I’m about to get really raw here. I feel incredibly vulnerable talking about body image stuff because although I’m in a much better place with loving myself and my body than I was a couple of years ago, I certainly don’t have it all figured out…and I’m not sure I ever will. But I thought it would be inauthentic to create a Self Love Series without addressing the negative feelings we often have about our bodies or sharing my own struggle.
I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to hating my thighs or trying to make my body conform to the images I saw all over the television. Maybe that’s because growing up with a single mom who was an abusive alcoholic/drug addict left me little time to worry about how my body looked compared to the other girls; maybe it’s because the women in my family constantly commented on how lucky I was to be “skinny” so it never occurred to me to worry about my weight. Whatever the reason, I had no concept of what number I should covet on the scale or what an acceptable pants size was until I was a junior in high school.
All the girls I knew were on diets, and “needed” to lose 10 lbs. I started paying attention. I started comparing the size of my legs (too thick), my butt (too big), my boobs (too small) to theirs. I started reading fashion magazines and tabloids. My body definitely didn’t look like any of those bodies. And so it began.
Fast forward to now and I can tell you I have been every size from 2 to 20. I’ve tried every diet under the sun, from Slimfast (remember the powder you mixed with water, and stirred into a chalky sludge back in the day?) to fat-free everything, to South Beach, to being vegan, to juicing. And then there was the over exercising. Grueling workouts that made me feel like I was going to puke, or pass out, or worse; going to the gym for two hours at a time, doing 2-3 workouts in a day, spending hours on the treadmill, bootcamps, personal trainers…you name it, I did it.
I hated my body–everything about it. I’m truly embarrassed about the way that I used to speak to myself. I was so hateful…as if cruelty would be my catalyst for achieving perfection. I tried with every fiber of my being to beat my body into submission, until one day I just couldn’t do it anymore.
In 2015 I was diagnosed with adrenal failure, Leaky Gut Syndrome and a slew of other hormonal imbalances. My body had had enough. The years of trying to mold it into something it’s not, and the constant stress that went along with that took a huge toll. My body was desperate to be cared for; to be nurtured, and loved. And I realized I didn’t want to use another ounce of my energy trying to change my body and make it smaller. I was all done counting calories, eliminating certain food groups, and killing myself in the gym. Honestly, constantly trying to fix my body was never going to be the solution anyway. It was just a diversion that was keeping me from moving forward in my life.
Now I hover at a size 14, and I try not to get on the scale. I stick to real, whole foods most of the time, but I refuse to diet and I won’t deprive myself of anything I truly want. My workouts are no longer a way to earn certain foods or a means of punishing myself for eating them. I move my body in a way that makes me feel empowered and strong. Some days that’s lifting weights, other days it’s walking outside with my dog.
Would I still like to lose weight, or have a flat stomach again? YES. I’m not gonna lie. And I still get a little down sometimes and think, what if I’m this size forever? And the answer to that question is always, well, then I’m sure as hell not going to punish myself for it! And I reaffirm the pact I made with myself two years ago to always treat myself with kindness and ask my intuition what I truly need to feel good.
These days I choose to focus on the things I appreciate about my body. I choose to only wear clothes I love, and I’ll spend the extra money on things that are comfortable and flattering. I don’t try to squeeze myself into a smaller size to feel better about the number, and I don’t wear things that hide every inch of me and hang over me like a tent. I choose to treat myself to things that make me feel beautiful, like pedicures and flowers and lip gloss.
But the most important thing I do every day is remind myself that losing weight is not the purpose of my life.