This story is a long time coming but one I knew I wanted and needed to share. While this is a very personal journey, I know I found so much comfort in hearing other women’s stories as I navigated learning to love my body. I hope my story can inspire other women to begin accepting their body. I am a different, better, person because I accepted mine.
I’m not sure when I first started to hate my body. I can’t actually remember a time before I hated my body. Even as a little kid, I was painfully aware of my size. Throughout my life, as my weight fluctuated, from dieting or just being a growing kid or teen, I always felt so much shame around my body. My body didn’t actually hold me back – I still got to participate in all kinds of fun kid and teen things but deep down I started to believe that being fat meant I was unworthy and unloveable.
In elementary school, I remember wanting a flat stomach. In middle school, when I had some friend problems I KNEW they were because of my weight. I can’t even really say I was ever bullied (thank goodness!) But I was definitely bullying myself. Anytime I heard a comment about me, I believed it was because of my weight. Family members would make the classic “look how big you’ve gotten” (probably referring to the fact that I was like 5″7′ in fifth grade) and I was sure they were commenting on my weight. The size of my body was the lense I viewed all of life through.
I spent high school and college on and off diets. Hating myself. Being proud of myself. All because of the way I ate that day. Looking back, those were the years I started to suffer from some anxiety and depression and I used food as a way to cope. I was a naturally pretty good student so I remember having the thought “I should really focus more on trying to lose weight than on school.” I truly thought being thin was infinitely more important than how well I did in school. For years, my inability to control the size of my body was my biggest failure. I spent hours and hours every day thinking about what I was going to eat, how I was going to exercise, and hating myself if I didn’t make the healthy choice 100% of the time. I was constantly seeking the next best way to lose weight and be “healthy.”
I never actually got diagnosed with a clinical eating disorder, but I definitely struggled with lots of disordered eating. From the outside, my life looked great. I was successful in college, I had a great boyfriend, landed great internships, and was president of my sorority. Behind the scenes, my life revolved around diets, guilt, and shame.
During my junior year of college, I hit a breaking point. I had just done a really intense elimination diet called the Whole30. I had spent an entire month OBSESSED with food. The Whole30 boasts that this 30 day “reset” will give you food freedom. When the month was over and I realized I was more obsessed with food than ever before I knew I needed to do something.
So, I asked for help and was connected with a Non-Diet Dietitian. From my first appointment, I felt so understood. I truly thought that my issues with food and my body were unique to me and that no one else struggled like I did. She slowly started introducing tools to me that changed. my. life. I saw her on and off over the next few years and she introduced me to an incredible Psychologist that I still see today. My eyes were officially opened to the life-changing idea that you could love yourself and your body where it was today. I learned that loving yourself how you are is actually the key to ever feeling peace. I learned that shame is not a motivator and I was actually doing more harm than good by centering my life around food. I learned to start trusting my inner wisdom, rather than looking outside myself for answers.
This journey took YEARS. It’s been 5 years since I first saw that Dietician and some of the tools she taught me I’ve only recently become good at. I finally feel at home in my body. I can look at pictures of myself and not pick myself apart. The biggest blessing of this whole journey was that I learned a lot of this before my little brother, Jack, passed away in 2018. I’m so grateful I had these tools and therapist in place before that happened.
I still struggle everyday. Most days I feel pretty neutral towards my body. I like it and am grateful for it. Somedays, I still wish I looked like someone else. Other days, I feel awesome about my body and feel confident in how I look and who I am. Either way, I make sure I don’t spend my days too fixated on how I look. I try to remember that how I look is only a very small piece of who I am.
My biggest takeaways? Confidence is a journey, not a destination. You are worthy of love and success, no matter what you look like. Loving yourself is the first step in finding peace and freedom. I know I’ll never be done with this work but I also know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made the first, scary, step to ask for help and challenge my mindset.
If you’re going through this journey too, please let this be the encouragement you need to keep going. Becoming at peace with your body is so worth it. If you need a recommendation for a dietician or therapist, check out psychology.com or nationaleatingdisorders.org/. I’m also happy to send personal recommendations if you’re in the MD area.
All of my love, Carla