Body Dysmorphia

J.Crew one-piece

My body and I are in a love/hate relationship. . . Let me tell you about our journey.

This weekend, I spent 3 days at the beach in Alabama with 7 other women for one of my best friend’s bachelorette parties. It was a whirlwind of sun, eating great food, day-drinking, and dancing the nights away. One of those special trips that I know I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life.

On Friday I flew down with my friend Cynthia and we had a long talk on the airplane about how, as we’re getting older, our bodies are changing a very different way and how it’s hard to come to terms with that. We made a pact to try extra hard over the weekend to not care, to not judge ourselves, and to spend our time a bathing suit worrying about re-applying sunscreen rather than how we look. For me, being able to do that sounded like an impossible feat.

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have at least some sort of anxiety about the way my body looked. I remember in 5th grade my doctor weighed me and made some sort of joke about me being 70 lbs. I remember the feeling of my face flushing with embarrassment and feeling bigger than normal. I was not a fat kid. In fact I was extra skinny until I hit puberty, earlier than all of my friends, which was around the same time of the doctor’s scale incident of ’91.

Since that time in my life it’s been a never-ending struggle of obsessing and trying hard to accept what I look like. Two years ago, like every bride ever, I lost a lot of weight for my wedding. I was over 10 pounds thinner than I am now. During the months leading up to the big day, everyone commented on how thin and great I looked. It felt AMAZING. I gained it all back on my honeymoon in Italy and when those compliments abruptly stopped, it was a rude awakening.

In the years since, I turned 28 and will be turning 29 next week which apparently has been a turning point in my metabolism. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, take a run, and the extra weight would fly off. In the last year or so, my body shape is slowly changing and I have to be a whole lot more careful than I used to. Naturally, this has created a whole new set of anxieties and obsessions.

This weekend felt different though. Whenever one of those pesky negative thoughts came into my brain, my inner monologue was “fuck this, go away”. Sometimes I had to do that 3 times in one minute and after a full day of that, I got so annoyed by it that my mind somehow just turned the thoughts off for hours at a time.

Obviously I’m not cured by any means and my entire flight back yesterday I had to continue this practice, but it was one of the first giant steps that I’ve taken to accepting my body for what it is: Strong, healthy, miraculous, and beautiful.

I’ll report back in at the end of the summer to see if I’ve made any giant leaps but considering I have 29 years of body dismorphia on my hands, I think it will be a slow and steady process. . .

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  1. jill said:

    I struggle with this so much and so I will be following your lead for the upcoming long holiday weekend!

    6.30.14 · Reply
  2. Heidi D. said:

    These thoughts plague us all but you are beautiful and inspirational inside and out!

    Heidi D.

    6.30.14 · Reply
  3. I think this is so true for everyone! I am realizing very quickly I cannot eat out and eat Chipotle as frequently as I do and it’s been a rude awakening. The joys of getting older! But we (and you!) are all beautiful. Great post.

    6.30.14 · Reply
    • TOTALLY can relate to your Chipotle comment. Also…the hangovers are so much worse. I never believed my parents!

      6.30.14 · Reply
  4. JMW said:

    Know that you are not alone – all my girlfriends (who are beautiful inside as well as outside) and I talk about how we have to can’t eat this or that for the fear of gaining weight and how we can’t do something one night because we need to go to the gym. It’s incredibly depressing for me and I hope to one day beat this feeling. Thank you for your post -it is a battle many women our age have to fight.

    6.30.14 · Reply
    • Yes! That feeling of guilt and needing to “fix” your mistake right away is the worst. Life is too short but it’s very hard to stop.

      6.30.14 · Reply
  5. Love the honesty (as always!). I turned 31 this year and now am pregnant with my first and it’s a complete mind-trip to see the scale climbing beyond the weight I’ve been since I was 18. Rationally, logically I know it’s completely necessary and goes with being pregnant! But it’s still weird not feeling completely like you in your own skin and wondering / worrying if you’re going to get back to being you when it all ends. Or just learning to be compassionate and love the new shape we take on as we go (but I’m still going to do my best with whole foods + moving my booty daily!).

    6.30.14 · Reply
  6. I can totally relate to you! It’s hard to turn off our own thoughts sometimes especially when it comes to being a swimsuit! I think you look great and I’m sure you had a wonderful weekend just letting go and having fun.

    Xo Jana

    6.30.14 · Reply
  7. Leila said:

    This is inspiring and honest and reassuring and hopeful all at the same time. Thank you for sharing. I think so many of us can’t even be honest with ourselves about how we feel about our bodies. PS You are beautiful and you look healthy and strong and capable. Remind yourself of that every day. <3

    6.30.14 · Reply
  8. Leslie said:

    This makes me feel better knowing someone else feels the same way I do. I am 31 and I work out 5 days a week 3 of which with a trainer -eat really healthy and let myself have 1 cheat meal a week. I am size small and usually wear a size 2-4 and I still want to scream because I am no longer a size 0-2 I was in college and my younger twenties. I have a loving husband and family who tell me how great I look all the time but it isn’t good enough for my brain. I wish I was better at accepting these changes and being more relaxed about it. My husband tells me often he wishes I could see what I really look like. I know I frustrate him often with my endless worrying. I saw a post the other day showing celebrities in bathing suits taken in “normal” circumstances…and I realized that their bodies look the same or even worse than my own. Why do we let the media give us false hope with their lighting and Photoshop? Why do we compare at all? I will always have a friend who doesn’t workout and eats bad and yet still looks more toned and thinner than I do. That’s just how it goes-and I wish I could just let it go 🙁

    6.30.14 · Reply
    • The comparison is probably the worst part. Thank you for saying that. Sometimes I feel GREAT and then I go outside and compare myself to others and it’s all downhill.

