Letting Go of Body Shame – Robyn Cruze
The package my brother neatly packed and shipped from Australia had been waiting patiently for me to unwrap in the corner of my bedroom.
Filled with photos of our past, it had been there for three months now and it was time to open it. Even before my eyes hit the photos within the package, which represented a life time ago, the shame — which hid in the fiber of my being and self-worth beliefs — came flooding back as if it had never gone away.
With each photo I take out of the package, I'm reminded of the chronic lack of control and the compulsive nightly binges that are reflected in the bulged chin, thighs, and hips of the young lady staring back at me from the photos.
It's my history, the part that I have longed to forget. Even throughout my recovery, I have wanted to ignore my story, which included eating my feelings.
All eating disorders carry shame
Yes, all eating disorders carry shame; there is no individual diagnosis that is more painful than the others. However, for me, my greatest shame came via my binge eating. It betrayed my secret relationship with food, and it outed me to the world, telling everyone I encountered that I couldn't stop, even if I wanted to. No way.
I would eat the world instead of feeling my feelings. The vulnerability that comes with telling such a story — in the past — has sealed my lips and hidden the memories that still sting a little to this day.
I hid this story down deep under all my achievements and the visage of my new exterior provided by my eating disorder recovery. I hid it in my work ethic and ambition.
But body shame is powerful and relentless
Whether we are 100 pounds or 400, if we don't look directly into the eyes of body shame, it will forever haunt us. At least this has been my experience.
I'm not sure how others truly thought about me at my largest, but I can tell you I projected my beliefs about myself onto them. My body shame blanketed the world and what I thought about it.
The photos that I look at now tell of a young, scared girl desperately attempting to find comfort. She found that comfort in food—the only escape she happened to have when she thought her mum was dying and her world was in chaos. In essence, the relationship with food saved her from her pain, momentarily.
Binge eating was my first companion in the slew of eating disorder behaviors. It had a purpose. It soothed me when I didn't know how to soothe myself. It held me via the growth of my body, and towards the end, it made me conscious that there was something I needed to face. Thus, I am no longer ashamed of that little girl looking back at me. She was brave and did what she could to protect me from the harsh life circumstance in which she found herself.
We can own our stories — and let go of shame
Recovery is about owning my story — all of it — and with that, I can let go of the shame and remind myself that I did what I knew best to protect myself, and now, I know better. There is absolutely no shame required — or welcomed!
Robyn Cruze, MA is the National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.