Body Talk

Content Warning: discussion of drastic weight loss, disordered eating, and body dysphoria.

Last week was eating disorder awareness week and several strong and courageous people I love shared bits of their eating disorder and recovery stories on their social media accounts. This prompted me to reflect my own journey with my body and health. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an eating disorder. I’ve definitely had disordered thinking around food and my body, but it always stopped short of purging, restricting, fasting, or crash dieting. Still, my relationship with my body has been turbulent and complex, and I have a long ways to go towards accepting it as it is. Until now, I’ve more or less avoided writing about my relationship with my body because I worried I wasn’t qualified enough to be part of the conversation since my experience of disordered eating and body image hasn’t been as severe as other people’s. I am acutely aware that as someone who is white, cisgender, and not perceived as overweight, I have a lot of body privilege and am not treated poorly due to my weight or appearance. However, I recently realized that most people I know, especially women, have struggled to accept their bodies and resist the urge to give into disordered eating just like I have, despite never being diagnosed with an eating disorder. So, I’m sharing a bit about my journey with my body in hopes that it reminds others that they are not alone as they continue to resist the voices that tell us we are not good enough as we are.


A couple of months before my 15th birthday, I was on a class camping trip, getting undressed in the bathroom, when I realized that my body fat had all but completely disappeared. I’d been sick a couple times over the winter, but I didn’t think much about it until I got home and weighed myself. I’d lost 25 pounds without realizing it. This one of the first signs that something was off in my body. Over the next four months I struggled consistently with low energy, loss of strength, frequent fevers, constant nausea, and lack of appetite. One month that spring I slept at least 14 hours most days. My doctor thought it was mononucleosis, even though the tests came back negative, but we never really found out.

By March, my friends started making comments. We loved thrifting, but it became less fun when my best friend at the time constantly pointed out that we didn’t wear the same size anymore and called me “stick girl” and “miss skinny.” Other friends later told me they’d thought I was anorexic, but didn’t show any concern at the time. I got compliments from older relatives who asked if I was “watching my figure” while I was desperately trying to muster up an appetite. Almost none of my clothes fit: my jeans didn’t stay up, my t-shirts were baggy, I dropped two bra sizes. Despite the envy and positive remarks coming from others, I was more self-conscious than I’d ever been before. The bones in my back and chest stuck out, my ribs were visible, and every time I ate my stomach distended noticeably. My mom bought all my favorite fattening foods, bacon, whole milk, guacamole and so on, hoping that it would stick to my bones. I gained about ten pounds and it became harder to want to gain weight because even though I was thin I was still bigger than girls in magazine, and no one was really worried about me anymore. For the next couple years my weight fluctuated just above the underweight marker for my height, I got literally every virus I came in contact with, my appetite continued to be unpredictable and acutely affected by illness and stress. I continued to be self-conscious about my acne and lack of curves, but I recovered some of my strength, and grew to enjoy the changes to my body. What American teenage girl hasn’t been conditioned to believe that being able to eat whatever you want and never gain weight is a form of success?

My last drastic downward weight fluctuation happened when I was 19. I lost 8 pounds in two weeks after a break-up. I was used to these changes by then, and knew the drill for gaining back the weight. I wore lots of dresses and tights, partly because they accommodated the fluctuations better than jeans. My friends stopped commenting on my size, my parents stopped worrying, my energy levels seemed more normal, and I thought I’d reached a healthy equilibrium.


A couple weeks before I turned 22, my health took another downturn. Previously mild and inconsistent fatigue and muscle soreness became constant and debilitatingly severe. I spent over a month almost entirely in bed, trying to stay awake long enough to study. I dropped down to part-time enrollment at school, and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. The muscle aches and nerve pain I experienced made it feel like my bones were sticking out all over. I felt like I must be losing weight again. But I didn’t. In fact, since being diagnosed I’ve returned to my pre-illness weight for the first time since I was 14.

