Her Story: Don't You Know You're Beautiful?

I believe it was the fourth grade when I began to distinguish myself as being a “big girl.” Maybe it was pictures from birthday parties where my friends looked so tiny standing next to me. Maybe it was already having to buy clothes in the juniors department. No matter how you put it, I was still a nine year old girl who looked in the mirror and thought to herself, “I’m fat”. 

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. In the eighth grade, I was put on the “Carb Addicts Diet” by my doctor when my mom and I expressed our concern with the rate in which my BMI chart was rapidly increasing with each yearly checkup. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a doctor’s visit that didn’t end in tears on the car ride home. Diet after diet failed. I would work hard for maybe three weeks, expecting to magically transform into my ideal body, and when I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I felt like the biggest failure ever.

Senior year of high school is when I can honestly say my health spiraled out of control. Most people would never have known based on the persona I had in the hallways at school. Behind the smiles though, I was wildly unhappy. I distinctly remember prom dress shopping as one of the most emotional days of my life. My best friends and I skipped school to try on dresses together. They slipped on beautiful silk gowns that hugged them in all the right places. Some found their perfect dress on the first try, and others got to have fun trying on crazy styles and colors, each one surprisingly more beautiful than the last. But not me. Dress after dress I found myself feeling more and more terrible. The deep purple one with the ruffles wouldn’t zip. The light blue one had too much fabric and made me feel like I was eight months pregnant. I distinctly remember standing in the fitting room, tears running down my face, thinking of ways to tell my date that I had to back out of the dance because I couldn’t fit into one single damn dress. I eventually found a gown from the plus size section upstairs, but I’ll never forget how absolutely disgusted I had felt with myself.

The beginning of college was no walk in the park either. Friday night house parties drinking cup after cup of cheap beer, late night talks with new friends over jars of queso dip and pizza, endless French fries at Market Central, and not one visit to the gym. By April, I weighed in at my heaviest. Over 220 pounds. I was miserable. Lost. Broken. I was to the point where I wasn’t sure how much longer I could live my life like that. It was either continue down this dark path to a point of no return or get my ass in gear and turn my life around.

I decided that the day I moved back home from school, that summer after freshman year, would be the first day of the rest of my life. As cliché as it sounds, that was the mindset I had to be in to force myself to make changes. My grandma offered to buy me a few months’ supply of Nutrisystem to kickstart my diet changes. At that point, I was so desperate to fix a lifetime of treating my body so poorly, I agreed to try it. I cut my portions down immensely and began eating less garbage and more healthy options. I joined the gym by my house and began going for a couple hours a day, sometimes twice if I had it in me.

This time around felt so different from any previous attempts at weight loss. I felt determined to make this work. I had hit rock bottom so hard that I truly had no option but to make it work. I pushed myself harder than I ever thought I could. There were days where I uncontrollably cried to my mom, cursing myself for letting my health get so out of control. I wanted to give up so many times in the first couple of weeks because results came slowly, but I made a promise to myself to not stop until I got to where I wanted to be. 

Four months later, I had lost over 50 pounds. I was down several dress sizes and had, for the first time in my life, even bought a pair of jean shorts. I was physically stronger and healthier, but the monsters inside me were still there. I got to a point where I was counting calories, thinking it was a sin to consume anything over 800 calories a day. If I missed going to the gym, I would be in a horrible mood and would convince myself that all the hard work I had put in would reverse itself if I missed just one day. I would cry when I let myself give in to a craving, like the time my mom ordered me a medium soft serve cone instead of a small. This is going to make me fat again. I began criticizing every single thing about myself, picking apart the smallest stuff and telling myself that I would never be good enough. 

I thought that losing all that weight would transform me into the confident and carefree girl I had always dreamed of being, but at that point, I was feeling even more consumed by my body than I was before losing the weight. This girl I was becoming only cared about the numbers. She only cared about dropping pounds and pant sizes. She became the girl she never thought she would become: one with an unhealthy obsession with trying to be healthy. I always imagined that losing weight would be a positive thing and that I would find a way to look in the mirror and see a beautiful person, but in reality, I let it turn into another obstacle that I had to now learn to overcome. In the journey to find happiness in losing weight, I lost something even more important – myself.

This new challenge of learning to love myself the way I am has had an incredible amount of ups and downs. It wasn’t easy, but I began to change the mindset I was in, and although I didn’t believe it at first, I had to tell myself every day, “I am beautiful. I am enough”. My health will always be a priority, but I have learned to not let it control all aspects of my life. If I want pizza every now and then, I eat pizza. If I am having a long day and I can’t make it to the gym, I use it as motivation to work harder the next time I go. If one day won’t make me lose ten pounds, it won’t make me gain ten pounds either.

I realized, and am still realizing, that my biggest critic will always be myself. Those around me, the ones who matter, will love me and see me for the person I am, not for the size of my body. My mom once said to me, “If you wouldn’t talk to your best friend in such a negative way, why do you think it is okay to say these things to yourself?”

It’ll take a long time for me to be completely happy with my body. It may never happen…that’s just the human in me being honest. The road to get to where I am today, both physically and mentally, has been exhausting yet so incredibly rewarding. While I know this journey is going to be lifelong, full of challenges and obstacles, I can say that I am learning to love the skin I am in. I am able to look in the mirror and instead of tearing myself apart, I find things to appreciate about myself. 

I have found that we are all beautifully imperfect. I truly believe it. We are not our weight. We are not our dress size. We are not all the terrible and critical things we might think about ourselves. We can learn to find peace with our bodies. It’s possible to feel beautiful and confident, no matter what our size is. I hope everyone can realize that someday.

Picture Sources: 1, Author’s image, 3