I’ve wanted to write this post for years now. Something has held me back. Everything felt too fresh, too raw, perhaps. Too honest to reveal. But here I am now. It’s time. Time to tell my story.
I remember the day that I felt fat.
It was the end of my freshman year of college. I had stopped working out completely. There were late night rendezvous with friends to the campus cafe (french fries, chocolate silk pie, etc.) My worst nightmare had happened.
I had gained 25 pounds.
Growing up, I had always been the “large kid.” It wasn’t just my weight. At 5’8″, I soured above most other girls my age. I didn’t see the benefits to my height, only the downfalls. At the age of 14, I remember being told that I was too big to ride the gorgeous arabian horse, Valentine, at riding camp. I remember watching the beautiful thin girls in their riding tights and cute little riding boots take their turns on Val, as I stood watching from the sidelines. I felt like a great big mastiff in a world of graceful greyhounds.
And then–to top things off–at the age of 18, the freshman
15 25 happened.
I knew that if anyone could do anything about this issue of feeling large and bulky, it was me. It was in my control, and my control alone. I didn’t care that my parents told me I was still beautiful. I didn’t care that the boy that I had a crush on at school had asked me out. I didn’t feel worthy of anyone’s attention. I felt big. Bulky. Large. I shrunk away from doing things that I knew I would enjoy, because somewhere in the back of my head, I still felt like that 14 year old girl watching from the sidelines. “That could never be me,” I told myself.
I wanted, for once in my life, to be that thin girl. The girl who got first dibs on the arabian horse. The girl who felt beautiful and worthy and lovely.
So I did.
I became that girl that I envisioned.
I lost 35 pounds, bringing me to an all time low. I didn’t starve myself. And I didn’t have an eating disorder. I just ran. I ran and I ran and I ran. Until my size 4 became a 2 became a 0.
Until I became dizzy and faint and couldn’t fathom the idea of running. Until I couldn’t skip one single day of exercise. Until a 4 mile run wasn’t enough. Until I lost my period for over a year and a half. Until I became cranky and pale and irritable.
I received so many compliments throughout this time.
“How can I get as thin as you?” “You’re so tall and thin!”
But I never felt it. I never felt tall and thin. Or beautiful. And I most certainly wasn’t strong or happy. No. I was tired. Tired of running all the time and feeling like I had an insatiable appetite. Tired of hiking a 4000 ft mountain and wondering how many calories I had just burned. Tired of being cranky. Tired of being tired.
Not overnight. Not in one day. But something happened. Slowly, gradually, I began to realize that (a) I wasn’t happy, even at that “ideal” weight that I saw for myself, (b) I didn’t feel healthy despite all of the working out that I was doing and (c) if I wanted to someday (hopefully!) be a dietitian than I needed to snap out of whatever I was going through and find a level of peace and balance with myself and with exercise.
Fast forward 7 years.
I’m now 25 pounds heavier than during that time (10 pounds lighter than my “heaviest” weight.) I no longer get compliments on my “thinness,” even though I’m still on the thinner side (just not skinny!) And I’m so incredibly happy with myself!!! My shoulders and arms are finally feeling strong, thanks to yoga. I run because I want to, because it makes me feel amazing (versus because it was keeping me thin and keeping those non-believed yet welcomed compliments coming!) A 2-mile walk isn’t just “extra” anymore; it’s my daily workout.
I owe a lot of who I am to both of my parents, but most importantly my dad who is the man who always made me feel safe and special as a little girl. The man who told me that I was pretty through every single weight that I traveled across. I wish every girl had a dad tell her she’s beautiful. But whether or not this is realistic for you, you must know that you are! You must take this to heart and believe it. You’re beautiful. You’re special. You’re worth far more than you could imagine.
When I was at my thinnest, I would sometimes blame other people for who I was; “it was those girls riding the arabian horse who made me become this way!” I even had the gumption to blame my childhood years at some points. But none of it was true.
The truth is, I had to finally feel inward beauty. I had to finally learn that God loved my heart. I had to learn that strength is prettier than skinny. I had to learn to love and cherish and nourish my body in the same way I would love and cherish and nourish a child. I needed to respect myself.
I am happy to say that today I am a completely new person. Completely restored, through lots of hard work, soul searching, Bible reading, journaling, and living. I hardly recognize that girl who I was 7 years ago. I am genuinely happy and at peace with myself. I have no pull towards who I was…just a bitter distaste and a memory that makes me feel for girls who struggle through these similar situations (amenorrhea, excessive exercising, body scrutinization/comparison, etc.)
And here’s the cold hard truth: No one person or thing will ever make you feel worthy or lovely or beautiful forever. Nobody. But you can. If you want to feel at peace with food, exercise and yourself, than I encourage you to take the first step. Make a goal for who you want to be, mentally and physically. It’s okay to want to be strong, but it’s not okay to feel anxiety and pressure to reach an unhealthy goal.
Strength and beauty and confidence come from somewhere deeper than the surface and these things take work to obtain. But. Trust me, it’s worth it.
QUESTION: Do you have a “weight” story to share? Did you ever suffer from low self esteem as a kid and how did/are you overcoming it? Do you accept genuine compliments from people or do you struggle to believe them?