I remember so clearly one time during being at uni, when a carload of us girls were driving around the city one night. Having the kinds of conversations that only girls have, someone turned around to the rest of us and said to name our favourite part of our body. At first I sat there silently which worked, as my silence was forgotten amongst the chatter of girls sharing what they loved most about their bodies and why. But eventually my silence was noticed, so everyone turned to me and asked for my answer.
My eyes. Which held truth because I do like my gray / blue / chameleon eyes. But that wasn't why I chose it. It was my chosen body part, because it is the only part of the body that can’t be fat.
Now at the time of this I would have been average sized, if not a little underweight. I was far from fat. I was also struggling with an eating disorder and the body distortions which come along with that. But that distortion of who I was hadn’t started with the eating disorder. I have felt that since primary school and if I was to be honest, I still sometimes feel and think it today.
The person looking back at me in the mirror is fat.
Since moving to Cambodia I have hit my highest weight ever. The combination of large portion sizes here, and rice, rice, and more rice, have resulted in me growing some spare insulation. And whilst thankfully I have worked my way beyond the majority of my body image issues, that tiny voice still remains that whispers ‘fat’.
The crazy thing is that whilst I struggle with this, I live in a country where so many of those around me are actually struggling to find food each day to eat. Where here I am next door, complaining that all the food I eat is making me fat.
Distorted. My worldview. My thinking. My selfishness.
I don’t know what absolute desperation and starvation like that would be like. I do know what it’s like to always have food available, always have the opportunity to eat each meal. I don’t know the worry of trying to feed myself and my family. I do know the worry of my body image to the point that I starved myself because of it.
It’s time like these that I realise that my worlds are so different. My ‘Western’ world and then my ‘I live in Cambodia’ world. And they are so hard to reconcile. It’s easy to label one as good and one as bad. It’s easy to point and mock the one which seems worse. Yes there’s plenty that is bad about our Western worlds, yet there is also so much bad that I see in this world in which I now live.
I’m not sure how to get rid of this distortion. How to reconcile me and my body image issues versus the sight of the starving due to absolute lack. It sounds easy to just say to wake up, accept yourself, look around you and suck it up. But that would disregard the true struggle of body image, and not validate it for how real and difficult it can be. Yet over and over again I question how real or important it really is in light of the world that I witness now every day.
The answer is that I don’t know. I’m unsure how to reconcile it. But I am challenged by it. So maybe that’s enough for now. That the challenge will walk with me throughout each day.