Childhood Triggers

It is always difficult to try and figure out where all the oddities of your psyche come from; so when it comes to something like an eating disorder, it is hard to know where it started. However, I do have a few memories that stick with me. I started to put on weight when I hit puberty sooner than the other girls around me. There was another time when one of my friend’s parents bought me a skipping rope so I could “lose weight”. I must have been eight or nine years old. I just remember feeling like children, adults and general people alike, thought less of me because I put on weight when I was just a child. By the time I was twelve years old I was constantly enveloped in how much I was eating and how much exercise I did. Whatever I ate, I had to burn it off as soon as possible. It was pretty much all I thought about.

 

Body Image & Media

A huge part of my body image issues had to do with popular culture: there wasn’t many magazines when I was growing up that had woman who looked like me in it. My mother and I were both into fashion and she had had a massive Vogue collection. I remember that everyone was white, tall and skinny. I don’t think the fashion industry truly takes into account what it does to young people when they don’t see an array of people who represent and look like them. As a child if you are constantly bombarded with images of one ideal, it seems logical that you would strive to be that ideal even if it is not who or what you are.

Fast-forward to now: twenty-one years old, plus-size modelling and still having to fight against going back into my old ways. That’s the problem with eating disorders; it doesn’t ever truly go away. You are just constantly fighting against it. There are some days when food is something I don’t want to go near and I force myself to eat because I have to do that to survive. The eating disorder turns you into an autopilot state and you have to fight against it. I am naturally controlling and an eating disorder fits very well with a controlling personality like mine.

 

My Eating Disorder Was Built From the Ground Up

When I decided I wanted to model it was perhaps an act of defiance on my part. I wanted girls to see me and think that a short, dark-haired curvy girl was also allowed to wear beautiful clothes and makeup. Part of me gets into the mindset of thinking “it’s just the way the fashion industry works. It’s a tough industry.” But they need to change! What true and honest excuse do they have for not being diverse in their portrayal of women? Truthfully there is not one. Beauty is entirely constructed by our culture and so, many women are put in a state of feeling incomplete in their self-image.

My eating disorder was built from the ground up and has been there for as long as I remember. In any moment of stress or anxiety, (in which I am full of), it rears its ugly head and I have to try and squash it. It’s such an ingrained part of my mental health now I couldn’t imagine it not being there. It would be such a freeing feeling to not worry intensely over what I eat and when I eat it. Sometimes I regress into thinking about petty things like “why can she eat whatever she wants and I can’t?” because it just seems like a genetic lottery at the end of the day; and I convince myself I wouldn’t have this problem if I was naturally thin.

 

Finding My Voice Gave a Voice to Others

These days I try and fight it harder than I used to. When I posted photos online, I began getting messages from girls telling me how it made them feel better to see me post a body that looked like them. So many young girls are online these days, I feel like I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t practice what I preach; to be accepting of your body and not to punish yourself for looking the way you look. Through knowing how easy it is to get into such a self-punishing state; I knew that by trying to build the confidence of young women, even in the tiniest way, I could make some difference. You have to remember that your body and mind are a work in progress. You have to take care of yourself mentally and physically. When it comes to an eating disorder, you don’t need to pretend it doesn’t exist. You just need to work through it and know that you are so much more than that.

Writer: Essie Dennis   Twitter: @essiedennis   Instagram: @essiedennis

If you liked this article, check out: DiversAbility. The fashion world needs a radical change. The Battle Of Body Positive & Seeing Yourself As Beautiful! and The Crucial Ingredient: Self-Compassion

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