Before I can tell you how I’ve learned to love and appreciate my body and myself, I first have to tell you where I came from. I was always a big child, taller and bigger than everyone in my class by a pretty large margin. I was bullied and made fun of from the time I was in kindergarten up until I graduated from high school. I learned from a very young age that my body wasn’t as good as others, that I should do everything I could to become a smaller version of myself.
I think it’s safe to say I started actively trying to change my body when I was in 8th grade. Over the course of the next 15 years, I would meet with multiple personal trainers and try everything from the cabbage soup diet, to the HCG diet, to weight watchers. I did workout programs that ranged from pilates videos and running to one weird one that came with a resistance band bar and included weird breathing exercises. This was on top of the hour a day I spent in weightlifting classes (once I was in high school) and the two to three hours I spent at practice for whatever sports season it was (volleyball, basketball, or softball).
I was encouraged by everyone I knew to lose weight and was rewarded with praise and compliments whenever I made progress. All of it led me to a very dark place, a place where I hated every single thing about my body, where thoughts of being smaller and how happy I would be when I got there were all-consuming. I thought about what kind of clothes I would wear, what kind of boyfriends I could have, and how much better at basketball I’d be if I could just lose 50 pounds.
I did horrible things to my body. I injected synthetic hormones in my stomach (HCG) and ate 500 calories a day for three weeks. I went through severe cycles of restricting and then binging, when I’d eat everything in sight when my willpower inevitably gave out. I took multiple brands of diet pills and supplements to help me lose weight. And when none of it worked, I medicated with high-fat, high-sugar foods because if I wasn’t going to lose weight, then I might as well just eat all the “forbidden foods.”
I regularly told myself how lazy and worthless I was, regularly said and thought things about myself that I would never even imagine saying about or to other people. Shopping was a nightmare that almost always ended in tears. I cried myself to sleep or stood in front of the mirror and prayed to be smaller more times that I could count. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars I didn’t have trying to force my body to be something it wasn’t meant to be.
When I got pregnant for the first time, instead of being appreciative of the miracle that was happening inside me, I hated my body even more. I hated that I didn’t have a cute, round bump like every other pregnant person I knew, hated every single pound I gained even though I was growing another human being inside of me. Something that should’ve been a joyous, wondrous time in my life was overshadowed by the self-hatred I felt.
I look back on those years of my life and feel sad for that girl who missed out on truly experiencing all life has to offer because I was too focused on achieving some impossible ideal. I was too focused on how many calories something had than to just be with the people I loved and enjoy our time together. I was too focused on what other people might think of me if I just stopped trying.
I’d like to tell you all of those dark thoughts are gone, but that would be a lie. Some days, I have to fight to keep the darkness at bay. I have to practice saying nice things to myself instead of tearing myself down. I have to work every day to keep from slipping back into that place of all-consuming self-hatred. It is a fight I am happy to fight every day for the rest of my life if I have to. It is hard and exhausting some days, but is it totally worth it.