I used to be very thin. Like extremely thin. When I was a child people would ask my mother if I ate enough because I was so skinny. But that didn't last long. Once I hit puberty I had hips and breasts and a butt. Still through all the developed curves I stayed relatively skinny until I hit my 20's. Drinking, eating, and a lack of exercise is probably what made me gain weight to begin with, but even when I reached some of my highest weights I never really felt bad about my body. I knew I could eat better, drink less, move more, but I never looked in the mirror and thought "fat" or "ugly". I had no problem getting men's attention and honestly the highest weight I've ever been was around the time of my wedding.
So what's happened to me in the past 6 years that's made me all of the sudden start to hate my body?
Within the first year of moving to Portland I started to do barre3. It was the first time since doing colorguard that I fell in love with exercising. I also went gluten free around this same time because I was having massive stomach issues. I dropped like 20-30lbs during this time and obviously attributed it to all the exercise and "clean eating" I was doing. But my stomach was still a mess. I went to lots of doctors, tried lots of different elimination diets, practically starved myself at times because everything I ate made me sick. Finally I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome and decided to take my diet to an even more extreme level because I was told that I could heal with food. So I went paleo for years. I even attempted a Whole30. But nothing made my stomach issues totally better. I still spent a lot of my day in the bathroom. I often had to leave work early because of my symptoms. It controlled my life. Then I finally saw a new doctor that prescribed me a very expensive antibiotic, and two rounds later my stomach issues were virtually gone.
Here's the thing though, when I was at my sickest point and in the midst of a Whole30 I was down to 152 lbs. The lowest I'd been since my early 20's. People told me all the time how great I looked. I must be working so hard. What they didn't know was that I was sick. ALL. THE. TIME.
After the antibiotics I started to reintroduce gluten and dairy back into my life. My body could handle it again. It didn't make me constantly sick. But then the weight started to come back. So I went gluten free again thinking that would help. I tried Weight Watchers, paleo, keto, and just plain old counting calories. I would lose a little bit of weight and then gain it all back (and often more) once I got off the diet. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food, constantly counting everything that went into my body and beating myself up if I even craved a cookie or went over whatever allotted number I was given for food consumption that day. Never in my life had I felt so happy because I was no longer sick, but so incredibly unhappy because that sick version of skinny had been what I was accustomed to.
So what's a person to do?
Honestly, I don't know. And this is something I struggle with every day. I've never been diagnosed with any kind of eating disorder but I can tell the way I behave when on a strict diet that involves a crazy amount of rules is unsettling. I become obsessive to a point that I find myself stuck in a huge black hole that usually ends with me not eating at all or bingeing. It's scary for me and for those around me.
I think the main reason I'm writing this is because I saw Tess Holliday on the digital cover of Self Magazine this morning and read the interview by Ashley C. Ford. It was inspiring to see not only her fat positivity but also her struggle to balance being healthy at any size. I have to remind myself constantly that eating healthy doesn't necessarily mean I'll be thin, which is sometimes a hard concept to grasp, but it's true. I've been "overweight" for years and honestly the only health problems I ever had were with my IBS/leaky gut issues which I had even when I was in my very skinny high school days.
I hope we can all one day find that ability to love ourselves unconditionally. Because damn am I tired of waiting around thinking my life will get better if I drop 20lbs. It won't. I've been there and done that and was still unhappy. So while this won't happen overnight I do hope that every day I can love myself a little more. And instead of measuring it by the scale I'm trying to measure it by the amount of hours I sleep, or when I PR at the gym, or that I didn't eat until I made myself sick. Celebrate the small victories. Celebrate being alive and living every day. Celebrate being me no matter how fat or skinny I am because I'm more than that. I'm a whole person and I'm tired of living a half life.