Body Dysmorphic Disorder: How to Manage the Unseen.

We’re all fighting our own battles. For many of us, they go unseen. We hide behind masks, minimize our problems, or remain silent. After all, no one likes to admit there’s something “wrong” with them, exploiting our flaws and exposing our secrets. Who needs another label added to the string of existing labels we carry throughout our life. There’s only so much room on our business cards, right? 

Since I’m all about vulnerability — keeping it real, raw, and transparent — lately, I’ve been feeling like an imposter. I preach, coach, and teach self-love, but the truth is, I haven’t been so kind or loving to myself. I’m not feeling like my loving, confident self lately. These past few months have been the “busiest” of them all, and my diet, training, work, stress, and sleep levels have been all over the place. Although I’ve built a flexible lifestyle around everything I love and want to do, some things got shifted in my priority list – Me.

You see, I’ve struggled with Body Dysmorphic Disorder for most of my life – the driver behind my fitness journey, the quest for the perfect body. For those who don’t know or are unfamiliar with what BDD is, here’s the Mayo Clinic’s definition: Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable. But you may feel so ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations.

Of course, there is MUCH more to this, in fact, a whole lot more, which I share in my upcoming book, Chasing Perfection: A Journey to Healing, Fitness, and Self-Love. But I wanted to be honest; every day is a battle. Some days I lose, but every day I continue to show up, winning the war. BBD is a battle that many don’t understand and are often unaware they or others are fighting it. 

Over these past few months, I’ve put on some weight – to most, it’s no big deal, and many may not have even noticed; however, that’s not the point. It’s not the look, it’s how I feel. It’s how I perceive the changes. It’s what I have to live and deal with. It’s my body. It’s the discomfort in my own skin. It’s how I look and feel. It’s my experience. 

And this “new” experience has been consuming me. Each morning, I wake up and look at myself in the mirror, and immediately I judge myself. My inner critic *always* has something to say. I *know* these aren’t words my creator would use to describe me, but they are there, and yes, they are a reminder of my past. 

There are times when I’m just too exhausted to fight back, and even though I know they are lies, I can’t help but feel these things, to let its negativity ripple throughout my day. These are moments when it gets the best of me, and I can either subject myself to defeat and allow myself to believe the lies that have tried to consume me or I can face it head-on and conquer it with truth and love.  

There are days, such as today, you need a break from fighting. It takes longer to get dressed. The outfit you picked out, no longer fits and after six pairs of pants, you settle because you’re already late and avoid the mirror as you rush out of the house in a shit poor mood. In those moments, you’ve been (self) abused verbally and physically, and your ego is hurt, no one likes being called names, yet we are our own worst critic! Now you’re late, you feel you’ve let yourself and others down, you feel your anxiety levels rise, your heart races, and those closest to you take the brunt of your explosive anger. Guilt has you feeling like shit, and shame has reminded you that you’re a terrible (fill in the blank) person.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an ongoing battle. To some, you know how it feels, to others, you can’t and won’t understand or know how it feels, but it’s real. 

Most days, I choose the latter. I fought my whole life, and since my journey to healing, fitness, and self-love began a few years ago, I (now) have a way better understanding of how, where, when, and what triggers it. Now don’t get me wrong — I do love myself, and I’m far from where I used to be, but it doesn’t ever do away or minimize the fact that I, too, am human and I, too, feel and I, too, relapse to my old ways. But what good are a few reminders of how far you’ve come, right?

I believe there is no way to heal yourself from BDD permanently; however, you can do your best to manage it. For me, once I became aware of BDD, I now had a name for it. It no longer felt like a mystery or that I was crazy for feeling a way I couldn’t explain or articulate to others who couldn’t understand. To them, it didn’t exist or was so insignificant they couldn’t see the fuss. But to me, knowing there was a name, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, it was no longer my imagination; it was real. Having this insight allowed me to put the pieces together and have an awareness of what and when it was rearing, it’s ugly head, whether it was truth or a figment of my imagination. 

Although this is my life and what I deal with every day, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I know this season I’m going through is meant to teach me something, and I’m eagerly awaiting its life lesson because I’m ready to move on. Life, it’s full of surprises, unexpected turns, stresses, and lots of shit you can’t control, but what I am good at, and actually thrive off of, is growth and change. 

When I feel my body and life is spinning out of control, it helps to take a step back and identify the triggers, ask myself questions as to what/why/when/where/how do I “feel” this way. Once I identify the starting point, I’m able to take the necessary actions to manage it. 

For me, I relapsed over the summer. As a perfectionist (also BDD related), I lost control.  

Knowing what I know now, after years of working on healing myself, I take my own advice; go back to basics and control the controllable — You!

What we’re able to track, we’re able to manage. Since weight gain is a result of caloric surplus, poor sleep, and increased stress – all go hand-in-hand – I keep myself in check by:

  • Keeping calories and macros on point.
  • Nailing my training program.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Managing the quantity and quality of my sleep.
  • Managing my stress levels.

Keep in mind, nothing in life is “one-size-fits-all” so what and how I manage BDD for me, may look entirely different for you. However, you need to do what is best for you.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is real, and if unmanaged or ignored can increase over time. Ask for help from family, friends, peer groups, or speak to a licensed professional (counselor, doctor). You are not meant to do life alone.