The summer after my diagnosis my pain symptoms were decently managed by medication and so I tried to establish a regular exercise routine, despite my fatigue. This was partly because consistent exercise is believed to help mitigate some of the symptoms of my chronic illnesses, but I was also anxious that if I didn’t pay extra attention to my eating and exercise, I would continue to gain weight. I was afraid that if I was both sick and visibly out of shape people wouldn’t have compassion for my situation, would decide I wasn’t worth knowing or loving, or would be disgusted by me. Furthermore, my lack of health caused me to hyperfixate on the aspects of health that felt in my control. I become obsessed with making sure I ate enough fruits and vegetables every day, I feared junk food, and while I didn’t cut out sugar entirely (because it is one of my small joys in life), I felt guilty everytime I ate it, believing that I was inflicting further suffering on myself because I wasn’t strong enough to eat “perfectly.” When my pain symptoms would flare-up I’d berate myself and search my memory for ways I’d messed up by eating the wrong food. I wanted so badly to be in control of the problem. If I missed a meal or let myself go to sleep a little hungry I’d tell myself that I could stand to lose a couple pounds anyway and feel slightly satisfied knowing I wasn’t eating enough to gain weight. Obviously, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding foods that don’t make your body feel good, and not eating when you’re not hungry are not unhealthy habits in and of themselves, but my thinking around those habits has not always been healthy. Despite outwardly making healthy food choices, my internal narratives around my body and eating have probably bordered on orthorexia (obsession with eating only “healthy” foods) for the past couple of years. 


I am still struggling to accept my body, but over the past six months I’ve become more aware and intentional about working towards body acceptance. I am learning that I still see my body very differently from other people. I am surprised every time a doctor refers to me as thin or small, because I’ve been so much smaller that this version of my body sometimes feels huge. I still have to resist feeling guilty for treating myself to small amounts of unhealthy food, even when they bring me joy. I still have to remind myself that I have to eat consistently in order to have energy and to avoid pain flare-ups, and that I sleep better if I feel full. I’m trying to re-train my brain to stop fearing weight gain and changes in my body, because I know it will change many more times in the course of my life. I’m trying to learn about the mental health aspect of some of my disordered thinking about my body. Eating disorders, anxiety, and other control-related mental health issues run in my extended family and I have realized that my relationship with my body is tied to my experience of anxiety, and therefore it does not always reflect reality. I am trying to trust my body more and listen to it better. I’ve consistently been the same weight for over two years now, it doesn’t change with exercise and my body bounces back quickly when I lose weight from viruses, so I’m learning to respect that this is the natural size and shape my body wants to be in this stage of my life.

Finally, I am trying to challenge the dominant narrative around body image, dieting, weight loss, and beauty standards when I come across it. Usually this is just an internal process, but when I can recognize that our culture’s obsession with weight loss, fat-shaming, and dieting are not normal or healthy, I can better embrace the parts of myself and other people that don’t fit into the prescribed ideals. One external way I’ve attempted this is by curating my social media so that I’m following people with diverse bodies (including other people with chronic illnesses and disabilities) who don’t promote diets or weight loss regimes and who embrace their bodies and their inherent self worth. This movement for body positivity rejects the idea that our ability to conform to the current standards of beauty is the primary indicator of our health, happiness, and value, and it encourages people not only to embrace their bodies as they are, but also to be cognizant that we are so much more than just our physical appearance. These activists motivate me to love my body regardless of its limitations and its deviations from the ideal body type, their content helps me to internalize a different view of what “normal” bodies look like, and their dedication to body positivity gives me hope that our culture of dieting and dysphoria can change, giving way to a greater capacity for self love and compassion.

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Body positive social media accounts to follow:
Megan Jayne Crabbe–@bodyposipanda (instagram, twitter),
Michelle Elman–@scarednotscarred and @bodypositivememes (instagram, twitter),
Annie Segarra–@annieelainey (instagram, twitter) 
(And there are many more great accounts out there if you do a bit of exploring!)

