From Wikipedia: “Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD, also body dysmorphia, dysmorphic syndrome; originally dysmorphophobia) is a type of mental illness, a somatoform disorder, wherein the affected person is concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of their physical features” (read the full article HERE).
I’m not sure when I noticed it. It might have been while I was IN Japan, it might have been after I got back… but one thing is certain: I spent a lot of time in Japan thinking about how ‘overweight’ I felt. Which is just plain ridiculous, since I am actually at an ok weight. I’m not even considered ‘overweight’ by the BMI scale, which is hopelessly skewed and outdated in today’s world. It’s absolutely ludicrous, downright ridiculous, actually, that I should ever feel ‘overweight’. I’m not. I was previously, but I’ve since come back down to a ‘manageable’ weight since then.
I don’t know what did it. I specifically remember feeling this way last year in Japan as well. In my own defense, last year I WAS heavier than this year, and I am certainly ‘curvier’ than the other girls who were there. This year, as last year, I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else. I was competing only with myself, as I’m prone to do. I’m not competitive with other people, and I haven’t been for a long time. In fact, I HATE when I realize that other people are competing with ME.
It’s funny to think back to high school. I had a lot of female friends, and we were all about the same size (this must be the case, since we traded clothes on the daily). But because of my curvy, muscular form (I was a soccer player and track runner for the school, and in fact played soccer for 18 years altogether), I always felt ‘fat’ in comparison to my skinny girlfriends, who spent all of their time complaining that they were fat. If THEY were fat, then what did that make me?
There are two photos of me that stand out in my mind from that time period, both photos of me in a bikini during two different summers in Ocean City: In the first, I’m 13 and on the beach with my father and sister. I’m wearing a bikini that DEFINITELY shows my age, and am amazingly thin. I’ve got my arm in the signature ‘I’m self conscious about my midsection’ position, against my stomach and across it. The part of this photo that effing KILLS me is the amazing 6-pack that you can see below my arm. I was 13 with a damn 6-pack from all of the soccer and softball I was playing. I was in peak form and felt ‘fat’, because no one else I knew looked like that.
The second photo was taken 2 years later, on a trip I took with my three girlfriends. All of them are beautiful, blonde and taller than me, and are rail thin. I, on the other hand, am shorter, dark-haired and curvier than them. The photo is of the 4 of us on the beach, lined up and laying/leaning in the sand for one of those ‘scopes’ photos. I’m in the front in a bright green bikini, and I specifically remember feeling like ‘the whale in the front’ when the photo was taken. Except, to look back at that photo now and remember that feeling, all I can see is the 14 year old with the AMAZING tits and killer abs. Again. I definitely looked the oldest out of all of them, when I was, in fact, the youngest.
I can’t believe how critical I was of myself then, and I find it funny to think that all of these years later, I’d do anything to have that body back. I’m not sure if I’ve gotten any less critical over time, but I certainly recognize when I’m being critical, or overly critical, nowadays, which isn’t something that EVER happened back then (the realization part).
So I think about those things when something like the other day happens.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I LOVE to look at myself naked in the mirror. I LOVE to prance around my house naked, no matter WHAT I weigh or how I’m feeling about my body. I have a (patented) ‘naked dance’ that I do whenever I get to be naked, which includes shaking my ass and sticking it out as far as I can, while simultaneously pumping my arms up and down as if I’m punching the sky as I shake my hips from side to side.
It’s a part of my daily routine to check myself out nude in the full-length mirror outside of the bedroom before putting any clothes on. I’m not looking for changes, I am seriously JUST checking myself out. I am really a dude sometimes. If I had biceps that were big enough, I’d kiss them more often than I currently do. I’d certainly flex them more.
So the thing that happened the other day, was that I had a look at myself in the mirror, about a week after coming back from Japan, and it struck me that I’d lost some weight. This is, again, never what I’m looking for or checking on, but that was the day’s observation (usually it’s something along the lines of ‘dear lord, I LOVE my tits’). I hadn’t weighed myself since leaving for Japan, so I went to do it then. I was shocked to see I’d lost 2 lbs. That’s not much in the grand scheme of my daily fluctuations, but the change was noticeable enough in the mirror for me to check.
I went back and looked at myself after seeing the number on the scale (no doubt thanks to 2 weeks of rice and veggies and being a social vegan with the ladies in Japan) and gave myself a mental bitch-slap: I’d been in Japan feeling MAJORLY self-conscious of my body for two weeks, and look at me! My body is bangin’! SO banging, in fact, that my boyfriend even got a photo of it. Smartphones ftw.
Was it the mirrors at the Honbu? Was it the fact that there weren’t any good full-length mirrors in the apartment for me to do this with? Was it the fact that I was staying with 4 women who are the definition of ‘built like a brick shithouse’ and felt insecure by comparison? Was I mad at myself for NOT doing more than training 2 hours, and then riding or walking a minimum of 5k each day? What the hell was it? Why was I so effing self-conscious in Japan?
I don’t know. All I can think of is that I got my period in Japan, right in the middle of the trip. My body is NOTORIOUS for retaining massive amounts of water just before the big event, and then slowly draining during the following week. Couple that with the feelings of bloating that come just before, and I think it starts to make sense.
So, for two weeks out of every month (wow, great odds), I feel ‘overweight’ and unfit. HALF OF MY LIFE is spent feeling ‘overweight’ or like I’ve gained weight. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a serious problem, and not to be taken lightly. I am relatively sure that I don’t have that, since I never really fixate on anything and/or fantasize about plastic surgery. I’m chalking my issues up to ‘just being a female’.
Either way, this really, really needs to change. It’s something I’ve been trying to combat for the longest time. It’s to the point where whenever I think ‘ugh, I feel heavy’ or something to that effect, I usually do a mental calendar in my head of which week of birth control pills I’m currently on. I can’t believe I forgot to do that in Japan, it would have helped my issues a LOT.
I think we’re all our worst critics, and I say that ALL THE TIME. I think we spend so much time with ourselves, and our bodies, that we’re able to easily spot every perceived flaw. These are things that are flaws to us, that no one else even notices.
So… does anyone else have these issues? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone on this one.