as their flaws. It often triggers other unhealthy behaviours.

For years, January was a trigger to start my cycle of starvation again. The holidays always came with indulging and followed by a giant crash on new year's day. 

Healing when everyone around you is praising your disordered changes is difficult. It’s hard to break away when everyone around you is making you feel good when inside you’re hurting, but the only opinion that matters is your own.

You know your body the best. You know when your body is getting what it needs and when it isn’t. Outside influences are irrelevant. Easier said than done, I know. However, for the past few years I’ve been trying to shut out the societal narratives and focus on loving myself and my body for all it is.

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of ‘Body Positivity’ posts, but for me, the first step to loving the skin I’m in was practicing body neutrality. Body Neutrality puts the focus on looking at your body for its abilities and accepting it for what it is. It’s okay not to love your body all the time, we all have good days and bad days. However, the body we have will be the only one we ever get and it’s important to trust that it’s able to do its job.

Some things I implemented to help feel better about my body was first, unfollowing celebrities and influencers on Instagram that made me feel the need to scrutinize myself. It doesn’t mean you can’t search them up and stay up to date on all the gossip, but you just don’t need to see filtered bodies of people who have millions of dollars, trainers, time and the resources to look like a supermodel all the time.

Also, get rid of the scale. Numbers mean nothing. The scale drove me nuts and triggered spirals for me all the time. I’d check my weight and input it into apps to find out how ‘fat’ I was. Turns out, BMI’s aren’t even accurate at predicting body fat. Each body is unique and what is a healthy weight or ideal is different for each person.

Finally, take the time to appreciate yourself and your body. Look in the mirror and tell yourself something you like about your body. Start off with one thing and see if week by week you can make it up to ten things. You’d be surprised how much of a difference acknowledgement can make.

The body is incredible. It’s your source of energy, sensation, pleasure, pain, and everything in between. You only get one and what it does is magical. 

This new year, you don’t need a new you. If you feel healthy and happy, outside opinions don’t need to ruin that.

About the author

Jessie Brar

Jessie Brar (she/her) is a writer, public speaker, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion professional and Mental Health Activist. She graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Psychology and has worked with several notable organisations worldwide to help raise awareness around important social justice topics and advocate for change. She is deeply passionate about her intersectional identities and is committed to being a life-long learner through her work. Check her out on Instagram - @jessieebrar.

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