When I was a pre-teen, I remember looking in the mirror and making myself 2 promises: 1) I will never be self-conscious about my age; (2) I will never be self-conscious about my weight. Currently at the age of 21, keeping the first promise is rather easy. Living in a society where a woman’s value is determined by a number on a scale, not so much. I am proud to say, that after a few years of being terrified of telling people my weight, and being told I don’t appear to be nearly as heavy as I am, the numerical value no longer scares me.
I am 21 years old, 5’6″ in height, and I weight 195 lbs. Everyone carries weight differently, and using a number on a scale to determine someone’s body type is nearly impossible. I used to weigh 127 lbs and I wore a size 0. This is before I broke 5′. At 5’5″, I weighed about 170 and wore a size 12. At 5’6″, I weighed about 153 and wore a size 9. Now I wear a size 11. I realized throughout those different stages of weight gain and loss, that only 1 thing bothered me. And it wasn’t my weight. It was my body.
At my current weight and height, I look in the mirror every day and think awful things like, “Fat *ss” and “Look at your disgusting stomach, your love handles and back fat”. Every time I eat, at some point the thoughts “piggy” dart through my mind. I have had extensive mental abuse when it comes to my weight, which plays a role in my idea of how I look. When I was a size 0, I would wear size 2 pants because I was a bit of a tomboy and I liked how baggy they were on me. And I loved my body. I was slim with an almost untraceable pouch for a stomach, but I loved that little pouch. I was about 12 at the time and had already made my way through the beginning stages of puberty. My mother, who was very self-conscious about her weight and size had begun making jokes about me and my body in an attempt to make herself feel better about the weight she had put on. She would make comments about my pouch and eating habits, saying that I had appeared to put on weight and was tarnishing my body with fat. At first, I just ignored her. But like all things, if heard enough times, they become truth.
So I began to eat. And eat. And eat. And next thing I knew, I was a size 7. And then a 9. And then a 12. I was so disgusted in myself and with my body that I would look in the mirror before a shower and just cry. I managed to drop a little weight and get back into my size 9 pants, but I wasn’t satisfied. Unfortunately, I also suffer from severe depression, as well as anxiety, so going out and running, or working out in general, was out of the question. For those of you unfamiliar with depression and anxiety as a mixture, the depression left me unmotivated to put in the effort to work out, because I a, normally fatigued (among other things) and the anxiety has me terrified to be seen by others running, although I love to run. There was a short span of about a week when I was in high school that my mother and I would do Tae Bo every day in an effort to get in shape, and I actually lost 17 lbs. But then, she stopped and started taking prescription diet pills, and I stopped because of the lack of accountability I was provided, and yeah. I gained all the weight back and then some.
My mother wasn’t the only person, or even the most influential person, on my journey of hatred for my body. My ex has her beat. Every time we would eat he would make “moo-cow” sounds or make references to me being a pig. Oh, and you know Dora the Explorer’s cute little “Back Pack” song? I got to hear the “Back Fat” remix at least 4 or 5 times a week. If I ate all the food on my plate, I got to hear “Dammmnnn girl, did you really eat all that?” And if I didn’t, I heard, “Come on, you KNOW you can eat more than that.” It wasn’t until I was crying my eyes out that he would come to me and say, “Baby, you know I think you’re beautiful.” Only to follow with, “but you could lose a few.” He once told me if I made it to 200 lbs, he would leave me. To this day I fear hitting that mark. I also fear that everyone is judging me as he had. No matter how many times my boyfriend tells me he loves me just the way I am, and no matter how many times people tell me I’m not fat, I look in the mirror and I remember all that my ex had said, and I hate myself.
But this is just my story. This is just my struggle with self-image. There are millions of men and women who go through life every day having people judge them and their bodies because of societies view about how men and women look, as portrayed by the mainstream media. We are told that heavy is bad, and thin is good. But truly, you cannot tell a person’s state of health simply by looking at their size. Weight is not an indicator. There are so many people starving themselves to death, or battling bulimia or exercise addiction in order to achieve this unrealistic view of beauty, and people killing themselves with food because they realize the impossibility of attaining that image. There are so few that understand our goal should not be a certain look or body image. Our goal should be health, physical fitness and self-love.
I’m a pretty girl. I know I am. And I am actively trying to work through my depression so that I can get my health where I want it. I am consciously striving for better eating habits and fighting to exercise, even when my depression tells me to take a nap or watch Netflix. Which both eating healthy and exercising actually battle against depression by giving me more enegry to burn and supports a more optimistic attitude. And my goal is to love my body no matter what it looks like, because it’s mine, and it’s the only one I’ll ever have. So through every stage on my journey to a healthier, more fit, me, I strive to remind myself every time I look in the mirror that I am not defined by how I look on the outside. I am defined by who I am on the inside. And I’m pretty fricking awesome.