...currently writing from: Los Angeles, CA
“Hello, welcome. Can I please take your order?”
Everyone looked forward to getting their licenses so they could have more freedom and hang out with friends. I would pull up in my car by myself to the drive-thru window and there she would be, waiting to hand me three bags overflowing with everything on the menu — an order of no jalapeno nacho cheese fries with secret sauce, an extra red sauce value bean and cheese burrito, two hard shell tacos, a chicken soft taco, and a chicken jack quesadilla. And then I would secretly sneak all that food into my room, lock the door, and binge watch episodes of Gossip Girl while consuming every single one of those empty calories.
I did it because it made me feel comfortable. Because when your life is in shambles and the only thing in your control is what you can and cannot shove down your throat, you hold onto that. No one ever knew. No one had to know. And I was a rock star at justifying my behavior. It really was like this secreted relationship, and I became pretty exceptional at discarding all the fast food wrappers and little crumbs of evidence in other peoples’ trashcans, so it would never point back to the actual source.
Then you realize the only one you’re hurting is you.
I was hurting and confusing my body so much by in-taking thousands of nutrition-less calories in one sitting. Then afterwards, the food shame games were so intense that meal deprivation would occur for days to follow. Keep that routine up for a while, and it'll mess you up big time. Physically and psychologically. For the next few years, every time I looked in the mirror, I would be filled with disgust. I didn’t feel beautiful, I felt sloppy. I could no longer make out the girl who was supposed to be me in mirrors and photographs. She was barely an acquaintance and I hated her when all she wanted to be was loved and called beautiful. But even so, the cycles continued to repeat. It was an addiction. Eat the food. Don’t eat the food. Eat the food. Don’t eat the food. It would happen over and over again until even that spun out of my control. Breaking those chains seemed impossible, and I was left standing there with my fists clenched tightly, furious at the mirror for disappointing me.
I don’t recall the exact day or moment or thought that came across my mind. Maybe it failed to exist. But the fact that I was substantially torturing my body and mind because of my distorted relationship with food, really shook me up once I came to terms with what I was actually doing. I don’t know how I got to be so wrong too – because somewhere in between there, I had persuaded myself to believe that in order to be “beautiful,” you had to strive for whatever physical standard society had generated for the world to follow. So dumb. But even so, there was nothing I coveted more than to snap out of whatever spell I had been trapped under for so long - even if it meant completely jumping ship. So naturally, my brain took a complete 180-turn, (Because sometimes, I am an extremist.)
Enter Google search.
“How to torch belly fat fast and blast fat.”
“How to slim your legs without building bulky muscles.”
“Best foods to eat to boost your metabolism and burn calories.”
“How to thin thighs and rid cellulite.”
Enter “Being Healthy” bookmark tab in Chrome.
“Thin Thighs in 30 Days, Exercise Tips”
“Lose leg fat: Thinner Thighs, Tighter Butt”
“24 Fat Burning Ab Exercises: No Crunches!”
These searches and saved articles are absolutely real. I have spent countless hours constructing routines and workouts, modifying “21 Day Fix Beach Body” along with “Jillian’s Brazil Butt Lift,” and revamping old tennis drilling techniques with a few sides of cardio and resistance training to cater to myself. Not going to lie; it has done wonders. But shedding pounds, tightening your abs, and doing a hundred squats a day does not make you more beautiful. It builds your athletic endurance and you become “more toned.” And maybe you can remain on the tennis court for four hours like when you were a teenager and not feel wrecked, but it does not make you more beautiful.
I am pleading guilty.
I have gone off the deep end: both ways. I have teeter-tottered, walking fine lines of binge eating obsession and then turnaround to fixate on gyming and physical activities like nobody’s business. For the record, neither end of those spectrums proved to be fulfilling. Ever.
The truth is: An imperfect society has formed this idea of “perfect beauty,” which really just means their idealistic views of beauty are beyond flawed. We are letting things like mirrors and people influence whom we are, what we become, and how we view ourselves when we really should center on how God sees us; valued, worthy, and BEAUTIFUL.
I’m over playing mind games with a silly piece of glass.
Dressing room mirrors make me to cringe because of how incredibly inaccurate they are. It’s not body image dysmorphia. It’s called physics. Bend the glass one way, and it’ll make you look smaller. Bend it another way, and it’ll make you look wider. And don’t forget about lighting, because science has proven that any type of soft lighting is always more forgiving than fluorescent lighting. How crazy is it that a silly piece of glass with a reflection on the back can forge so much destruction to the ways we survey ourselves, collapsing to its deceitful mocking time after time.
But then – I can’t help but wonder: If the mirror were absent, would we still conjure negative thought about our bodies? Probably.
So maybe it was never about the mirror to begin with. Maybe you’ve been playing this game of soul wars the entire time, internally battling with the image staring straight back whenever and wherever you are forced to make eye contact with it. You’ve been wearily trying to earn love in all the wrong places, when nothing needs to be earned simply because Love already loves you—for you.
It’s time to start shattering things.
Break the mirror if you need to, but then proceed to break yourself: the self-hating thoughts, the dirty subconscious lies, everything you’ve whispered to yourself about how you don’t measure up to the girl blessed with “perfect” bodily proportions and “perfect” lines in a gracefully front-splitted handstand inverted next to you on her lavender and white chevron printed yoga mat. Because there is nothing about her that is perfect except for the truth that she has intentionally been created perfectly imperfect. And darling, so have you.
God has been teaching me about balance, which I’m realizing is a lifelong process. You see, I can have my scoop of Madagascar Vanilla Bean ice cream in my cold brew coffee without obsessing over how many grams of sugar or carbs I’m consuming.
But, it is also very okay to make conscious efforts to build a physically healthier version of myself. Staying healthy and being beautiful are two completely separate concepts. So perhaps, how the world measures beauty is a bunch of B.S. and what it tells us about how “health equates to beauty” or that “you’re only beautiful if your body looks a certain way” is a bunch of absurd sugarcoated lies. Throw all those mendacities out the window and it just might be a possibility...
...to HAVE your cake... and EAT it too.
- Juliann Cheryl