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The Skinny on Loving Your Body

I was studying last semester when I overheard some girls talking about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I heard them say many things along the lines of, “I will never look like those models.” or “I’m too fat to ever wear that.” and “Those models are just too skinny.” It hurt me to hear so much body shaming…and then I realized I was thinking all of the same things.

The body shaming culture in college is sadly fascinating. People love to know who is working out when or how much, who is going to be strong enough to avoid the donuts at breakfast. It’s sickening and it’s everywhere. And with spring break right around the corner, those voices are louder than ever.

As I battle my own eating disorder, I am acutely aware of how often people talk about their bodies. It’s like a sixth sense. My eating disorder likes to pick up on body shaming radar and use it against me. But every time it tries to tell me I am “fat” or that I can’t wear a bathing suit, I think about the moments I am truly in love with my body.

In the gym when I do one more pull up than the day before, I feel strong.

Running a half-marathon, I feel like nothing can stop me when I break a new personal record.

Dancing with my friends on the weekend, I feel carefree and happy.

I don’t think we stop often enough to think about what makes us happy. When I feel my best, it is in awe of what my body can accomplish and not what it looks like. Every time I lift a weight or lace up my running shoes, I am happy because my body is moving. It is moving and I am listening to what it needs to stay strong.

Not long ago my body was weak and my muscles had deteriorated as a result of my eating disorder. I still experience distress when I look back at pictures of a “skinnier” me, but I remind myself that that body could not do nearly half the things I can do now. And I thank God I was given the opportunity to learn about my body’s ability.

Eating disorders are not glamorous, they are not a trend, or a fad diet. What they are, are life threatening and dangerous. They strip away happiness and replace it with the fear to live.

I will never be a Victoria’s Secret model (for one, I am only 5’5”), and I am okay with that. I have tried and tried again to reach an unattainable perfection that does not exist. From my experience, skinnier does not equal happier.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I encourage you to take a look at the moments that make you feel alive. Is it hiking? Swimming? Walking through campus? Life is too short to allow shame to consume your mind. Take a look outside of yourself and see the beauty that is truly there. Because I can guarantee you that your family or your friends do not love you because of how you look- but instead, it’s because of who you are on the inside. As cliche as that sounds, it’s true.

We as college students have got to stop hating our bodies and shaming other people’s shape and size. These are supposed to be the best years of our lives and I hate to see it filled with the all-consuming thought of being “skinny”. This is easier said than done, but what if one by one we all started loving ourselves for what we could do? If we went for a run simply because it felt good, not to kill ourselves over a “bikini-body”? I think we would all feel a little happier.

I struggle every day to love my body. Every day is a battle with my eating disorder, but it is also one day closer to recovery. I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and tell the girl in the reflection she is strong and beautiful and loved.

And I’ll tell you a secret- the more I tell myself I talk to the girl in the mirror, the more I believe her.

Sara Ingraham is a junior at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is pursuing a Political Science and English double major. She is a Kappa Kappa Gamma. She represents the Panhellenic Community as the Vice President of Special Events. Her free time is full of running, tennis, hiking, fashion, and traveling. Sara has lived all over the country, but has a love for the East Coast. Any afternoon with "When Harry Met Sally" and a good book is an afternoon well spent.
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