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How Much Time Do We Waste Hating Our Bodies?

I’m writing this article for anyone who is quietly struggling with loving their body because I used to be one of those people. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still do. 

I don’t remember exactly when I started obsessing over the way my body looked. I probably started becoming self-conscious in middle school, and it slowly got worse from there. It’s something I never really opened up about with anyone. Yet so many of us, especially girls, struggle with body image throughout adolescence. To be exact, 78% of girls are dissatisfied with their bodies by the age of seventeen. Yes, 78%. And although poor body image is associated with girls, it’s important to note that boys struggle too, even if it’s not as large of a percentage. It sadly isn’t talked about in school and there is not a lot being done to break the toxic culture. 

Growing up, I was always on the thinner side and it became mentally exhausting trying to keep that reputation. As a former dancer, I always had to wear a leotard and tights. So much of our bodies would show in the costumes. We had to be looking at ourselves in the mirror during class. At competitions I would be surrounded by so many beautiful and talented girls. It was hard. You can’t help but compare yourself to others around you. On top of the toxic eating culture within the dance world, there was social media. I got stuck in the never ending comparison game -- one that too many of us lose. All these influencers, celebrities, and models who appear in perfect shape with perfect lives. Social media is a dangerous illusion and it led me to become very insecure with the way I looked.

iPhone showing instagram on a table with a plant next to it Photo by Alex Bracken from Unsplash

I also think comments I used to receive by others were very triggering. Statements like “eat a burger” or “do you eat?” were told directly to my face. And then there were the comments of “you’re getting a second plate?” or “you snack so much.” So I was in this dilemma of am I too skinny or too fat? I guess people still believe comments like those are acceptable. So, I would like to set the record straight, they are not. 

And then I went to college, where eating disorder culture is normalized.  

I started college in a pretty dark place mentally. I thankfully grew a lot, met wonderful people and my happiness started coming back as I was figuring out the new lifestyle. However, my destructive relationship with my body was present more than ever. I wasn’t dancing anymore, meaning my regular exercise diminished. I was more concerned about how my body would look in the outfit I picked out, rather than how I actually felt on the inside. I had access to so much food in the dining hall and I was already worried about the freshman 15, since that is talked about jokingly so much. Like seriously, why is that talked about on every single campus tour? That needs to be stopped. It’s not funny and it’s already shaming people for gaining weight, when it’s a normal part of life. Yes, it is important to encourage healthy eating, but obviously our bodies are going to change. Shouldn’t we be the kindest to ourselves during a transitional point like college? It’s time for people to avoid harmful language and hold others accountable. You do not know someone’s past relationship with food. The way society talks about eating in general is the root of a lot of eating disorders and body issues. Why is it that eating ice cream is a “guilty pleasure,” but eating a salad for lunch is glorified? The way diet culture is portrayed on social media can be very toxic. Obviously, eating in moderation is necessary, but the labels of healthy versus guilty pleasure is harmful. We are already primed to feel bad for eating something like cookies or pizza. There is nothing wrong with it. 

After coming home early from college in March, I got on the scale (which I thankfully don’t do anymore) and realized I had just about gained the forbidden freshman 15. I was so upset at myself. I came to the conclusion that I needed to workout for the sole purpose of losing weight, and that’s what I sadly did for a while, constantly checking myself in the mirror to see any improvement. 

Person standing on scale Photo by I Yunmai from Unsplash

And then I realized just how harmful of a habit I was forming. My body is never going to be perfect. There is always something I’m going to dislike about it. But, instead of taking this time in quarantine to lose weight, I can actually focus on building a healthy relationship with my body, something I’ve neglected for years. We probably won’t ever get a time like this again, one where we spend so much time with ourselves. Although challenging, there are so many important things we can all learn during this phase in our lives, one especially being all of the misconceptions we have been taught in the media about how the ideal body should be. It’s time to throw them away. Because at the end of the day, all of our bodies are valid. They take care of us. They let us hug the people we love. They let us walk around new places. It’s our job to take care of them. I encourage you to instead of looking at yourself in the mirror and pointing out how you could make your body better, celebrate it for exactly how it is. Because look how far you’ve gotten with the one you have! 

Here are my suggestions for improving the relationship with your body: 

  1. Take the societal labels off of food. Don’t worry so much about whether it’s guilty or healthy, and instead listen to what your body wants at that moment. By doing so, you are changing how you approach food. It’s no longer with the intention of manipulating your weight. 

  2. Don’t exercise to lose weight, but instead do so because it makes you feel good. Engage in activities that you actually enjoy. For me, that’s dancing or yoga. Don’t make it so much about how many calories you burn, but how you feel after. There are so many wonderful benefits of exercising like better memory or anxiety relief. And don’t feel guilty if you just aren’t up to it. 

  3. Stop following any accounts on social media that simply make you feel unhappy with yourself or push unrealistic expectations. We do not need that negativity. 

be kind Photo by Vie Studio from Pexels

While I can make the list longer, I think by implementing those three, the conversation you have with your body will be a lot healthier. They’ve done so much for me and I’m proud of myself for slowly making peace with my body. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, and I want you to know that you're not alone either.  

Lastly, please be careful what you say to others. Words hurt and they can really affect someone. We don’t know what someone is going through behind closed doors. 

Always remember, your body may change, your worth will not.