“At my heaviest if someone asked me to lose weight I’d wonder from where? Should I cut off my nails, or eyelashes, or hair? Because I was not fat. I didn’t see myself as anything but perfect. I looked in the mirror and saw a thin, gorgeous woman, and I felt so.”
That was when 48-year-old Adiris Cordero-Torres was tipping the scale at almost 400 pounds.
Adiris suffered from a form of body dysmorphic disorder where, when she looked into the mirror, she did not see the reality of a morbidly obese body but rather a perception of her idealized self.
“Self-perception of body and image issues are real,” Adiris explained. “I could deceive myself that I still wore a size 36 bra despite having 20 extenders in the back to make it a size 58, or the water was shrinking my clothes or those doggone manufacturers were making the clothes too small.”
She justified her overeating in many creative ways:
“I would go down the highway and buy from every drive through, but just the kids meal because the toys were for my daughter. And then I would drive back up the other side of the highway and buy from all of the fast food business in ‘in fairness to them.’ I ordered pizza from three different places to see who was faster then ate as much as possible ‘because the boxes would not fit in the fridge.’ I bought bags of miniature candy because they were ‘small and had less calories’ but then bought a bag from each manufacturer so ‘they would all stay in business.’”
At one time, routine tasks were daunting — like picking up an object from the floor. After having lived with the struggles to accomplish any physical movement for many years, they seemed normal.
It took a reflection of her awkward, difficult movements through her autistic 4-year-old daughter to begin to open her eyes to her real condition, not the distorted view of herself she fancied in her mind.
“I watched my daughter grab her chest, pant heavily then bend over precariously to try to retrieve an object from the floor. I wondered what she was doing then I realized she was mimicking me. She thought that was normal. I cried. It was a wake up call. I could not allow my delusions to trap her already compromised life into even more self injury because she was imitating a mother who was not in touch with reality.”
Obesity is linked to a multitude of health difficulties, including heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and breathing problems. Adiris was a walking time bomb for serious and potentially deadly health complications.
But knowing the complications of obesity were of no value to Adiris until she saw herself as overweight.
“Coming to terms with the reality of my condition was the first step in getting healthy. It did not help me for people to try to spare my feelings by saying things like, ‘You have such a pretty face.’ Indulging my delusions were not helping; it would eventually kill me.”
After this “reality check,” she worked to lose 184 pounds:
Adiris has some advice for people who have friends or family with body dysmorphic disorder:
“Be real. Reality checks suck but they are true compassion. Helping someone come to terms with reality is what truly empowers them to make choices that can have outcomes that betters their life. Thank God I had people around me that loved me but wouldn’t love me to death.”
This advice can apply to so many areas of our lives — whether we're hurting our bodies, mistreating someone, or making a short-sighted decision. We live in a culture where it is a common occurrence to distort or deny truth to accommodate feelings. Sometimes the choice to do that can have devastating, lifelong consequences.
The old adage that our snowflake society has forgotten still holds true; honesty is the best policy. It is still possible and imperative to speak the truth in love, while being mindful of the sensitive nature of the situation. Like Adiris will tell you, a true friend isn't afraid to hurt your feelings.