Resources if you or a loved one are struggling with behaviors that could be linked to an eating disorder: 
NEDA’s helpline:
Eating Disorder Hope (EDH):




Breaking Free From the Productivity Myth

“I am sooo tired today.” I say to my friend at lunch. “I really needed eight hours of sleep last night and I only got six because I was up late doing the reading for class.”

“I only got four, I’m like, dead. I had so much homework to do! I’m taking 18 units this semester so that I can graduate on time.”

“Wow, that’s a lot! When do you sleep?”

She laughs and takes a gulp of her coffee, “I’ll sleep after college… or when I’m dead.”

Conversations like this were so commonplace in my college years that perpetual overtiredness, burnout, and emotional instability seemed like facts of life (to the point that I didn’t get diagnosed with a fatigue disorder until my fourth year of school). After school, many of my friends and acquaintances still live life at a pace that renders them exhausted and stressed almost constantly, except now it’s called “hustling” and apparently it’s what you need to do in your 20s in order to have a successful life. But does life actually slow down after that? Is feeling perpetually stressed and worn out inherent to adulthood, or is there something else going on?

American capitalist culture prioritizes productivity, and not simply productivity that is personally satisfying and meaningful, but productivity that “proves” our success to the rest of the world while supporting and feeding a system powered by a frantic belief in scarcity and an overwhelming imbalance of resources. The pressure of this system and its values causes stress, poverty, and violence in the lives of many by depriving people of resources, but also by undervaluing essential aspects of life and humanity because they are not lucrative. Community, emotional support, personal growth, and time set aside for peace and reflection are all essential to spiritual, mental, and emotional health. And while we’re expected to find happiness and success, the cultural messages we receive every day undervalue the work and rest it takes to cultivate personal and communal health and thriving. This is largely due to the fact that this productivity culture hates, fears, and shames limits, despite the fact that being human is an inherently limited experience. We are often encouraged to push our minds, bodies, and boundaries past their limits in order to achieve more, even to our physical and mental detriment.

I have recently come to terms with the fact that due to my chronic illness, I cannot work for the foreseeable future. This is a frustrating situation to be in within the context of a culture that equates independence with maturity, productivity with value, and shames humans for engaging in natural interdependence. The admission of my limitations and inability to join the workforce is often met with awkward pity or misdirected envy. Well-meaning friends and strangers either can’t imagine how awful it must be to be incapable of living a “normal” life, or they fantasize about a life free from the prescripts of rugged individualism and cannot imagine a way out for themselves. I’m not going to pretend that I’m at peace with being chronically ill, or even that I’ve totally accepted it as my reality. But I am trying to view aspects of my limitations as an invitation into a life that is more whole. I realize that despite illness to the point of disability, I am in a very privileged position to be able to accept this invitation. As I embrace and cultivate a culture of interdependence and balance for myself I benefit from a financially stable family who are able and willing to keep a roof over my head, ensure that I’m fed, and help me pay for health care and medical expenses. Some people in my position don’t have the security and privilege I have to explore alternative ways of living within their limitations. Many disabled and chronically ill people have no choice to work even when it causes them excruciating pain and exhaustion, or makes them sick, or significantly reduces their quality of life. I’m sharing the invitation I feel called to accept not for the purpose of telling other sick people how to live their lives, but to argue that all of us, regardless of ability, health, class, etc. have the collective power to change these cultural narratives that ultimately do us far more harm than good.



In the past two years, I have had to slow the pace of my life significantly. At times, this  makes me feel like I’m missing out on life, or being left behind. But just as often I notice new space for things I didn’t know I needed. My emotions are more stable than when I was constantly overworking my mind and body. I enjoy time with my family more than I have since I was a kid. There is space in my life for creativity. I have more time for reflection and emotional processing. My life isn’t stress-free, and I strongly believe that some stress and negative emotions are natural and healthy parts of being human. However, I have learned that the amount and degree of stress I’d taken on previously was unnecessary and encouraged by a culture that upholds chronic stress and busyness as some perverse badge of honor.

