During my childhood I was overweight, yet I wouldn’t say I had a particularly low self-esteem. I was a paradox; I was a “fat “girl who was satisfied with herself, yet unhappy with the consequences of society’s view of her body. I was an award winning public speaker, actress, poet, and often known to be the life of the party. However, my confidence did not make me oblivious to the fact that no one ever called me beautiful or the painful shopping excursions that consistently ended in frustration or tears.
My weight was a major problem. I was reminded of just how problematic my size 18 body was by school mates, and the media. I spent at least 7 years of my life trying to lose weight, so the burden I felt would go away. I made weight loss plans.. However, I was hardly consistent with my passion to lose weight—it was quite sporadic. I would sporadically exercise to prove the bully who told me that the only guy I could ever date was sumo wrestler wrong. I would sporadically diet hard to prove all the boys who rejected me as a prom date misguided. I would sporadically stop eating past 6PM so that my outspoken African aunt's/church members would stop commenting on my weight every chance they received. I would sporadically drink 5 extra glasses of water daily to prevent going to the dreaded dark corner in Forever21 called the “Plus Size Section.” I thought “maybe if I lose weight I could finally have access to 96 percent of the store. But none of this, NONE of this was ever for me. It was to satisfy others so that they could leave me alone, stop excluding me, or so that a guy I liked would potentially give me a chance.
My thought process was extremely problematic, and it was not until I loss the forsaken 70 pounds and gained all of the weight back that I realized this. I was a victim of diets set up to fail so that the weight loss industry received profits. After losing 70 pounds people called me beautiful, but guys still did not approach me, Forever21’s“normal sized clothes” barely fit me, and my blunt aunts still told me that I could shed a few more pounds. I put my heart and soul into losing a tremendous amount of weight, and it still was not enough. If I lost weight for my own personal goals, such as being healthy, I may have been content with myself, but I did not. Once I realized that my impression management was failing, I started eating unhealthy while telling people I was still working hard to lose weight. I realized that since my weight loss did not accomplish anything I initially desired, I subconsciously went back to my old eating habits. I gained the weight back. I stopped caring. Of course I cared sporadically when people asked me “what happened?”, or when my new (yet still plus size) clothes did not fit, and when I had no college romance to brag about when I got home. I cared, yet again, for all the wrong reasons. I would lose 20 pounds and then gain 40 more, until the light bulb finally hit.
In his book Speaking Sadness David A. Karp argues that some people believe their depression will subside after something specific occurs. He says: “A 27 year-old-man at first saw his bad feelings as resulting exclusively from an unstable occupational position. Another woman thought that her feelings of depression would go away once she got over a failed relationship. A business deal gone sour was defined as precipitating depression in another case, and so on” (Karp, 59). These people thought their issues would be solved once their situation changed. Similarly, I thought I would be happy once I had my ideal figure and that was not the truth at all. I had “destination syndrome”. I thought when I got to a particular destination I would be fulfilled. Little did I know that at every stage of life there will be something fighting against your happiness?
I did not begin my journey to happiness until I decided to love my body just the way it is. I would force myself to look in a full body mirror and admire the body that was made in God’s image. Once I did this, it was easier to asses my weight issue from a mental health perspective. My new goal was not to satisfy others but to have my spirit, soul, and body aligned. I began to ask myself questions like:
Why do I eat as much as I do?
Why do I feel cheated if I do not eat something?
And why is it taking so long for me to build a healthy yet natural lifestyle?
Once I discovered the answers to my questions I made new goals such as:
Walking up flights of stairs more
Explore healthier food options
And learn to love my body unconditionally
Here are 5 tips that anyone struggling with body image issues can use:
Love yourself. You cannot hate yourself into loving yourself. Even if you want to change something about yourself you should appreciate who you are right NOW. The truth is that YOU are YOU no matter what others perceive of you on the outside. The sooner you start loving yourself, the easier the process will be, and guess what? It will be a permanent love not based on the numbers on the scale.
Affirm yourself every day: write positive affirmations on index cards and read them to yourself everyday. It does not matter if you do not believe them at first, you will get used to it. “Fake it till you make it.” Tell yourself that you are beautiful right NOW, smart right NOW, and energetic right NOW.
Get inspired. If you have a fitness goal you are trying to achieve and want to be body positive at the same time, then find someone who has done it. You might not know anyone personally, but feel free to get mentored by someone’s Instagram page, e-book, or even television show. I follow a lot of body positive role models who love to hit the gym but also love to love themselves in their current state.
Look at the bigger picture. Sometimes when we are going through issues, we think that world is crashing in on us alone. It is important to get out of that space and be grateful for everything you have been given in this life. There are people that would fight for some of the blessings you have. Don’t let one issue steal your opportunity to be gracious for the things that go beyond physical appearance.
YOU got this. Nobody can be YOU quite like YOU. Sometimes it feels like a hurdle is insurmountable. But trust me, Rome wasn't built in a day. It is okay to build and rebuild. It’s okay for the empire to still be in progress. I like to listen to motivational clips on YouTube, just to remind me just how powerful I am. I have been fully equipped with everything that I need for this journey. The world ain’t ready for me yet!