I don’t remember a time that I was ever comfortable with my body. In fact, I’ve always struggled with body image.
At the age of eight, I vividly recall standing in my ballet class trying to perform the impossible task of sucking in both my tummy and my bum cheeks at the same time. At 12, I started getting comments from men about my growing curves and at 14, I started wearing plus size clothing in an attempt to hide my figure.
By the time I turned 18, I hated my body.
Things didn’t get better when I started college. In a sea of tall athletic-looking girls who made the dress code look polished and prim, I stood out as the short curvy step-sister who succeeded in either looking like a frumpy schoolmarm or a provocative stumbling block (according to the ultra-conservative school I attended).
I had gained a little of what they call the freshmen 15 but when I returned home for summer break I might as well have gained the freshmen 30. I looked in the mirror and all I felt was disgust at my perceived flaws.
At the end of my sophomore year, I decided things had to change.
I started a rice-only diet and shed the weight I’d gained at school. Boys I knew started telling me how good I looked. It was a new feeling and I wanted more. But I enjoyed food too much to continue with my rice diet. I started allowing myself to eat everything I wanted. And every night I looked in the mirror and felt disgusted with myself. So disgusted that I’d vomit.
I told myself that I wasn’t making myself purge–that I couldn’t help it and it was just a continuous case of upset stomach.
The day I got married I was a size double zero.
I should have been happy–I was finally skinny.
Now instead of the women in my life saying I needed to hit the treadmill, I kept hearing the words too thin. Even so, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I still saw the girl with no thigh gap and a bum too curvy for a skirt. There was no such thing as too thin in my eyes. I wanted–no–needed that number on the scale to keep getting lower.
So much so that I didn’t even realize how much the double zero on my waistband was costing me. Headaches were a daily occurrence for me as was completely losing consciousness for a few minutes each day. The cycle of gorging myself then purging was taking its toll but that coveted double-digit on the size label was all that mattered to me.
I had my first miscarriage in 2013 and once again, I felt like my body was against me. Everyone who knew blamed the miscarriage on my weight, or rather the lack of it, and I was left feeling utterly devastated.
I hated how much I enjoyed food. Hated that I didn’t look like I thought I should. Hated that no matter if I was a size zero or a size six, the people in my life still found something about my body to mock.
A New Perspective
Today I look back on those old photos of myself at 8, at 12, at 19, at 23 and realize how wrong all those people were. In all those pictures, all I see is a happy vibrant girl with kind eyes and a ready smile. And, even as the years have passed and the pant size has delved into the other type of double digits, that girl, that woman, is still the one I strive to see.
Some days it’s harder than others.
Some days I look down at my postpartum body and it’s hard not to let the old voices in my head win. Those voices that tell me I’m too fat, that stretch marks are ugly, and that I’m somehow worth less because of my pant size or the numbers on the scale.
Those are the days I have to remind myself that I’m more than my weight or my pant size or what other people think of me. I am more than my stretch marks and non-existent thigh gap. I am more than my body.