Additionally, my limited energy necessitates that I prioritize how I spend my time, mental and physical capacity, and emotional stamina. I like to think I’ve always been a fairly intentional person due to my upbringing, but dealing with chronic fatigue has demanded that I think even more carefully about what is most important to me in life, and guess what, there’s a clear winner: relationships. Journeying with and supporting others has been the single consistent calling of my life. Leaning into this role has never been lucrative, nor have I necessarily wanted it to become lucrative, but it is crucial to my sense of purpose. After basic health and hygiene, relationships are the first thing I want to give my energy to. Deconstructing my relationship with productivity has allowed me to embrace the priorities and gifts in my life that aren’t lucrative in a new way. When I embrace relationships and offering support to the people in my life as an inherent part of who I am that deserves energy and has value (despite not producing anything), I am more present to the people in my life, less resentful of the energy interpersonal dynamics take, and I feel better about my role in the world.

I realize that most people reading this are employed, and I am not arguing that working is a problem. However, in a culture that assigns worth and value based solely on work and productivity, we all miss out on essential and life-giving aspects of living that no one will pay us for. I am convinced that for all of us greater health lies on the other side of slowing down and valuing our unmarketable gifts and passions enough to let them thrive. I know this is a complicated issue to which I am presenting one highly simplified perspective, and that there is tons of important organizing, thinking, and writing done about deconstructing capitalism. I agree with many others that this system, in which people spent the vast majority of their existence selling their lives and labor in order to survive, ought to be dismantled. But without a substantial cultural shift towards valuing our rest, our relationships, our passions, our health, and our humanity, we will not have the momentum to create lasting change.

Since I began writing this reflection I was offered an exciting, one-time opportunity. However, this opportunity would have required me to abandon (for a week) the commitments I’ve made to myself and my goals this season. It would have been a cool experience, but it would have taken a great deal of energy and it wasn’t aligned with my larger goals, so after some deliberation I turned it down. Limitations force us to make choices and sometimes that feels unfair and frustrating, but ultimately choices are what give our lives meaning. Right now I am choosing to honor my limitations, focus my energy on the things that are most valuable to me, and to embrace interdependence, balance, and rest as crucial aspects of life.


Tattoos and the Art of Process

This February and March mark the first anniversary of my chronic illness diagnosis (the anniversary spans a couple months because as some of you might know the diagnosis process for many chronic illnesses is long and weird–arguably I haven’t actually completed it yet). The onset of my illness and the many subsequent life adjustments that I’ve undergone, necessarily made 2016 a long, difficult, seminal chapter of my life. As the year drew to a close I began to reflect on what I had learned from it, how it had shaped me, and what I wanted to be different going forward. These reflections lead me to getting my second tattoo this January.

Chronic illness has challenged me to let go of my perfectionism in new ways. It’s difficult for me to accept that I am worthy of love whether or not I’m perfect, but as I struggled to process what being chronically ill meant about my abilities and my belovedness I was struck by the realization that nothing on earth that I love is perfect. The people who I love and think are amazing and beautiful are not perfect. The natural things I love–flowers, trees, the ocean–aren’t aesthetically or symmetrically, but I still think they’re stunning evidence that God is an artist and that earthly things contain the divine. So, why would the logic be any different in reference to myself? Maybe this line of thinking is obvious to many of you, but for me it was a new framework for gently addressing the flawed logic of my perfectionism. I wanted to give myself a reminder of this framework, and extend a symbolic peace offering to my body, so I settled on a tattoo that I felt would accomplish both.

