Finding Body Peace
By: Julia Repisky
I have a voice in my head. It screams at me when I indulge in sweets, it criticizes me every time I look in the mirror, and it belittles me when I skip a workout. It calls me fat, gross, and it tells me I’m not good enough.
This voice is not easy to ignore, but it’s feasible. It took me a long time to learn to cope with it though.
I remember the first day I truly considered myself fat. In third grade, a girl was wearing the same shirt as me. I found it a little alarming, but mostly embarrassing as I looked at her and thought “Wow, she looks much skinnier in it than me. I’m never wearing this shirt again.” At a time when I was supposed to be running around heedless of the world around me, I started to become engulfed in something scary — thoughts that no little girl deserves to face.
The sad, harsh truth is this is a more common problem than we may realize. Girls begin to worry about their weight at an alarmingly young age. In fact, over 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. By middle school, around 40-70 percent of girls dislike at least one or two parts of their body. Self-esteem begins to plummet around at the age of 12 for many young girls, before they even hit puberty; it can reach its lowest point by the age of 15. Sometimes, it takes until the age of 20 for a girl’s self-esteem to improve.
I was 15 when my body image hit rock bottom. In 10th grade, that voice in my head grasped complete control of me. My one and sole concern was to be skinny. It convinced me that this was the only path to happiness. It made me feel guilty about anything I ate — even an apple. It made me feel guilty for being me. Even worse, it made me hate myself. I would avoid mirrors like the calories I feared to eat. The sight of my body, no matter what size, scared me.
I only allowed myself to consume less than 500 calories a day and forced myself to spend 3 hours a day at the gym. I kept a video diary of my progress to track my obsession. In three months, I deleteriously dropped 40 lbs. Excitement overwhelmed me at the sight of my hipbones protruding out and the ability to count my ribs. I had a relationship with my scale, obsessively weighing myself numerous times a day. If I gained a pound, I would punish myself with only more exercise and less calories. I had reached below my target weight.
But I wasn’t happy.
I was sick, stuck in this false world where every lost pound signaled to happiness and freedom from the belittling voice that echoed in my head. Kate Moss’ famous line “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is a dangerous motto to follow because being skinny shouldn’t be your purpose. Being healthy should.
That’s why you should stop obsessing over your body. Of course, this is easier than it sounds. It took me a long time to realize this (and I’m still in the process). By the end of high school, I began to come to my senses. I began to learn how to tame that condescending voice, though it is never completely silenced. Sure, I still hear it echo as I decide to indulge, when I look in the mirror, or when I can’t find the motivation to exercise. But the difference between myself then and now is I have come to terms with my body. I have accepted that my body is mine and I should strive to be healthy, not skinny. I have found body peace, and I challenge you to do the same:
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
This proves itself to be almost impossible at times. It’s natural for us to look at others and wish we had what they have. Yet, we always tend to forget the fact that we are all different. Yes, I want that 100-pound body with small hips, toned legs, and a flat stomach. But that’s not me. I have learned to accept the fact that I have been granted the gift of big hips and thick legs because in truth, it’s impossible for my body’s structure to withhold anything less. This is the way my body was built and instead of hating it, I’ve learned to embrace it and accept it as a beautiful part of me.
- Don’t workout to be skinny, exercise to be healthy.
Some people are lucky to be born with a small frame, while others may have to work harder for it. Nonetheless, when you adopt exercise into your lifestyle, remember to do it for the right reason. It’s recommended to keep an active lifestyle because your body needs it. Thus, your trip to the gym should go towards your overall goal to be healthy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make goals to lose weight if you desire, but these goals shouldn’t eclipse the idea of health based on your body type. If you maintain an overarching goal to be healthy, then not only will your trips be more fun and beneficial, but you’ll notice results more easily; pounds may appear to melt off more easily if you don’t obsess over how you look. Focus on feeling and being healthy, because being healthy means you’ll be happier with who you are.
- Always remember the number on the scale doesn’t matter.
We all know muscle weighs more than fat. If you combine strength along with cardio, you may find that you have actually gained weight, but look more toned and fit. This circles back to the idea that being healthy should be your main concern, not your weight or size. Feeling healthy and good about yourself should undermine your want for that ideal, perfect body.
I may not be skinny, but I’m not fat. I don’t need to be any of these to be me. I’m just me. My self-image paradigm has shifted from my obsession to achieve the perfect body my frame just couldn’t possibly support, to an overall goal to just be healthy. I still find myself yearning for that ideal body, but it’s a process I’m still getting through. I may be heavier than I was when I was at my smallest, but now I’m actually happy because I’ve found body peace. And I invite you to join me.
[Image: email@example.com; no modifications //Four Prize Winners in Annual Beauty Show – Washington, D.C.]