I think I'm a recovering anorexic.
(I wrote this essay on 12/6/02)
I think lots of gay men are anorexic. For some reason we've set up these insane standards of beauty that require us to have either zero body fat, or huge supplement-enhanced muscles, or both. Gay men knock themselves out on the aerobic machines daily and turn down even the occasional slice of birthday cake in an effort to keep their abdominal muscles visible at all times.
I've been graced with genetically large chest & shoulder muscles, so I've not been one to complain about a lack of muscles, but I've definitely tortured myself over the existence of body fat under my skin.
There was a time, a few years ago, when I weighed about 15 pounds less than I do now. When I look at pictures of my body from that time, I see a nearly fatless belly (and I wasn't sucking it in!), and I wish I still looked like that. However, at the time, my brother called me "anorexic", and my best friend told me I needed to put on weight. I was sick nearly constantly, hungry nearly constantly, wasn't dating anybody, and I definitely wasn't happy.
Eventually, my anorexic habits snapped, and I put on about 10 pounds in a month. Shortly after that I found a boyfriend. When I showed him the pictures I took during my anorexic period, he claimed that I looked better with the extra pounds. And, since regaining my normal weight, I've certainly never had trouble picking up guys or getting dates or finding boyfriends.
Still, when I see pictures from that fatless time period, I think I looked better then. This is a classic symptom of anorexia.
As a recovering anorexic, I make myself eat when I'm hungry. I indulge in birthday cakes when offered. I repeatedly tell myself that I look fine as I am. I threw out my scale. If I'm tired, I skip the run or the trip to the gym. I love myself as-is. I exhibit my body as-is.
Yet, I continually find myself defending my positive body image from a culture (and even from some friends and acquaintances) who would like to put me in my place. There is something unsettling about a gay man who actually enjoys his body ;-)
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