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Wellness > Mental Health

The realization that made me love my body the way it is

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

As a 21 year old woman, I have gone through the many struggles that come with growing into your body.  I thought I could share my experience with struggling to love my body and taking my health too far in the hope that I can shed light on others going through the same tribulations. Before we begin, I would like to issue a trigger warning as I will be talking about an eating disorder.

Growing up, I played many sports. Soccer, softball, volleyball, cheerleading and most important to me, gymnastics. Gymnastics was the sport I ended up sticking with for the majority of my life. I started when I was three years old and began at a competitive level at eight, continuing until I graduated high school. Even after high school I joined and competed for Kent State’s very own club team my freshman and sophomore year.

Why am I telling you this? Because, though I was extremely lucky to have been a part of a gym in my youth that was full of supportive instructors, it was the sport itself that in retrospect played a role in my struggle. I bear no ill will and love gymnastics and even teach it to this day! My story has more to do with how things got out of hand so quickly.

Being extremely active at a young age, I was a very skinny kid but also very strong. I ate whatever I wanted, and it did not matter in respect to my weight. Until I got sick in middle school, putting me out of commission of any exercise for about a month. Well, 13-year-old me didn’t catch on to the fact that the reason I could eat whatever I wanted was because I trained twelve hours a week in gymnastics and about eight hours a week for cheer practice. Without this activity, I obviously gained weight. I wasn’t happy about it, but it didn’t bother me so much. Yes, I began to struggle in gymnastics, as I had gained weight and did not have the ability to increase my strength along with it. Still, I chalked it up to me finally going through puberty and left it at that.

Now, let’s flash forward a few years. I’m in high school. The end of my sophomore year and into the start of my junior year. I’m 16-17 years old. My skin has really begun flaring up and it is not just normal teenage acne. It is blistering, painful acne that took up the majority of my face and crushed any confidence I once had. I’m doing everything and anything I can to help it. I read that cleaning up my diet could help. So, I start to eat healthier, cutting out processed food and trying my best to eat only what is natural, really loading up on fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. Well, it did not solve my skin issue. It turned out, a trip to the dermatologist was what I needed.

Many months, many topical treatments and many different meds found only Accutane could cure it. Well, I had never stopped eating clean even after hearing it wasn’t the issue with my skin. Why? Because I had lost weight. I was excelling in gymnastics (the most I ever had since I was a kid). I hurt my back during my sophomore year and was once again out for about a month. This time, because I was able, I still came to practice. I spent the three hours of each practice doing strength.  After finding out it was just a spinal alignment issue, I came back stronger than I ever was. I only saw improvement. I didn’t see anything wrong. I was eating healthily and exercising. How could that be unhealthy? Well it wasn’t, not necessarily. Not yet anyway.

Everything took a turn around covid (naturally). I was terrified of being out of the gym for such an unknown amount of time. I was doing so well I didn’t want to slow my improvement. Though my gym did Zoom workouts twice a week, it didn’t feel like enough to keep up the strength I would need to. This is where I went wrong. I am sharing my experience to help others realize just how out of hand actions and mindsets just as the ones I held can get when not in moderation.

So, I had already been eating healthier and healthier, going as far as to never eat anything highly processed. Even desserts had to be homemade, gluten free, vegan or paleo. I ate so many salads. I can barely stomach eating one today. Anytime my family would order takeout to support our local businesses during the pandemic, I did not just order anything that sounded good off of the menu. Every time, without fail, it was a salad (hence, why I can barely stomach them today).

There was no other choice for me. I had such strict rules for myself. Only eating dessert on weekends, only eating pasta twice a week, etc. I was hurting myself and didn’t even realize it because I was eating and my portions were pretty sizeable. They had to be, to keep me fueled with how much I was working out.

Which brings me right on to the next issue. My workout schedule. I have mentioned how scared I was to go back to gymnastics and lose all my skills because I wouldn’t be strong enough. Well, to make sure this wouldn’t happen, I worked out every day. And on the days of our gymnastics Zoom practice, I would work out twice. Once on the Zoom in the morning, and later in the evening on my own. I watched fitness videos on YouTube until I got the groove of exercises I enjoyed and began writing my own. I also started to make a schedule. Because I was working out every day, I wanted to make sure I was training my body equally. On that schedule would also be everything I was going to eat that day. Because my classes were online, I had all the time in the world to put my focus into working out and cooking healthy meals.

I was eventually heavily persuaded by my mother (thank you, mom) to take at least one rest day. So, I did. I didn’t workout on Sundays. When Covid became more under control and I was able to go back to the gym to train (with proper precautions of course), I was elated to find that all my hard work had paid off. I was in my prime. I was doing the best I ever had. My teammates took notice to how skinny I had become, praising me. This only fueled me. Anytime someone close to me sat me down, concerned I had an eating disorder, I told them absolutely not or I’m fine, you literally just saw me eat! Little did I know that orthorexia was a thing. Orthorexia refers to a fixation on eating healthily. An individual with orthorexia is excessively preoccupied with the quality of their food as opposed to its quantity.

Now, with all that being said, what is the realization?

Coming to college, I still tried to keep up with physical activity and healthy eating. But in the past few years, I have finally allowed myself to enjoy being young. I have allowed myself to have fun. My realization happened when I looked back on pictures of me at my thinnest. Yes, I can stare at those pictures and wish I was that thin again, but it does no good.

I asked myself, Were you any happier then than you are now?  My answer? No! I’m so much happier in so many aspects of my life right now. I also asked myself, were you happy with your body back then? My answer was still no! Even at my thinnest, I looked in the mirror and saw flaws. I didn’t like my hips, I felt my stomach wasn’t flat enough and all in all wished I was even smaller. I couldn’t see myself clearly. I was too blinded by the vision I had put into my head for how I wanted to look. I didn’t realize that my obscured vision most likely wasn’t possible to achieve in any healthy way, because my body was already healthy before I took my habits to extremes.

Now, does this mean I don’t exercise anymore? Of course not, but today I make sure to exercise in moderation. I walk nearly every day and I attend yoga classes here at the Kent State Recreation and Wellness Center with one of my roommates when we have time. When the weather is nice, I go on a run. But I will never go back to the extreme of working out for several hours every day.

The same applies to my current eating habits. I still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I allow myself that piece of actual cake on my birthday or that cookie in the bakery that looks divine. I allow myself the fun. And I am so much happier for it! I still have bad days. Days when I don’t feel like my body looks too great. What makes the difference for me is not dwelling on them. I have more good days than bad days and that is what counts.

It was incredibly important for me to realize that I was not as healthy as I thought I was. I couldn’t win the battle until I learned to love my body in its natural state. I try my best to conquer my fears and insecurities, every day. Insecurities such as my hips. I always wore high waisted pants because I felt my hips were too big. The other night, I went out with my roommates in a crop top and lower rise jeans. I showed off my hips and when I looked in the mirror, I saw beauty, not flaws. Not to mention, I had amazing friends right there to hype me up when I did start to have doubts. They put the worries to rest and made me feel beautiful!

In conclusion, love your body as much as you can! Life is way too short to let the insecurities get the better of us.

As I mentioned previously, I am sharing my experience. I am not a doctor and cannot diagnose anything. I am simply sharing my experience, hoping people can become aware of how quickly things can be taken too far.

Molly Acquard

Kent State '25

Molly Acquard is a junior studying fashion design and creative writing at Kent State University. She is from Buffalo, NY and a huge Sabres hockey fan. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to music and doing thrift flips. This is her second semester in Her Campus, and on the editorial team.