Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
International Eating Disorder Referral Organization
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall:
Who’s the thinnest of them all?
Author, Life Without Ed
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the thinnest of them all?
Throughout my life, I asked myself this question many times. Some people said that I was the thinnest. The mirror gave me a variety of answers depending on what day, hour, or even minute I asked. Some extreme individuals had the nerve to say that I had anorexia. Others actually said that I looked really good and showered me with accolades. Still others stared at me from afar and did not say anything all. I only cared what the mirror had to say.
As time past, I began to realize that I spent a lot of time worrying about food and body image. I obsessed much more about these topics than my friends. For instance, a day that started out on a positive note would hit rock bottom when I realized that my belt fit on a larger notch than it had the day before. Subsequently, my meal plans for the day would change dramatically, including making up excuses to avoid eating with friends and family at social events. I became painfully isolated in my efforts to satisfy the mirror hanging on the wall and important, long-term relationships took a back seat to my body image.
My obsessions with food and weight quickly spiraled into a full-fledged battle with anorexia and bulimia. A common characteristic of those struggling with eating disorders is a misperception of body size and shape. In recovery from my eating disorder, I learned from others that --- no matter how clique it might sound --- it really is what is on the inside that counts. Even though my weight fluctuated greatly throughout my recovery, the people in my life who truly cared about me never treated me any differently. Despite the number on the scale, I was always given absolute love, respect, and even admiration. The clothes in my closet changed dramatically as I moved from size to size, but my friends remained constant.
Slowly I learned to treat myself with the same love and respect that others showed me. In the beginning, I cared for myself by simply not gazing into mirrors as much as possible. Yes, in our image-based society, I was actually successful in avoiding mirrors and even my reflections in store windows most of the time. I began focusing on the parts of myself I had always wanted to develop on the inside, rather than on what had started to die on the outside. When I felt more confident with my inner strengths, I gradually began allowing myself more glances into the looking glass. This time I did my best not to ask questions such as who is the thinnest or the prettiest. I did my best not to compare myself to others, to previous versions of myself, or even to possible pictures of what I could look like in the future.
I do not avoid mirrors today. I do not obsessively gaze into mirrors. I use mirrors as the tools that they were originally created to be. Mirrors are great for brushing my teeth and for ensuring that my contacts lenses are properly placed into each eye. Of course, I am not perfect. Even with my contact lenses in place, I sometimes see my body incorrectly. When this happens, I remember everything I have learned and do not let the visual distortion affect my attitude or behaviors with food. I just close my eyes, and I focus on the truth.
I am more than my body. I am more than any mirror on the wall.
And so are you.
Jenni Schaefer is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and the author of Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too (McGraw-Hill). She is a consultant and spokesperson with Center for Change in Orem, UT. For more information, visit www.jennischaefer.com or email email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author and are presented without editing. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of EDReferral.com, and no official endorsement by EDReferral.com of the opinions expressed herein should be inferred.
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