This summer, I am reaching a milestone: I have maintained a healthy weight for 5 years.
Most people in my current everyday life did not know me between the years of 2000-2002, when I gained not the freshman 15, but literally, close to the freshman 50. I moved away from home, had access to a surprisingly palatable college cafeteria, went to Taco Bell almost every night, and hated to exercise. Period. It was that simple – and before I knew it, my face and my fingers and my waistline had ballooned up to form a person I couldn’t recognize. I was completely uneducated about health, and calories-in versus calories-out. I quickly spiraled into a depression, and hated myself for being fat. And until I finally got my act together and was empowered to do something about it, I lived a reclusive and self-loathing existence.
Through the difficult, old-fashioned method of decreasing my calories and increasing my exercise, my body is now very, very different than what it once was. But my mind is the same. I look in the mirror and criticize my form. I live in fear of the number on the scale creeping up. I feel guilty every single time I eat a cookie. I exercise as punishment for over-consuming. I beat myself up for what I am, and what I am not.
And I know that I am not the only one.
Due to the media or the culture or the devil, our minds have a skewed expectation of what we should be, and what we should look like. While I know that it affects certain men, I am confident in saying that women have taken on the lion’s share of this curse.
I have heard some of my most beautiful friends refer to their bodies as “disgusting,” “heinous,” and “foul.” I have used similar words in reference to myself, too. This both angers me and breaks my heart. Everywhere we look, there are cruel reminders to hate our legs, to hate our hips, to hate our _____. You name it. It feels like a hopeless situation and a vicious cycle – will it ever end? What’s it going to take?
I honestly believe that it’s going to take an entire generation of women saying, “Enough is enough.” Changing our way of thinking. Doing the hard work of taking each negative thought captive, and transforming our self-talk. Vowing to never use harsh and hateful words to describe our bodies. Step by step, learning to love and care for what we have been given. Refusing to teach our daughters to hate their fleshy arms or stomachs or thighs.
But before an entire generation can do this, it has to start with individuals.
This is my hope and my prayer for myself. I do not want to spend the next 50 years condemning the body that is so faithfully getting me through this life. I want to be grateful to it, and take good care of it, and find contentment in less than perfection. Wouldn’t life be easier if I could be kind to myself? If you could be kind to yourself?
I’ve always known that thinking highly of oneself is vanity. But recently, I have been realizing that thinking lowly of oneself is another form of vanity. Because in either case, we are giving ourselves too much credit.