Body Image: Learning to Love Myself
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
"My goal is to fall in love with everything that I am."
I can honestly and unfortunately say that in my life, I have received more criticism (positive and negative) on my body than anything else. People are alarmingly open when it comes to commenting on body appearance. In my third decade, after a long and hard-fought body-image battle (that probably still isn’t completely over), I’ve finally found comfort and appreciation for the body that was given to me.
Let me first start in the present and work my way back. I’m a 30 year old (insert sigh and eye roll) mother who has struggled majorly with body image my entire life. Healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle were not taught to me at a young age and are something that I’ve worked incredibly hard to instill in myself over the past year and a half. Guys - this is probably one of the single HARDEST things I’ve ever had to do - no exaggeration.
I am currently very lean and fit, and I find a healthy balance of exercise and eating clean, whole foods for a majority of the week, while also indulging in my favorites at least a few times each week. Today, for example, is Saturday... and I have overindulged in muffins, pizza, an ice cream blizzard, my father-in-law’s amazing chicken noodles, wine, and double chocolate brownies from my mother-in-law... So I’m no model for the cover of Healthy Eating magazine today, okay? I am currently training for a race and I am running an average of 10-15 miles per week, and I also coach and choreograph competitive dance and enjoy kickboxing, so I’m super active.
Rewinding back about 17 years... I developed an eating disorder in middle school and struggled with it all through my teenage years. This is something that is unbelievably difficult for me to share with you, and something that I’ve only admitted to a select group of close confidantes. A combination of relentless torment from a middle school peer and some seriously unhealthy eating habits that I developed throughout my childhood led me to my “chunky” and awkward pre-teen years. So, when I found my life spiraling out of control for countless reasons during middle school, coupled with bullying and shame, I found that the one thing that I was ultimately able to control was my diet. I struggled on and off for many years with severely limiting my food intake in order to control my weight to a dangerous extent, and once I got past the physical disorder by the time I was an adult, my mind had still not recovered.
During college and my early twenties, I was “naturally” pretty petite thanks to genetics and my busy lifestyle, but my diet was an absolute mess and I hated the way that I looked. I consumed whatever, whenever, without any consideration, and avoided full-length mirrors at any cost. It wasn’t until my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant when I was 26 that I finally “cleaned up” my diet substantially. Once I became pregnant with our daughter, I found myself quickly back to a super high-carb, high-sugar diet and low-activity lifestyle. After I gave birth, I lost a lot of my pregnancy weight very quickly thanks to breastfeeding, but it was in the months after having our daughter where I found myself struggling the most.
If you’ve read my past blog posts, you know that I spent a lot of my early motherhood days emotionally drowning. I now understand that I was battling postpartum anxiety/depression issues early on, which I didn't recognize at the time, and I had a lot of personal losses in my first six months of motherhood that could’ve caused depression in even the happiest and healthiest of people. I dealt with those issues in the only way that I really knew how, which was to control my diet. However, this time, I buried the pain by overindulging and spiraling down an opposite path from what I had known many years prior.
About a year and a half after my daughter was born, right before Christmas, I found myself suddenly fully aware that the life that I was living was not full or happy, and I was no where near the person that I knew I was capable of being. I was miserable and I was physically and mentally hiding from myself and those who cared about me. I slowly and reluctantly decided, on my own, to start meeting with a therapist and to set goals to completely reset my life and refocus on my future. I gave up the unhealthy lifestyle, started using exercise and mental gratitude as therapy, and found my way to a “new me” that I never even knew existed.
A year and a half later, I sit here, writing to you, happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and ever thought I could possibly be. I finally feel mentally sound and whole for the first time. I am a better wife, mother, and friend because of where I’ve been and the work that I’ve done to get here. I can finally look in the mirror (even a full-length!) and fully and totally appreciate the state that my body is in and what it is capable of, regardless of how others may feel about it. From the girl who used to refuse to run the mile in high school P.E. class to the girl who is running 10-15 miles a week and voluntarily signing up for fitness dance and kickboxing classes, I can truly say that I have finally found the version of myself that I am proud to be.
With that being said, the criticism that I receive almost daily about my body is and will always be prevalent. From comments about how “perfect” my body is, to comments about how “terrible” I look for how thin I am, I will prevail and I will continue on this path for ME. The difference today is that I am confident in knowing that my physique is a result of genetics and the serious work that I put in each day, and it all contributes to what makes me feel so mentally, physically, and emotionally whole. I am confident because I am not “perfect,” because perfection is a lie that fuels illness and disease; I am healthy because I am doing everything that I can to fuel my body physically and emotionally. I am currently exactly how I’m supposed to be, FINALLY, and I’m 100% happy and relieved about that.
My number one goal is to make myself and my family my first priority when it comes to my happiness, and to set the best example that I can for my daughter. My daughter is petite and receives regular commentary about her weight and stature, even as a toddler. I know the day will come when she will be aware of her body and the perception that others hold about it, and I just hope that I will have set a strong enough example for her to be healthy, whole, and confident in who she is.