I cannot pinpoint the moment in my life where I decided to start thinking of myself as fat and unattractive. I was always chunky as a child, but I don't remember caring. I just remember being a kid.
From that time in my life on, I can remember looking at myself in the mirror and not liking what I saw. I was always a little bigger than my friends and kids in school are not nice. I grew out of my awkward phase in high school, but still continued to look in the mirror and see someone I didn't like.
When I moved home from Santa Barbara, I began to do something about changing what I didn't like about my body. I cut out candy (I still haven't eaten any candy since 2007), started walk/jogging, and I instantly lost 15 pounds. I started weighing myself and the number on the scale kept going down. Then I had to start buying smaller clothes. And before I knew it, I had lost about 35 pounds.
And wouldn't you know it? I STILL didn't like what I saw. I still complained how fat I was. I still complained that my stomach jiggled. I hated looking in the mirror because I didn't like what I saw. I criticized every single aspect of my body. And fell deep into an eating disorder. I ran 7-8 miles a day and refused to eat until after 5pm. Then I would gorge on "safe" food until my stomach hurt. This cycle lasted way too long. I felt strong when I didn't eat anything while the people around me were shoveling food into their faces. I felt strong when I baked cakes for other people that I refused to eat. I felt strong when I fit into size 2 jeans. I also felt cold constantly. I felt more exhausted that I had ever felt in my life. I felt stressed out. If something got in the way of my gym time or I had to go somewhere to eat that didn't have "safe" food, I would have a breakdown. I would stare at myself in the mirror and swear I gained back all the weight I had worked to lose. I looked sick. I was sick.
After a year of this, I finally got help. And slowly but surely, I got better. I put back on about 20 much needed pounds. This was hard for me. Really hard. My body image still was not healthy. Not even close to it. Finally, in 2011, after complaining way too much about my "fat body," my ex boyfriend introduced me to weight lifting and clean eating. He told me that if I wasn't happy with myself, then maybe I would be happier with my body if I tried strength training and eating less processed foods.
The moment I picked up the iron, I was in love. I finally felt strong. Something in my brain switched and I knew that I needed to fuel my body if I wanted to get stronger, if I wanted to run farther without wanting to quit, if I wanted to have energy in the gym to be able to do what I wanted to do. Food became fuel, not an enemy. My body became a temple that could pick up a piece of equipment that weighed as much as a cheeta. In the gym, I feel like I can conquer the world, but at home, in the privacy of my room, when I look in the mirror, I still see that fat little girl. I still see my flaws instead of focusing on the good things about my body. I still feel obese.
Body image is something I will always have to work on. I will never look like a fitness model because I'm NOT a fitness model. I enjoy eating foods that may be too high in carbs, I like going out to eat with friends, I enjoy an alcoholic beverage every once in awhile. Life isn't all about macros and calories. I have been working on looking in the mirror and seeing what other people see. I will focus on one aspect of my body that I DO like, that I think looks really great, and tell myself how awesome it is that I look like that. I remind myself that I am a good person who cares about others, who has a good work ethic, and that life isn't all about how I look. I have an amazing family, fantastic friends, and I am much more than just a body.
I am in a very healthy space now. I'm so happy with my life and the people in it. I am proud of my body and what it does for me every single day. But I think I am still going to be taken aback when someone tells me how good I look. I hope that some day, very soon, I can change that too.