Both of my tattoos have been symbols of process and reminders of the truest things about me. I find that having physical reminders of these truths can help me to embrace them, assisting me in the process of embracing myself, my purpose, and the world around me. The roses I got on my hip this January are a reminder to include myself and my body when I think about the beautiful divine imperfection of creation. The stars on my arm that I got three years ago serve to remind me that when life is dark there is light inside of me, in my relationship with my family members, and in my relationship with God. Art is amazing because of how it not only reminds us of what is true and visceral in life, but also because of how it changes our perspectives and our processes of transition and grief and creates space for the divine to manifest in our lives. For me, tattoos have allowed me to carry a little of that power with me.


An Imperfect Explanation

Once again I have gone far longer than I intended without posting. I would say without writing, but I actually have written several posts that never made their way onto my blog. “Why is that, Hailey? Are there backlogged posts that you’re saving for a rainy day?” No, unfortunately this hasn’t been an intentional decision, but it also hasn’t been for lack of attempts. There are quite a few drafts sitting on my computer, but they will likely never see the light of day. “Okay, Hailey, cut to the chase, what are you trying to say?” I am saying that over the past few months the little ultra-perfectionistic voice in the back of my head has gotten the better of me.

“Hailey”, the voice will say, “why are you writing about this? Everyone else who has ever been 20 years old has thought these exact thoughts. You’re contributing nothing.” Or, “Hailey, you can’t even communicate effectively what you’re trying to say, you sound both arrogant and completely inarticulate. I say just hang it up for tonight.” And I do… and I tell myself that I’ll come back to it and rewrite, but the longer I look at it the less it feels worthy of sharing with the world. Obviously, I am trying to combat this. As part of an experiment I am doing for the next few weeks I am requiring myself to write something to share at least once a week.

“Wait, you’re doing an experiment to address your lack of blogposts?” No, my overly self-critical approach to writing is part of a deeper issue; perfectionism and the insecurity that it spawns have become increasingly intrusive temptations in my life over the passed few years (although I have had perfectionistic tendencies for as long as I can remember *cue flashback to 6-year-old Hailey freaking out because she couldn’t draw a photo-realistic portrait of her favorite doll*). Weekly blog posts are only one part of my experiment to address my overly perfectionistic tendencies, the other steps I am taking include:
a) Making space in my day to be creative on a regular basis (an hour at a time at least five days out of the week).
b) Taking time to moisturize my skin at least five days a week (this sounds like a really tiny, mundane thing, but it’s a good step towards self-care and body positivity. Oddly, it’s been the hardest one to stay on top of).
c) Monitoring my negative self-talk, specifically self-deprecating comments in my conversations with others.
“Wow, Hailey, that was a startling display of vulnerability.” You bet it was, thanks for recognizing that, dear reader, have a pretty picture of a sunset.



Like most personality traits perfectionism has its pros as well as its cons. I like it when high expectations encourage me to work hard and do my best, I like it that I have a very clear vision for how things could be improved, and I like it that I don’t settle for things that don’t satisfy or push me. However, what I really want to be addressing right now is finding the balance where I am still a hard worker and a bit of an idealist and reformer (because I think those are integral parts of who I am) but where I can also be gentle with myself when I need to and where my perfectionism doesn’t keep me from doing the things I want to do or living more wholly into who I’m meant to be. I love to write, but nothing I write is ever going to be perfect, and once I accept that I am convinced that writing will be a far more enjoyable and life-affirming process for me. The same could be said for any number aspects of my life and personal view of myself.

It’s been a while since I have actively taken on an experiment like this to help me form new thought patterns, but in the past it has been incredibly helpful. We often assume that we should be able to think ourselves into new behaviors, when it often seems far more effective participate in new behaviors as a method of changing our thought patterns. I highly recommend trying something similar to address an area of your life or your person where you’d like to see growth. Even changing really little things can make a real difference in your outlook and self-perception. A couple of years ago I was struggling with some depression-related low self-esteem, so I decided that I was no longer allowed to negate people’s compliments to me. Obviously this small action didn’t entirely “fix” my issues, but it did force me to actually listen to the kind things people said to me, which made me feel loved and cared for, and eventually, I kicked the habit of negating their compliments.

