This one might seem like a no brainer; when you love who you are you most likely will feel better about the way you look; the mind and body are connected in very deep ways. But the way my body looks hasn’t been as much of a concern as how my body feels. Before I go into the difference between the two ideas, I want to explain my background with body positivity. I mainly want to go through my history so you can all understand that this is something I will always be up and down with, and I hope that you can find it relatable and realistic. Body positivity is the hardest part of self-love for me and it always will be.
I was never ashamed of my looks, until I was. I grew up on stage so I found confidence in myself very early on. I never felt like I was different or wanted to change the way I looked until high school. Bullying started when my weight began to change. Halfway through Freshman year, my body began to hold weight differently and gain weight easier. I was a cheerleader and heavily involved in theatre, and that was when I first started getting severely bullied for my size. I am sure that it was happening behind my back for much longer before it started being said to my face. But when I was finally told to my face by a classmate that I was too fat to play the part in the show that I wanted to play, I felt like that was what every person thought about me. I will never forget that moment and how it made me feel. It sent me into a downward spiral and it seemed to open a door of never ending comments about my only worth being my weight. It made me a mean, unhappy person who strived and begged for acceptance by my peers, which turned into manipulative and verbally abusive “friendships”.
I was told I shouldn’t cheer or dance because no one wants to see my fat jiggling around. My senior year (the heaviest weight I have ever been) I was called a whale in front of a majority of my classmates. I was told by my “friends” at the time that I was too fat to love, and that I needed to do whatever I could to make myself skinny before college began. This started another downward spiral. By the time college had started, I had already been accustom to hiding the fact I wasn’t eating and I was working out way too much. But I didn’t let anyone know this was happening because I “wasn’t skinny enough to have an eating disorder.” I believed this too, as the people in my life who I knew had eating disorders just so happened to also be smaller than I was. But starving myself and running 3 miles a day is a problem. Trying to hide it from others by occasionally eating a cupcake or half a burger but secretly hating myself for eating those calories and trying to run them out is a problem. Losing 50lbs from restriction is self-harm and it is a problem. But I was losing weight, so no one seemed to know happening in such a dangerous way. This story is one I will get into more in-depth someday, but overall my point is that just because someone who is “bigger” is losing weight does not mean it has been in a healthy way. Check in on them.
Suddenly, things changed. I got myself out of a toxic living situation, and out of toxic relationships by being cast in my college musical, and it brought new meaning to eating. I started dance classes again which made me feel whole. I knew I needed to actually eat in order to get through the classes, and with this slowly came weight gain. But it was at first in a positive way. I was gaining weight by going out to eat with friends and socializing. I felt good about my body because I was happy with my life. Surprisingly, I was okay with this. I realized that I loved that my body could create art and that the way I was built was just different than others. And my new friends never made me feel anything less than beautiful, smart, and strong.
Then things changed again, more stress and toxic problems happened causing my next struggle with eating: binging. I would restrict myself by believing coffee and bananas were enough to live off of until dinner, then eat 3 orders of Taco Bell. I was restricting then binging, and this was much harder to stop. I hated myself for it, but eating a ton of food at one time made me feel better mentally. I could eat a Chipotle burrito and chips for dinner, eat 4 pieces of cake afterwards, and tell myself that it was solving all my problems. But in the morning I would be disappointed when I tried to slide my jeans on that no longer fit. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the way I looked, because I still liked parts of my body, but I wasn’t feeling good. It didn’t feel good to not fit in my clothes and to wake up with pain in my stomach and bloating around my face.
Now, I will also explain that although I was eating bad, I also gained so much weight from the hormonal treatments from my chronic condition, adenomyosis. If this condition is new to you, read my post about my story here. I was on and off so many treatments, it messed with my body and mind. It created so much stress and imbalance that my weight gain was deemed normal by medical professionals. It was something I begged to not happen, but the doctors told me I would (while also telling me to lose weight…this was very confusing!). I allowed myself to use this as an excuse just to avoid talking about my binge eating issues. This went on until December 2017, when I weighed almost as much as I did my senior year in high school.
When I started my most recent health journey, it was because I was tired of feeling so incredibly awful. Feeling, not looking. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. It was partially stress/anxiety, but also partially my adenomyosis. So, my new, more understanding doctor and I made a plan. She wanted me to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. I became gluten-free and dairy limited. This was a main part of my inspiration for this blog, to make my new lifestyle a positive experience for myself. Through this, I’ve learned about eating foods that are simple and actually beneficial for you. I’ve tried new foods that are now a major part of what I eat, as well as began craving my own cooking verses eating out. Why? Because eating my own foods made my body feel better. Through this, I’ve lost 20lbs. Not by tracking calories or by restricting what I can and cannot eat, but by learning about balance and realizing how to properly fuel my body and better my relationship with food.
The thing that people don’t often associate with body positivity is weight loss. Because body positivity is all about loving the skin your in, which I stand behind 100%. But there is also the fact that sometimes the skin your in is unhealthy and is causing more problems than you realize. Even though I was okay with the way I looked 20lbs ago and definitely still flaunted what my mama gave me, I was extremely unhealthy. Body positivity, in my eyes, goes hand-in-hand with self-love. And with self-love comes self-care. And with self-care comes healthy habits. I started eating unprocessed and healthier foods as a way to take care of myself because I knew I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed. I started working out again and pushing what I thought were my exercise limits in a healthy way because I knew I needed to move my body and gain muscles.
I realized I wasn’t losing weight because I hated my body. I was losing weight because I wanted to take care of my body.
So yes, weight loss has helped me love my body. But it isn’t just because I look better, but because I feel better. I feel strong, I feel healthy, and I don’t wake up feeling bloated and with a stomach ache that lasts all day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with losing weight for health reasons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving yourself and your body enough to realize you need to change the way you eat and live your life. Do I still eat potato chips and Taco Bell? Sometimes, yes I do. But I have learned to eat in order to fuel my body, not to make my mind feel better. The way I choose to eat and exercise was made out of self-love and self-care. My weight loss has made me more body positive because I am taking care of my body. I am allowing myself to lose fat and gain muscle, and I will not apologize for loving my body then, now, or in the future.
I know that all of this was a lot, but the bottom line is that my body positivity and confidence is at the level that it is because of the relationship I have created with myself. Over the past 10 months, I have worked so incredibly hard at changing the inside of me and how I thought about myself, and I truly believe that it is showing on the outside. I know how cliché it sounds to say that the inside is what matters and that your inside will shine brighter than your outside, but I am convinced that this is true. I feel healthier, I love who I am, and I love the way I look.