I am now 25 years old going on 26. I am well aware of who I am and how I feel about myself at this point in life, but that was not always so. My life, as all of our lives, has been shaped by those closest to me as well as a series of events strung together to make us who we are. I first became aware of weight and of beauty ideals at a young age. There are certainly a few events that have stuck with me and really affected the way I felt about myself and the world around me. I think that many people can relate when I say that I have looked up to my mom my whole life, especially when I was little. She was one of the most beautiful people that I had ever seen, but my mother certainly did not think she was beautiful. Even at a young age I watched my mother tear herself apart. She would look in the mirror turning from side to side, sucking in her belly, running her hands over her thighs and butt, hating what she saw in the mirror. She would weigh herself every day and sigh at the number on the scale. Her I am a little girl looking at my idol, seeing how unsatisfied she is with her body and wondering, if my mother, this beautiful woman thinks she’s ugly than how can I ever be pretty. As I started to get older and gain weight that stuck with me even more. When I was in 6th grade I was able to fit into my mother’s jeans. I thought that was so cool, now I could raid her closet. Soon though, I was bigger than she was and no longer able to fit into her clothes. It was fine though, I was just going through puberty. I would lose weight and be pretty in high school, right? But that never happened for me I just continued to gain weight through high school and into college. It was not a quick process by any means. It was gradual and I did not even realize how big I had gotten until I was well over 200 pounds.
Another experience that really stuck with me was, when I was young, I’m not even sure how old, maybe 3rd or 4th grade I sat in the exam room at my pediatrician and watched as he pulled up the weight and height charts and showed my mom where I sat on the charts, certainly not on the low end of the spectrum, but not yet on the high end of the spectrum either, but creeping towards the high end and I listened to him tell my mother that I would never be thin. It’s a moment that I have played back in my head over and over for years to come. If my doctor said that I would never be thin than it must be true. I was bound to be heavy my whole life according to him and doctor’s are never wrong right? This moment, I still play back in my head while I’m analyzing myself in the mirror and I wonder how many other parents did the doctor tell that too, how many other children heard that message and resigned themselves to a fate of being overweight?
People are prone to comparing themselves to others and I am no different. When I was little I had cousin who was two years older than I was and I wanted to be just like him in every capacity. When we were young maybe 2nd grade my aunt and my grandma weighed us. I was excited because I almost weighed as much as my cousin did. That was good right? I wanted to be like him in every capacity. My aunt however was quick to tell me that it wasn’t something that I should be proud of. My cousin was two years older and a boy and he should weigh more than me. I hung my head in shame and thought about how bad I was. Now, this incident may not have affected me dramatically in that moment, but it is most definitely something that has stuck with me my whole life, that plays in my head when I look at myself. I certainly don’t compare myself to my cousin now as he’s 6’3” and as skinny as a bean pole and I’m 5’2” and thin but curvy, but I still hear her voice in my head telling me that I shouldn’t weigh that much, that it’s bad.
The last really vivid experience that I have that really affected me was just after my senior year of high school. My grandfather suggested to me rather firmly that I go to the gym with him and do a zumba class because I could afford to lose some weight before I went away from school. Boys don’t like heavy girls after all and it will make me more hirable if I’m thin and attractive. I spent the summer going to zumba classes every weekend with him. Now, I don’t know if it actually helped me lose any weight or not, but if it did it certainly not stick. This experience may have been one of the more painful ones for me. I already was deep into self loathing and probably depression at that point in my life, and to hear my grandfather who really did not have a whole lot to say to me most of my life and whom I did not relate with that well tell me almost point blank to my face that I was fat and needed to lose weight was painful.
Through all of these experiences in my life, by the time I was in college I had hit a really dark place. Not to say, that my family was mean to me. My parents never told me that I was anything but beautiful. They would tell me that they wanted me to be healthy and happy. They never judged me for what I ate and never forced me to work out. However, these small isolated incidences ended up causing a lot more damage than they would ever realize. When I was in high school, I thought that I was fat and ugly. I never dated anyone; because why would someone want to date me I was disgusting. I spent most of my time holed up in my room reading my books and writing my stories to escape from this world that was so awful for me. Then, when I went away to college I gained my freshman 15 and that’s when I realized that I needed to do something about. That is where my journey begins.
It’s moments like this that affect people the most. Our parents, families, and friends shape who we become we watch them, listen to them and learn from them. When I look back at these moments I think to myself I never want to make a child think those things about themselves or feel those things. It is in these moments that we can learn and grow. I know that like my mother before me I look at myself in the mirror and I weigh myself. I don’t always like or appreciate myself, but I have also learned that I need to appreciate and love myself and to teach those around me how to appreciate and love themselves so that they do not grow up hating themselves in the manner that I did.
*** disclaimer I am not a medical or health expert these tips are purely from research and are self tested. Be sure to talk to an expert for proper health and nutrition recommendations.