TW: dieting, weight loss, disordered eating, body image
This year, I am on a journey of self-love. The truth is that I have often lacked it, particularly when it comes to my body.
This isn’t a story for everyone, and I want to be sensitive to the fact that weight loss and body transformations are triggering for many — and by no means does self-love mean changing your body.
That said, I can’t remember a time where I’ve liked my body.
At 10 years old, I don’t remember pondering my self-image, but I’ll always remember the first time I felt my body was a barrier to who I wanted to be. At the time, I wanted to be a model. But that dream quickly disappeared when my mom’s boyfriend, Doug, told me that I couldn’t. “To be a model, you can only eat an apple a day. And your stomach has to be flat.” He stood behind me and wrapped his arms around my belly, pushing it inward. “Like that,” he said.
At 11 years old, my mom and Doug broke up. He had been seeing another woman, and my mom made a major change. Depressed and dejected, she hit her lowest weight, opting to drink weight loss smoothies at meals in place of solid food. Our family raised eyebrows. Her friends offered praise. And I, I didn’t understand.
I started 6th grade this year, middle school ushering in new social pressures and teen angst.
At 12 years old, I went on a school trip to DollyWood with friends. To ride some upside-down spinning contraption, a technician had to check our weight. I didn’t think twice, but publicly stepping on a scale in front of my friends was devastating.
I weighed 20 lbs more than the other girls. The only one to weigh in over 110.
Witnessing my mom’s success and with sinking self-esteem, I started dieting for the first time — packing 100 calorie snack packs for lunch and restricting my food intake to under 1200 calories. I lost weight, sure... but I was miserable. And still, I didn’t see myself like I saw the other girls. I only saw a devastating difference at a time when I desperately wanted to be like everyone else.
I had begun a toxic cycle of yoyo dieting that wouldn’t end until I entered college when I met girls in my sorority who had serious struggles with anorexia and bulimia. Discovering that the girls I aspired to be felt the same way as I did, I had a realization. Fat is not a feeling. I didn’t hate myself for how I looked because I wasn’t fat. I hated myself for how I felt.
Now, at 22 years old, I'm trying to see things differently.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t leave much room for envisioning a fresh start or new beginning this year. But I decided to create my own.
While scrolling through Tik Tok, I came across a fitness influencer who I hadn’t seen in a while, Cassey Ho. Ho is a pilates instructor who runs the Blogilates app and offered up a challenge for 2021: the #21DayTone.
The goal was simple — stay active for 21 days straight for at least 21 minutes a day.
I saw this challenge as an opportunity. A chance to change how I treated my body.
I've been on a lot of meal plans, fitness programs, and diets. The thing is — they always work initially, then you get exhausted, stop, return to old habits and you're back at square one. My problem was that my "why" wasn't strong enough. I didn't want it bad enough. And my journey wasn't about the journey — it was only about the end goal.
The 21 Day Challenge worked for me because I focused on finding the joy in my journey. I fell in love with the food, the workouts, and the ability to experiment, fail, tweak, and try again. I have loved getting to know myself better.
For the last 21 days, while I have continued to not love myself completely, at least I could say “today, I have done everything I can for my body to be the way I want it to be (strong, toned, flexible, mobile).”
I don’t know if I’ll ever fully love my body, but that’s okay. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning to love it, and at the end of the day, I can accept who I am and have gratitude for who I see in the mirror.
I think, for now, that may be enough.