      My husband says the same things to me as well. Maybe we should listen to them. They’re probably pretty smart!

      6.30.14 · Reply
  9. No said:

    Give me a break. You’re so tiny already. Did you just need strangers to reassure you that you’re great the way you are?

    6.30.14 · Reply
    • I wish that I thought of myself as tiny! Logically I know that I’m a healthy young woman and I am not overweight but that doesn’t make me feel any less insecure. I wish I could explain the constant feeling of anxiety that I experience on a daily basis in one post, but it’s difficult to express.

      I’m sorry that you feel that way and I hope that you can understand that I’m coming from a place of trying to heal myself and help others heal as well!

      6.30.14 · Reply
    • Stephanie said:

      This response is ridiculous and very insensitive. I’ve always been told I’m “tiny” and yet I’ve suffered through the same problem of years of body dysmorphia. I have stretch marks on my thighs (even though I’m “tiny”!) and cellulite, and I’ve struggled to step out in a bikini. Battling you body this way can be completely paralyzing and, because people like you don’t get it, it’s made me feel angry and ashamed. So, person making this thoughtless comment, please be mindful of other people’s struggles and how hurtful such a comment can be. I’m impressed by Julia’s courage to talk about it in such a public space, and it makes readers like me feel like they can relate to an otherwise “perfect” blogger.

      7.1.14 · Reply
  10. Such an honest post, Julia. No matter what your size, we think it’s likely something every woman thinks about and/or struggles with on occasion — and the summers don’t always help. Bathing suit season brings all of the weight worries to light but just continue reminding yourself that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Being healthy and happy is what matters most, always.

    PS, you are beautiful just the way you are. XO

    6.30.14 · Reply
  11. Haley Valerie said:

    This such an honest and beautiful post! Thanks for sharing!


    6.30.14 · Reply
  12. Erin @ The Grass Skirt Blog said:

    I had nearly the exact same experience in the 5th grade after being weighed at the doctor’s office! My mom gasped because I was 70 pounds and started laughing because it was a joke, but I started to cry because I thought that she was implying that I was fat. Good for you for letting go of your insecurities for the weekend. I think that, no matter what size a person may be, most everyone has some sort of body issues.

    The Grass Skirt

    6.30.14 · Reply
    • Oh my God! That’s insane that we have the same story. I swear it still has an effect on me. And I agree, everyone has something that they worry about… It just shows up in different ways!

      6.30.14 · Reply
  13. Holly + Casey said:

    Thank you for being so honest. I think this resonates with so many. I specialize in treating individuals dx with eating disorders and I know my patients can relate. Keep challenging those negative thoughts and replacing them with positive or at least neutral thoughts.

    6.30.14 · Reply
  14. Bailey said:

    You made me cry, chica! One time I was out to dinner with my friend’s parents who were in their 60s. As they picked at their salads, they talked constantly abour diets and which of their friends/relatives looked “good” (ie thin). I was apalled and saddened to think you could let your whole life pass you by missing out on so many joys because of body image. Good for you for taking this on. The earlier you do, the mre joys you won’t miss. And ohhh it’s a whole new ball game in your thirties and post-baby 🙂

    7.1.14 · Reply
  15. Beautiful. I gained some weight in my stomach once I hit puberty, and it still hasn’t melted away, but I at least no longer think I’m fat. At 5’3″ and 125 lbs, I’m at a really good weight, but I spent my middle-school and high-school years trying out different fad diets–heck, I was on Slim Fast for a while in 7th grade! You look beautiful, and while it pains me to see other women go through this, it gives me comfort that I’m not alone.

    Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

    7.1.14 · Reply
  16. sherry said:

    as the parent of a transgender teen who is tortured everyday by her gender, I was originally annoyed by your title. tortured by the fact that she has the wrong bodyparts. she, or he is recognized for their bodyparts on the outside. she has the perfect petite little femine shape yet cant relate to it because in her heart she sees herself as a boy. Her once perfect athletic posture turning into a hunchback to hide her breasts I am reminded that feeling comfortable in your own body is not always a given. Society is cruel….

    7.1.14 · Reply
    • Thank you so much for sharing, Sherry. I hate that anyone has to go through life, no matter their shape, size, gender, or race, feeling anything less than perfect.

      7.1.14 · Reply
      • sherry said:

        Julia, the interesting part for me, is stil, how what the rest us of see as beauty and perfection in someone’s form, is still not perfect in the eyes of the model. for example, I as many others find you Beautiful and perfect, yet you still find fault within yourself. At fifty I would love to have the body I had at twenty, yet at twenty I found so many issues with my body. I was 20 and 97lbs . today I would kill for my 20ish body. Makes me wonder when and if it ends. At 70 will I be hoping for my 50ish body that I so cruelly judge today. I hope we all can find some happiness everyday. We are our own worse critics and we need to to be kinder to ourselves!! I do think you are beautiful and it saddens me to think you dont see it everyday, I am convinviced you see it when you squint 🙂 <3

        7.1.14 · Reply