“And I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend,’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’” –Nayyirah Waheed
Every Memorial Day I am reminded that I am not yet my body’s friend. In fact, the day that marks the start of summer is more like Armageddon for anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder or poor body image . . . which is most women in this country.
In the United States, 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. According to the Social Issues Research Center, as many as 80 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies, over-estimating their size. “Increasing numbers of normal, attractive women, with no weight problems or clinical psychological disorders, look at themselves in the mirror and see ugliness and fat,” said a summary of research on body image. In a study at Brown University, 74.4 percent of the normal-weight women stated they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.”
I don’t talk about my body-image issues or my recovery from an eating disorder much on this blog because I like to pretend I’m cured. However, all it takes is one comment, especially on show-your-body-off-for-the-first-time-this-season day to bring me right back to my anorexic days in ninth grade when I fretted the needle inching past 104 pounds. I had lost my period because I was so thin and was wearing long underwear underneath my jeans so that my mom wouldn’t notice how they hung off my hips. But when I looked into the mirror all I saw was an ugly, immense whale of a girl.