Just get used to it, already!
April 13, 2012 1:44 PM Subscribe
Why am I struggling to feel comfortable in my body, which has changed quite a bit over recent years? It's like my brain is stuck in "thin" mode but my body is constantly announcing that there have been new changes, like little alarms all day long-- even though the weight gain happened over the course of a few years. I don't even really mind the way my body looks, but I can't seem to get used to the physical feeling of being in it.
posted by mireille to health & fitness (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'll preface this by saying that I'm healthy and otherwise quite happy. The problem is that I've gained some weight-- and it's weight that I'm finally okay with-- but it isn't going to be going away, and I wonder if it's possible to mentally find a way to feel more comfortable physically. I'm sure I can't be alone in this. I've looked through other questions about body image and weight gain on AskMe and many of them are related to post-pregnancy body changes, to which the answer is often "But you made a whole other person! Go easy on yourself!" But that's not what happened for me.
I was always very thin but had strong dysmorphia; I was bulimic/anorexic in high school and the first part of university. That would have gone on longer except that I had an onset of rather severe bipolar disorder at age 18 and very quickly discovered that I could self-medicate with speed, cocaine, and pills. I spent the following decade+ with a crippling drug addiction, but I was thin and for a four-year stretch when I worked as a stripper, very fit too. I was a mental and emotional wreck, and much of the little self-confidence I had was related to my physical appearance. The best way I can put it is that when a Victoria's Secret commercial came on, or I saw a cover of Maxim, I was never uncomfortable because I saw more similarities than differences. There was nothing healthy about why my body looked the way it did-- I was very, very sick for a long time-- but it was my "normal" for most of my adult life.
I've now been clean and sober for almost five years. I've been meds-compliant for my bipolar disorder for the same period. Life is pretty good, very low-drama and quiet living and working hard. And I've also gained what for me feels like quite a bit of weight-- instead of being 104-114 muscular pounds on a 5'5" frame, I'm about 128-130 and considerably less muscular. I'm occasionally self-conscious but I've basically come to terms with wearing larger sizes than before. The way I've decided to look at it I've still got an hourglass figure, only now with more curves. I'm my husband's ideal body type! I'm healthy and probably look better! What do I have to complain about?
The problem for me is that to my body, this feels like an enormous difference and I'm physically uncomfortable. I wear clothes that fit my new shape, I just am so aware of my various body parts that it's constantly on my mind, and I'd like to spend a lot less time thinking about it and more time just living. It's like my brain still thinks I'm super-small and my body keeps sending signals that I'm suddenly less small (even though it's been years), and the two have this constant argument where I always lose. And then I have to tell my brain things that I spent a long time learning (much of it on AskMe), like that it's okay that my thighs touch, it's normal and doesn't make me a bad person so could you please tell my body to STOP POINTING IT OUT ALL DAY LONG.
Losing any of this weight (not that it's even necessary) just isn't going to happen-- a lot of it is directly caused by the psychiatric medications and changing them is off the table-- after years of streamlining I'm down to 19 pills each night and I'm not inclined to upset the balance that's been struck (the permanent damage to my metabolism may already be done, anyways). And it's taken me the last two years or so to figure out how to be okay with the fact that it's never going to go back to the way it was. Take my personal story out and you've also got the aging part that happens to everyone-- bodies never stay the same, and this is the way mine is now. I've done fairly well considering my personal lifelong warped body image (and most everyone has their own version, I know). I can work on toning but that can only help with the physical feeling part so much-- what I need is a brain re-wiring, where I physically adjust to this new normal and my brain stops announcing it like it's news. Is this even possible? Why hasn't it happened on its own yet? It's not like this all came about overnight.
The final difficulty is that therapy is not an option unless you can recommend one who deals with patients by videochat. The nearest therapist is a half-day's drive from where I live. I am originally a city girl myself and if someone had told me before I moved here that they lived this far away from anything I wouldn't have believed them, but it turns out that it is possible and you will just have to believe me. If anyone would still like to suggest a visit to the therapist then I can only conclude that you will not only accompany me on the weekly 10-hour round trip, but that you will also help pay for gas.
So.. anecdotes? Book or article recommendations? What can I do to make my brain and my body agree that everything is okay, nothing's wrong, things are actually arguably better, and make them be quiet?