I am excited (and slightly trepidatious) to share writing with you all on a more regular basis over the next few weeks!

Treat Yourself: Experiments in Self-Care

As my fellow Parks and Recreation fans might know, today is Treat Yourself Day, in honor of the 3rd anniversary of that particular episode. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, read on anyway because I won’t be talking about TV shows, I promise.) As a dedicated fan of the show, and someone who has been thinking a lot about what self-care means to me and what part it plays in my spiritual life, I thought today would presented a great opportunity to write about the importance of “treating yourself”.

To be perfectly honest, self-care doesn’t come naturally to me (shocking, I know). I am not very good at relaxing, my mind continuously is going about a mile a minute, and I almost always feel like I could do more; do better than my best, be more productive, spend my time more wisely, etc. So often even when I have time for some self-care, there’s a voice in my head telling me I don’t deserve it because I haven’t done enough yet. Herein lies the problem, I will never do enough. I can’t do better than my best and I’m not going to perfectly manage my time and resources 100% percent of the time because I am human. Suffice to say, self-care is necessarily a conscious act for me. But I have decided that it is important enough to warrant action.

I think for a long time I felt like forgoing time set aside for self-care and relaxation was in some way a noble or humble act. It’s not, in case you were wondering. Refusing to care for and love yourself in ways that you would not hesitate to care for and love others is just illogical. Self-care isn’t a reward for your unattainable goals, it’s a necessity to your emotional, mental and spiritual health. I am of the opinion that we were not created to let treat ourselves worse than we treat others and call that love. We were meant to take joy in our own existence as well as the existence of others. Furthermore, taking care of yourself allows you to show up for others better because you’re feeling stable and energized yourself.

So, if it’s been a while since you showed yourself some love, please treat yourself! Take a bath and pamper your skin with nice lotion afterwards, eat some ice cream, listen to some music, tell yourself you’re beautiful, paint your nails, drink something tasty, eat something decadent, or even buy yourself a little something that makes you happy. You are a glorious creation and you are worthy of joy, love and care. Take some time to bask in the love of the Creator (or just of the universe if you’re not religious) and enjoy some of the many blessings that the earth has to offer.


If you, like me, have to make a conscious effort to make time for self-care think about times of the day or week where you can carve out a spot for making sure your physical and emotional needs are met. I also find that it’s helpful to brainstorm what things will help me feel revived and cared for; sometimes this is ice cream and a movie, sometimes it’s candles and an art project, figure out what things make you feel cared for and allow you to bask a little. In case you need some prompting here’s a list of some of my favorite self-care activities:

-Eat something yummy!
-Light nice smelling candles and do something that you really enjoy but don’t do enough like reading for pleasure of drawing.
-Buy some new nail polish from walgreens and make time to try it out while watching a fluffy TV show or movie.
-Journal and get out whatever you need to get out OR
-Call someone on the phone and get out whatever you need to get out.
-Tell yourself nice things about the world and yourself and your body and the work you’ve done today.
-Tell people you love that you love them.
-If you feel cute take a cute picture of yourself, go you for feeling good about the wonderful way you were created!
-Make a mess–do art, bake brownies, color with crayons, don’t worry about perfection!
-When you’re done studying or working, just be done, do something that take your mind off of it!
-Spend time with people who make you happy!
-Go on a walk somewhere really beautiful.
-Dance around in your room to happy music (like, dorky happy music–that stuff you don’t admit you listen to, get some Taylor Swift up in there!)
-Take a nice bath and treat your skin to delicious smelling soap and lotion.
-I could go on, but you get the idea! Revel in being alive and doing something that helps you relax and feel cared for.

Happy Treat Yourself Day!