One of the biggest personal battles one can go through is their body image and self respect. For women we feel this constant need to be the ideal “hot” and therefore fill our days constantly kicking ourselves for eating chocolate, or simply not caring and hating ourselves on the inside.
This is a dangerous game because it can lead to many health concerns, both physically and emotionally.
Take me for example. I’ll be the first to admit I have never been the ideal weight, I tend to break out under stress (thanks finals), and ya know what? I like french fries every once in a while. Now, after 21 years of battling this fear of others’ judgement, I can safely say, I simply do not care.
That’s right, I said it. After years of worrying about what others might think of me, I’m simply done, because I can’t enjoy a life with this fear.
My body image has always been poor and although it has never led me to an eating disorder or constantly trying to change my body, I’ve been close. I remember when I was younger I went to visit my athletic, beautiful cousins. I remember at one point we weighed ourselves and I felt bad when I was 85 pounds, at probably age seven. How ridiculous, I was ashamed of this so early. As one might have guess, for a long time I focused on trying to lose weight, comparing myself to my cousins who were active in gymnastics (that was the first sign right there, a gymnasts’ body is usually thin) and it drove me to sadness, knowing deep down I probably would never be that skinny.
In middle school and high school it was basically the same thing. I played for a soccer league that was competitive all year and traveled and I was fit, but I was never as skinny as the other girls, sign number two. I could never understand why I was so accomplished in this sport, yet I wasn’t happy.
After high school I got a much needed break from the stress of year-round soccer. After a pretty bad injury I knew I couldn’t play as well as I used to, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
So, I did what most college first-years did, take advantage of the daily buffets in the commons, stress over school work and personal relationships, and slept when I had the chance. This led to weight gain and a bad self image of myself, the final sign.
I knew something needed to change. I knew I had to not only change physically, for my health, but also mentally, because I did not like the woman standing in front of the mirror, in fact I hated her to be honest.
Over the past two years I’ve had to constantly remind myself I am a good person, that I will never be runway model skinny, and that chocolate will not make me gain ten pounds.
After I was sort of used to the internal pep talks I began to start out slow at the gym. This was probably the hardest part. I felt as if I was being judged, but this was another obstacle I crossed because the way I see it, I’m there to get healthy. Why should you judge me for that? After slowly building up a gym routine, with the major help of a friend, I actually enjoy it!
Finally, the most crucial change was my eating habits. This past year especially, I’ve become painfully aware how unhealthy some of the food I eat is, and by saying no to some foods and yes to more greens and fruits, I’ve ultimately become healthier– meaning I get sick way less, and… drum roll please.. have started to lose weight.
The whole point of this story is not to say one should have to change to fit in. I am probably still considered an outcast based on society’s standards of “pretty” but this is their problem. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got, why should I hate myself for that? I respect myself so much more because I’m aware of how strong I am, and have accepted the challenge to further my health.
It is a very slow process, I will not lie, but it is totally worth it to love yourself, because hey, you’re stuck with you for the rest of your life, why not love you?