When I look in the mirror, I am not happy. Despite losing around 30lbs last year I have this persistent, annoying, little lump of tummy fat that sits right under my belly button. It’s the bane of my existence. I do all my shopping around it (high waisted pants are a blessing) and often convince myself out of empowering outfits because of it.
I crave celebrities with bodies like mine, or bodies that move like mine. Movie stars with some stomach chub and porn stars with extra weight on their tums become glowing beacons of self-esteem. “I’m not ugly! I can still be sexy the way I look! No, I AM sexy the way I look.”
So, when I saw Lady Gaga on stage at her recent Super Bowl performance, jumping around in silver shorts, I was elated. There it was, a stomach like mine, doing it’s thing on stage in front of a huge stadium and hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Lady Gaga was my ideal body in middle and high school. Coincidentally, high school was when I began to show signs of having an eating disorder. I would stare at photos of her from music videos as I sat in the cafeteria surrounded by friends eating, ignoring the rumbling in my own stomach. If I avoided enough food, and kept up with the hour of light cardio every day, I could look like her eventually. I gave up before I graduated.
In college, I tried again. For a while I ate less than 500 calories a day. In about two months I had dropped almost 20lbs. A few months later, 10 more pounds. I worked out obsessively for months, ate little, and dug my nails into the lump of fat I carried around with me everywhere. I hated it and just touching it filled me with daydreams of finding some way to get rid of it; cutting it off, scrapping the fat out from inside of me, even the occasional blip of suicidal thoughts. All because of a bit of skin a little bigger than my hand that did quite fit with the rest of my body.
Instead of body types like mine and Gaga’s, young people are surrounded by perfectly slim models. In recent years, many body positive campaigns began highlighting the “right way” to be fat; angular faces and clearly defined curves. Yet it is still rare for campaigns to show something other than those two levels. Anyone outside of those two groups get left out. When I was 30lbs heavier, I didn’t really have a physically similar role model and now, 30lbs lighter, I still struggle to find same shaped bodies. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take a toll on me (an obvious lie, since throughout this piece I’ve referenced my eating disorder a few times).
I have been trying to love my body more these last few months. I’ve been trying to work through the guilt I feel when I eat, and the hatred I feel towards how my skin fits me. While I may not be completely over my eating disorder, the journey just got a little easier knowing that this woman I tried to starve myself to look like, now looks like me.