How I Fell Back in Love With Myself

"Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Fall in love with the path of deep healing. Fall in love with being the best version of yourself but with patience, with compassion and respect to your own journey" -S. McNutt

I am going to take a minute to be brutally honest with you all. Currently, I have a healthy relationship with food and fitness, however, if you met me two, even three years ago, that relationship looked totally different. In fact, it was utterly, disgustingly, shamefully unhealthy. I hated myself.

And I mean hated myself.

I hated every square inch of my body. Every curve, roll, wrinkle, and scar... I hated it all. I convinced myself that I was fat, not pretty enough, not good enough, and believed it too. In my eyes, it was every bit true. One day, I decided I no longer wanted to be "fat", and I went about it in a totally unhealthy way.

I began dieting. I restricted myself to a mere 1000 calories per day. I measured and inputted my caloric intake for every little thing I ate; right down to the spinach leaf. I would not allow myself to exceed the 1000 calories, even if my stomach panged with agony. And oh, it would pang. It would beg and plead for food and I would ignore it. I convinced myself that this was all in the name of self-discipline. I thought this was what it would take to be skinny, healthy, and well liked. Then, I did not think the dieting alone was doing enough in regard to weight loss. So, I began running three miles each day and barely ate. The combination of lack of food and overexerting myself in the gym caused my energy levels to deplete entirely. I was lifeless, miserable, and exhausted both physically and mentally.

I lost twenty pounds in the course of two months.

"April, you look so good!"

"What have you been doing? You look so tiny, I wish I was that skinny!"

"You look amazing!"

"Finally", I thought to myself. It was as if the approval and praise of others filled some sort of void. I thrived off of it, craved it. People were noticing me for once. I was no longer in the background, no longer the "fat sister". But, I was miserable.

I dreaded my early morning runs, cringed at the thought of eating another plain chicken breast paired with unseasoned, steamed vegetables. Yet, I proceeded to restrict myself. It was working. Weight was coming off and people were noticing. I had to continue, or else I'd be "fat" again.

Then, I got to college. Going out, partying, late night fast food runs, you know how it goes. I stopped working out entirely and started binging.

I began binging on all the food I deprived myself of for so long: sweets, soda, sweetened coffee with as many calories as a meal. I started eating when I was not even hungry because eating these foods again brought me ample amounts of joy and comfort that I was longing for.

All of the weight I lost came back... and then some.

I remember coming home to Chicago for Christmas break consumed with fear. I was absolutely terrified to face any of my friends, afraid for them to see what I had done to myself...how fat I got. One night, after indulging on a delicious deep dish pizza, as one does when they visit Chicago, one of my "friends" said something that riddled me with pain, unlike anything I've felt before.

"Damn, April, you got huge."

That stung like one million bee stings. Though it was not a physical pain, it was more of a shameful pain, a pain of guilt, and of self-hatred.

"Huge". 

The words formed a cyclone in my head that played on repeat. I could not take it anymore. "I'm tired", I used as an excuse and shamefully made my way home.

When I got home, I found myself staring down at the porcelain toilet bowl, trying with all my might to get the pizza out of me. Trembling, I lodged my pointer and middle finger into my throat; mascara rolled down my cheek as I heaved and gagged. But it was a useless effort. I tried and I tried, but I simply could not do it. I could not get myself to vomit. After giving up, I looked myself in the mirror, stern and hard. I knew this was not a healthy way to live. I knew I was destroying myself mentally and physically and I knew something had to change. I made myself a promise that exact night: to try to heal my relationship with food and fitness and create one that was healthy and made me happy.

After talking to a lot of people, gaining support, and researching and practicing intuitive eating habits, I finally feel that the relationship between food and I is a good one. I do not restrict myself of certain food groups because I know that will ultimately lead to a binge. So, I eat healthy foods that I enjoy, but indulge in moderation and don't feel guilty about it. It is a learning process for sure and I am getting better at it every day. I realized that I needed a lifestyle change, not a diet. I workout when I want to, and rest when I feel I need it. I listen to my body and respect it. I stopped fearing food; it is now my fuel and friend.

I stopped counting calories and started living.

You have this ONE body. Love it! Believe me, I know it is hard, but do not wait to lose weight to love yourself; love yourself NOW. If you do not love where your body is currently, no amount of exercise is going to change that. Fall in love with the amazing vessel that moves and heals you each day; your body is amazing and does amazing things. I am not saying abandon your fitness goals, if you have them, because goals are great! What I am saying is, love your self right now, in this exact moment, while you continue to create a happier and healthier version of yourself.

It took me nearly 20 years to accept my body and feel comfortable in my own skin. The moment I decided to rid myself of unrealistic expectations, deleted societal definitions of beauty from my thoughts, and erased the desire to find "perfection" (let me make it easy for you, it does not exist), I began viewing myself differently.

I discovered that my body is a powerhouse that does extraordinary things. It heals me, it moves me, it is capable of amazing things. Yes, I have rolls when I bend over, my face has scars left behind from acne, I have cellulite when I squeeze my butt cheeks, but all of those things make me human, not flawed. They make me unapologetically me.

I share this very personal story with hopes that if you are struggling, you will learn to love yourself as well. The journey to self-love and self-acceptance is a treacherous one. It takes time, patience, and practice. I encourage you to change and challenge your perspective, try to fall in love with yourself. You only have this one vessel. Be kind to it.

XO, A