If you ask a hundred people what this means to them, I guarantee you’ll get a hundred different answers. To me, this means many things: like acceptance, being scared and fearless at the same time, to live as you’ve always wanted, to take off the mask. But most importantly, I think it means vulnerability. We’re told by media outlets, elders, clothing manufacturers, and people whose opinion we seem to care about what it is that makes someone beautiful, sexy, desirable, and healthy.
Growing up with that influence, it’s become part of our beliefs as well, and beliefs aren’t easy to break. It’s easy to blame yourself if you’ve been made to feel separate from a group many deem ‘acceptable’, and you may even be bullied by the voice inside your own head, but you’re not without value! It’s easy to think the people you love lie to your face when they say, “You’re beautiful”. It’s easy to believe that if you can just look a certain way, you’ll finally find your happiness. All you will have, in the end, is a mask to show to everyone, and the question of “am I happy yet?”. Vulnerability means taking off the mask, and knowing who truly loves you, just as you are.
I’ve never thought of myself as someone with an eating disorder, or even as someone with a bad relationship with food. As a matter of fact, my relationship with food has been a great one. As a professional chef of 12 years, touring the world through cuisine, training with the best, and even pushing my own creative limits, it’s brought me a lot of joy. However, it has caused a lot of pain for the people around me, and my heart has broken again and again for them.
My mother and sisters were all affected negatively because of their weight. I remember my mother being a plus-sized woman who used to try a new diet every year or two, looking for that magic formula that could make her look as she did in high school, before she became pregnant with me, then my sisters. I don’t think of myself as responsible for creating the problem she spends so much time trying to fix, but I did wish, all the time, that she didn’t have to spend so much of her life sacrificing the things she wanted just to attain it. My sisters, as well, didn’t have much of a weight problem but were also made to feel bad because they didn’t possess the same skinny hips their friends did and were ultimately made to feel separate from them. That’s the worst part of it all: the separation. The idea that you are not the same, so you do not deserve the same love until you are able to ‘fix’ yourself. I still wish I could tell those ‘mean girls’ to fuck right off.
About 7 years ago, I met the woman who would later become my wife. I think of her as one of the only people I’ve ever known who is absolutely beautiful inside and out. Over time I have been with her, she has become more and more self-conscious about her image. She worries especially of how I see her, and the thought that I will one day no longer find her attractive has caused her stress and anxiety. Despite how often I tell her how beautiful, sexy, and gorgeous she is, she always insists that she doesn’t feel like it. We both know the reason for this, though. She and I both know it’s because that damn voice in her head is always trolling her, telling her she looks fat, she has too much cellulite, and she is not desirable. It comes around more often during certain moments, like when some clothing she ordered online arrives, and it doesn’t fit, despite the fact it’s supposed to be in her size.
My heart goes out to every single person who has been affected by an eating disorder, whether it be in one form or another. You should know that you are still beautiful, you are desirable, and you are absolutely worthy of love. Anyone who may try to tell you otherwise has nothing but harmful intentions for you. There are people who will tell you that you can’t be accepted unless you’re exactly like them, under the excuse of ‘being healthy’, but there are far more people who love you regardless of any of that. you don’t need to change to be happy, you just need people in your life who make you happy without conditions. You deserve that.