I looked at myself naked for the first time today. I am 23 years old.
I have always had a love hate relationship with my body. Usually it leaned more towards the hate/dislike side. I was afraid to wear tight things. I was afraid to wear a bikini. And I was afraid to look at myself naked. I built up an extremely unhealthy relationship with my body. And this relationship most likely stems from my childhood.
Growing up my father constantly verbalized how he thought both my older and younger sister could have great athletic success. He pushed both of them to pursue athletics as he saw great talent in them. He never really saw that talent in me. He made comments like: “if you lose that belly, maybe running would be easier.” I felt that he didn’t believe I could achieve athletic success and therefore I didn’t believe in myself.
When I was in my freshman year of high school, my father was deployed with the army. Around that same time, my older sister approached me about becoming her workout buddy as she prepared for junior prom. It was then that I had an epiphany: “if I can lose weight and get fit by the time my father gets home, he will be so proud.” And more than anything, my teenage self wanted him to be proud.
Those few months would be the perfect opportunity to prove to him that I had what it takes to push myself. I was so pumped and determined to try to lose weight.
I started to run everyday. I started to eat better. However, I soon started to overwork and underfeed my body. I developed not only an unhealthy relationship with my body, but also with food.
During those months leading up to my sister’s prom, I became the thinnest I have ever been. This was probably because I was barely eating enough and running myself to death. But hey, I fit into a size 2 pair of pants so who cares about my health and happiness right?
Wrong! This is so wrong. Honestly, that time period was the unhappiest I had ever been. For the longest time I thought that if I were skinny, life would be so much easier. I would look better in clothes, I would be happier, boys would actually acknowledge me, and my father would be proud. But none of these things happened. Here is why:
- I did look better in my clothes; however, I didn’t feel better. Even though I was the skinniest I’d ever been in my life, I still thought I needed to lose weight. I still thought I was fat. I was so used to thinking of myself as chubby, I just couldn’t get that image out of my mind.
- I was terribly unhappy because part of what makes me happy is food. That is the truth. I love food. But I had now developed this horrible relationship with food. I thought that anything I put in my mouth would cause me to gain all the weight back. Food became a toxin to me. And as a result, my energy decreased along with my happiness.
- I thought that as soon as I became skinny, boys would flock to me. I thought they just wanted a girl who was thin and looked good in a bikini. But I was wrong. What boys look for is confidence. Confidence in who you are and what you stand for. But as a result of my unhealthy body image, my confidence was at an all time low. I didn’t love myself so how could I expect anyone else to love me.
- My dad was proud of me regardless of what I did or what I achieved. I simply had to believe in myself.
The truth about “skinny” is that it’s just a word; it holds no meaning. What truly matters is your health. And healthy looks different for everyone. I cannot stress that enough! HEALTHY LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.
Health is defined as: “the state of being free from illness or injury.” And I love this definition because of one key word; “free.”
If you are jumping on one of those FAD diets or the latest diet pill, than you are not free; you are chaining yourself to an anchor that will sink. You are jumping on a train that is heading away from the healthy station. If you want to be healthy, you have to make a lifestyle change. You have to get in tune with your body, know what it needs, and keep it active.
You also need to understand that “free from injury” means not harming yourself in the pursuit of losing weight. Developing an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food is the complete opposite of healthy. Starving yourself to fit into a smaller pair of jeans is not healthy. We need to free our minds from these stigmas given to us by society and start to appreciate the gift our bodies are.
Because that is exactly what your body is; it is a gift. It is the vessel that makes your life possible. Without that body you would be nothing. Your body is intricate and pretty stinking incredible. Like, your body can create a human! Therefore, you need to give that body the respect it deserves. You need to care for it. You need to feed it right. You need to exercise it. But most importantly, you need to love it.
Your body is strong, beautiful, and perfect. Stop comparing your body to that of models you see on social media. Stop comparing it to that of your friends or others around you. Stop hurting your body in pursuit of a perfect bikini body. Stop letting the words of others alter how you see yourself.
Stop comparing and start loving your life vessel!
So now back to how I started this post…yes I looked at my naked body for the first time today. And you know what, I loved what I saw. For the longest time I was afraid of what would greet me in the mirror. But as I stood there today, I acknowledged what my body is capable of and what it has done for me. As I stood there looking at myself, I finally realized how beautiful my body truly is. My big bones, my scars, and the areas where my weight deposits, all these things are beautiful.
Therefore, my challenge to you is to do the same. I strongly encourage you to look at yourself and acknowledge how beautiful you are. You don’t have to do it naked, maybe in just in your undergarments, but stand in front of the mirror and tell your body you love it.