This blog by is part of the ‘Young Faces of Mental Illness’ campaign, a collaboration with SANE and batyr supporting young adults to share their stories.
The unhealthy relationship with my body began when I was in my teens. I had just started high school and for the first time in my life, people started commenting on my changing body. I was taught that my worthiness was based on appearance and constantly felt the pressure to look a certain way.
Food became a friend
Around this time, I started engaging in disordered eating habits. Exercising became for weight loss, rather than for fun. I restricted certain foods and even skipped meals. I began to binge to make up for the restriction, but I also found comfort in the way food made me feel. It numbed my feelings of unworthiness and it was a friend to me when I felt alone.
For much of my life, I was trapped on the spinning wheel of diet mentality. It started with restriction and ended with the guilt and shame of bingeing and weight gain. I hated my body and felt I was unworthy because I carried a bit of extra fat.
It wasn’t until last year, after the failure of countless diets, shakes, pills and gym regimes, I confided in my psychologist about the dysfunctional relationship I’d had with food and my body. I was diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and started treatment with a non-diet dietician
Through this, I was introduced to the body positive movement and began to immerse myself in this culture of people, who were all shapes and sizes, celebrating their bodies. Seeing and hearing from women who looked like me, confident and accepting of their own bodies, empowered me. I soon realised I was not alone in my struggles. Many of the people in the body positive movement had also struggled with body image and eating disorders. Their stories of recovery and hope inspired and encouraged me on my own body acceptance journey.
Self Acceptance and Love
Along with the skills I developed with my mental health care team, I was able to make changes in my life that allowed me to begin to heal my relationship with my body. Dieting and negative body image controlled my life but since immersing myself in the body positive community, my relationship with my body, food and exercise is now much healthier.
I know so many people, especially women, struggle with self- acceptance. It’s hard, especially when media and society are constantly telling us that we need to change. Whether it is weight loss, our skin, the colour of our hair and even the clothes we wear, we are inadvertently being taught not to love and accept ourselves the way that we are.
For the first time in my life, weight is no longer a priority. Being friends with my body is.
For support and information regarding eating disorders we recommend contacting the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.
Sarah Bryan is a participant in Young Faces of Mental Illness, a collaboration with SANE and batyr supporting young adults to share their stories. The project is supported by the Future Generation Global Investment Company.
You can see the rest of SANE Australia’s content for young adults here.