[Trigger Warning: Body image, weight, sexual assault]
This past November I decided to work with a trainer because I knew I needed to refocus my energy while working out. Two years ago, I started a program and was doing well. Then like most people, I fell off the boat and went back to my old ways of not taking care of my body. I was super excited to work with my new trainer because she is very focused on holistic health. She believes in slowly changing old habits so that the new habits that are made are actually sustainable. She encourages me to push myself and to listen to my body if I need to stop.
After a month of getting back on track we started working on setting personal goals. One afternoon I was trying to decide what my goals were for myself and for my health. I knew a lot of things needed to change but I didn't want to fixate on a certain weight or size (which my trainer was extremely supportive of). I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be able to carry my own (so I wouldn't have to ask my partner to open jars or pick something up for me). As I was identifying my goals I went down this rabbit hole of thoughts that I have had about myself in the past.
I realized that after being street harassed and sexually assaulted, I subconsciously wanted to find a way to stop people from paying attention to me. I wanted to become invisible. I remember telling myself that if I stopped looking pretty people would leave me alone and I would finally be safe. I gained 40 pounds after I was raped and I stopped getting ready like I used to. I decided that the best way to protect my body was by de-sexualizing myself.
It took me five years to recognize what I had been telling myself over the years.
A few months ago, I learned that my response was normal and actually pretty common. I stumbled across an article posted on Psych Central about the link between obesity and sexual abuse that said, "For some, weight serves to minimize their looks and sexuality. In today’s society, thin is in, and if you don’t fit the mold, in theory, people will pay less attention to you and your body. Some women use their weight as protection against future abuse." My jaw dropped. This was exactly what I had just realized about my own experience. The article took the words out of my body and were right in front of me. It made me emotional because I had to come to terms with what I was doing in order to try to protect myself.
At first, it was embarrassing to acknowledge. I was ashamed of what I did to my body, but the longer I reflected on it, the more I realized that I was just trying to protect myself. I had my best interest in mind it just looked different then what we are told is best for our bodies. I couldn't be mad or embarrassed at myself for that but I knew that I needed to find a new form of self care. I needed to relearn how to eat and how to value my body for all it has been through.
I am currently reading a book called Intuitive Eating, recommended by my trainer, which has helped a lot. The book focuses on listening to your body when it is hungry, feeding your body what it wants, and not feeling guilty about the food choices you make. I eat a lot less junk food because it's not off limits anymore. The food I used to want has lost it's excitement. Now, I find myself craving vegetables and drinking more water because I can feel the difference in my body. I am stronger than I have ever been. Most days I physically feel like I can take on the world.
My journey has just begun. I don't know what I will look like or feel like a year from now, but I can identify when I am emotionally eating and when I am hungry because my body needs nutrients. I hope I move forward from here but I understand that it will take time. I have learned to be okay with that. I am in the process of learning how to love my body and love myself because I believe that I am worth it.
Photo credit + special thanks to the best trainer in the world. You have helped me realize how damn strong and resilient I am. Thank you.
If you can identify with this, please know that you are not alone. Healing after being sexually assaulted is a very long and difficult path; however, it might be a little bit easier if you learn to love and respect yourself. Peeling back layers of pain and vulnerability is triggering, but working through it to learn more about yourself is rewarding. It hurts, but once you identify the issues you are working through, finding a solution doesn't feel as out of reach. Some ways you can take steps forward are:
- Finding a therapist to help you through your journey
Learning how to cope and how to express your emotions in a form that does not involve emotionally eating (or not eating). Some examples include:
- Talking it out
- Playing Music/Singing
- Seeking out resources and support around sexual abuse and/or obesity
- Working with a trainer who is focused on holistic health and understands what you are working through (if you choose to share it with them)
Being a victim of sexual abuse is not your fault. The only person who is responsible for assaulting you is the person who did it. You deserve to live a healthy life, whatever that means for you. I support you. I believe you. I want the best for you.
Keep fighting for yourself,