Body Dysmorphia & Social Media

Two nights ago I was in a bit of A Mood™️ and I decided to give a little air time to my frustrations on social media.  The responses to my post got me thinking about how we react to people’s bodies, and feelings about their bodies, on social media.  Fair warning: this is not your typical, predictable post about body image and Instagram models.

Understanding My Face

my profile, showing my retracted chin
Come thru, chin defect!

I was born with what’s clinically diagnosed as a “retracted chin”; instead of my chin extending out to match the shape of my forehead and nose, it retreats back under my lips.  It’s a genetic defect and it’s also a feature I share with my Narcissist-with-a-capital-N father.

For most of my young life I could not figure out what was wrong with my face.  I would stare at photos of myself with other friends with non-defected facial structure and I was absolutely stumped as to why my face looked so wrong.  My own dysmorphia and distorted perception of myself made it hard to view my face as “mine”, let alone to understand its individual features.  Discovering that my retracted chin is an actual, diagnosable, defect made me happy.

I wasn’t crazy.  My face was fixable.

In the years since pinning down my facial defect, I have researched doctors.  I am lucky to have a home base in Massachusetts — a state with some of the best medical facilities in the country, possibly the entire continent.  I came close to saving up the roughly $5k that corrective surgery will cost but unfortunately had to spend my savings when the startup company I was working for in NYC could no longer support my salary.

That setback has been devastatingly frustrating in many ways.

Controlling Perception

For the most part, I have kept my plans to get corrective surgery to myself.  We live in a culture that looks down upon people that choose to alter their bodies in many ways.  People who choose cosmetic surgery are seen as vain, people who pierce and tattoo their bodies are seen as freaks, and people who are born transgender and choose to take hormones and/or pursue surgery face discrimination.

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Getting Fit: Food + Weight

Above: Two of the meals that make up my average 1200 calorie day I describe below.  Ingredients and calorie counts are listed at the bottom of this article.  

I have hesitated to post anything on this topic for awhile now as it is, for many, a highly emotional and touchy subject.  But I don’t believe it needs to be emotionally fraught — it comes down to numbers, and numbers have no feelings.

In my mind, there are two things a person should strive to do for their health:

⤐ Understand and keep track of exactly what they eat.

⤐ Walk or run for more than a mile multiple times a week.

Let’s start with number one.  Many people incorrectly equate documenting your eating habits with compulsive eating disorders.  While food tracking may be part of how an eating disorder presents in some individuals, keeping a food diary does not an anorexic make.  In fact, keeping a food diary is a fantastic way to be sure that you are giving your body all of the protein, fat, and micronutrients it needs to keep going.  Journaling your food intake is just like keeping a monthly spreadsheet to budget your finances or tracking how many miles you can go between filling up your gas tank.  It’s an informative and healthy habit to have.

More than that, a food diary is the only way to hold yourself accountable for bad eating habits.  Like many people, I’ve wondered why it was I could never lose weight — I thought I ate a reasonable amount and that perhaps my body was just stuck like that.  Most of my immediate family was overweight, I thought perhaps it was genetic.  Then I started tracking every single thing I ate in a day, and I learned that I was eating exactly enough to maintain my weight, if not more sometimes.

Poor nutrition and obesity are an epidemic and there is simply no other way to describe it.  Obesity is a disease that is killing us, and yet at a time when information is at all of our fingertips, it’s difficult to find correct information on healthy eating and weight management.  Myths both new and old are hard to shake loose, particularly when social media provides a perfect ground for peddling to the uninformed.

So let’s go over some terms and knock out some myths.  Because one comfort in this is that while it’s not magic or easy, the formula for weight loss is very simple and it works for everyone.

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