Learning to Love Myself

I gained weight over quarantine. My body changed so suddenly, it was as if I woke up one morning, six months later, and realized how different I looked. What used to be baggy on me now fit me perfectly, my body filling out the shape of my jeans just a little bit better than it used to. It was hard at first to look at myself in the mirror; my eyes chose only to see the things that bothered me: the new rolls I had when I bent over, the ever-so-slightly larger chipmunk cheeks when I smiled. But what I failed to remember was the hell I put myself through a year ago, the miles upon miles I ran every day to escape the body I have now. 

I’ve always had a poor relationship with food; whether it’s eating too much or too little, counting calories is a bad habit I just can’t quit. Looking back now as who I am today, I realize just how bad it got last year before quarantine began. I would fast every day until I was done with class in the late afternoon or early evening, and between classes I would go to the gym and run until I couldn’t anymore. In addition to running, I was walking roughly two miles across campus every day, and watching the number of calories burned go up on my Apple Watch made me smile. It’s sick, I know, but I did all of that just so I could feel comfortable, safe even, eating and putting calories into my body because I knew I had already burned off the majority of them. 

All of that changed, of course, when quarantine started last March, gyms closed and we were forced to go back home after spring break. I could no longer exercise the way I wanted to or maintain my unhealthy eating habits around my parents, and quite frankly I was terrified. I tried to restrict myself as much as possible and continue working out, but it was difficult. Restrictions led to binging, and naturally I gained weight over time. At the beginning of quarantine I was the leanest I’ve ever been, but now my curves are more defined and I’m starting to actually love myself and admire how far I’ve come. While I still experience bad days when I just can’t bring myself to look at my reflection in the mirror, it’s nowhere near how bad as it used to be, which made me realize how large of a role your mind plays in how you see yourself. I hated myself the most when I was the thinnest, even though it feels like it should be the other way around. 

Now that gyms are back open, I’ve started to change the thoughts I have toward working out. Instead of doing it to punish myself, I do it to reward myself. I’ve given up cardio and taken up weights instead, which will help me build the body I want. Even though I’m just beginning and haven’t started to see any real differences, I find it’s easy to lose myself in working out and I love the way I feel after I’ve finished. I know that if I want to gain muscle, I need to eat more too, which has helped my mentality when it comes to eating. Instead of fasting all day I now try to eat three meals a day, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. 

Difficult Roads lead to beautiful destinations sign Photo by Hello I'm Nik from Unsplash

In my head I call the weight I gained over quarantine my happy weight; gaining back some of the weight I lost makes me look happier and healthier from the outside. The road to recovery is long and looks different for everyone, but I’m happy to finally be on it. The days of feeling tired, guilty and shameful are behind me, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I never thought I would talk about this experience with anyone, and this is a side of me almost no one knows about, but it’s important to talk about these things. More than that, it’s important to recognize bad behaviors and work to overcome them. If it weren’t for quarantine and having to move back home, I honestly don’t know if things would have changed. I share my experience to let anyone out there who may be going through something similar know that you’re not alone. You don’t have to feel guilty when it comes to food or pressure to exercise, these should be things you enjoy doing. 

More information on eating disorders

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disor...

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms

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