I was a chubby kid. As a fifth grader, I started to watch what I ate, and I began dieting at 12. I was a young girl who began to develop earlier, much earlier than my peers. I was taller than all of my classmates, and started to curve early. Maturing earlier meant that I was physically bigger than the rest of my classmates, but to the 12- year-old me, this meant I was a big fat monster.
Despite my mother’s efforts to ensure me I was fine, I wanted to diet. Most of my teenage years were spent straddling between being miserable from dieting and being angry I couldn’t stick to one. I hated myself during this time. I felt like I was ugly, fat, and unwanted.
I fell into the cycle of crash diets, skipping meals, and binge eating. Losing five pounds or ten pounds was never enough. My mom used to say don’t look at the scale as God. I shouldn’t wake up in the morning step on the cold metal surface and ask “O.K. scale, will I be happy today?” But that’s exactly what I did. I somehow translated my failure to lose enough weight as a character flaw. Years later, I still never became a size zero.
Then came college where I started focusing more on my career and having fun. Before I even noticed, my obsession over my weight was slowly becoming less and less important to me. I realized I couldn’t have a fun time playing beer pong if I were too busy counting the calories. I’m just not that great at math.
Ironically, once I stopped focusing on my weight, I stopped the unhealthy cycle of gaining and losing over and over. I could barely look at myself in the mirror growing up, but by my Sophomore year of college, I started really looking at myself in the mirror and accepting and loving what was glaring back at me.
I would like to say that I had an epiphany and I began to accept my body, but my body acceptance came over time. I had such a bad relationship with my body that it took a lot of rebuilding and an upward battle to get to the point that I am today. I surrounded myself with positivity, I traveled, I partied, I worked hard in school. In short, I had a life outside of my scale. I realized that it didn’t matter how much I weighed. I could still live the life I wanted.
Now as a 24 year old, I accept my body, I struggle with one question: does wanting to eat healthy, and working out to ultimately lose weight, mean that I don’t unconditionally love myself? Short answer, no. I thought about what losing weight means, for my younger self. I wanted to lose weight to be accepted, to look like all the girls who surrounded me.
Similar to accepting the challenges of college and grad school, I accept the challenge of becoming stronger and admittedly, healthier. My shift to losing weight is no longer about acceptance or vanity. It’s about taking care of the bod. It’s the body that stuck with me when I hated it.
Wanting to lose weight isn’t always a declaration of self-hate. Choosing a salad doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with what I see, and eating pizza doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Loving my body means loving the journey it takes as it ages and taking the opportunity to become stronger and physically and mentally. My hope, as I grow older is to change, adapt, and evolve into the strongest person I can be. I can love every inch of my body while wanting to lose weight.