What a strange title. Some of you may be wondering what body image has to do sex. To you I say, read on. Some of you think you might have an idea – it has to do with you feeling uncomfortable with being naked in front of your partner, right? To you I say yes and also read on.
It’s been about six years or so since I’ve had an eating disorder relapse. I’ve accepted that doctors will always ask about this “ongoing” history that appears on my medical record, and that I will occasionally experience feelings about food that the average person probably doesn’t – a little voice in my head telling me “you probably shouldn’t have another piece of ____.” It has taken years of patience and work to not only overcome these thoughts and feelings of disdain I would experience about food and myself, but also to learn to truly appreciate the many ways my body empowers me to do the things I love on a daily basis. That’s what makes my body truly beautiful.
When my boyfriend and I started dating, I felt completely comfortable with him and trusted him with some of my most personal life stories, including my past history with eating disorders. He was very understanding and respects me more for it, but most importantly, he never fails to remind me everyday how I beautiful I already know I am.
However, when my boyfriend and I were both ready to become sexually intimate with one another, I started picking up on little personal quirks of mine. At first, I wanted the lights off whenever we did anything physically intimate. It worried me that he would find me less attractive, or that he would get “turned off” if he were actually able to see me in light. When I realized just how ridiculous and stupid that was, the idea of being intimate with him in a perfectly well lit room stopped bothering me as much. I told myself that if he truly loved me and respected my body and me, then he would appreciate every aspect of it. And he does. Though my feelings of insecurity were valid, part of perfectly loving myself also means being with someone who perfectly loves me for me because being with someone who emotionally or verbally abuses me signals an unhealthy relationship and would be toxic to my well-being.
Another quirk I noticed shortly after this is that I would ask my boyfriend to turn around while I dressed or changed outfits. I know, you’re probably thinking, “If you’re physically intimate with him, why is changing clothes a problem?” Well, I have rolls when I bend down and stretch marks in just about every place you can think of! This quirk (a slightly different manifestation of the previous one) took a little longer for me to let go of because I was giving him full liberty to not just look at me, but to actually see all of my imperfections. Out of respect of course, he would comply, but he would also always ask me about the about the way I felt afterwards and I was honest with him. It felt differently to me because we weren’t doing anything sexual, but he was watching me do a daily task as I thought about other things. His patience and his commitment to understanding my insecurities have helped me trust him more with those insecurities.
I now feel more comfortable and safe letting him watch me be myself, but it has taken a lot of talking it out and feeling safe in my own skin first. I remind myself that my stretch marks have a story behind them, a story of strength and resilience. Heck, it’s an awesome story! Look at me sharing it now!
It’s okay to not love every part of your body right away – it takes a lot of time and patience. I encourage you to find someone you trust - maybe it’s your partner, a sibling, a friend, or a therapist – because having social support makes it so much easier. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone has stretch marks because skin stretches for several reasons – not just weight gain/loss! Everyone has rolls when they bend over. Everyone has something that irks them about their bodies. But, everyone’s body is still beautiful!