I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my body. I remember crying my eyes out after stepping on the scale, the number making me feel worthless and ashamed–I was only 12 years old. My body didn’t resemble the ones I saw in the magazines or on TV and I didn’t understand why. I’ve always been a pretty healthy, active person, but yet I still had a curvier figure. In my mind, the solution was simple-cut the calories and exercise more.
I now understand that a person’s body type is influenced by many other factors, including genetics and metabolism, but I didn’t have that knowledge when I was younger. So I started counting calories, googling every single bite I put in my mouth, always feeling shame and anger when the number was higher than I wanted. I began skipping meals and started running, hoping that that would help me slim down. I wanted so badly to look a certain way and hated myself when I couldn’t. Of course, this kind of thinking was harmful to my self-esteem, and compromised my mental health. The relationship I had with my body was toxic; unfortunately, I know that many girls worldwide have similar relationships to their bodies.
When I was a senior in high school, I started feeling a bit more confident in myself and my attitude towards my body slowly shifted. I started working out consistently for the first time, not with the goal of losing weight and looking skinny, but to improve my physical health. I started drinking more water and I stopped skipping meals and counting calories. However, I still struggled with nagging thoughts about what I saw in the mirror. I still do, even today.
My relationship with my body has evolved considerably over time. My main concern when I was younger was aesthetics, whereas now, I am more concerned with my health and well-being. I am working on how I feel about my body every day and every day is different. Some days, I feel proud of myself and love the way I feel in my body. Other days, I’m that little 12-year-old girl, ashamed and confused. But now, instead of criticizing myself for what I eat and depriving myself of the foods I love, I eat what I want to (within reason, of course!) I know that indulging in some of the foods I love, even if they aren’t the healthiest, makes me feel good. It also gives me back the control—instead of being a slave to the scale, I make conscious decisions about what I choose to feed my body, even if that means having dessert every day!
I know that I will likely always struggle with body image issues; my relationship with my body is complicated. But everyday, I fight to remind myself that my worth is not tied to how I look. How I feel, both physically and mentally, is way more important.