Growing up, at a very critical point in my life, someone who’s opinion I valued and respected put the idea in my head that I was getting fat. It became a constant discussion — every time the person saw me, there was discussion of whether or not I’d gained or lost weight, and how I needed to do something to rectify the situation. No matter what I did, it was never the right thing, and it was never good enough.
As I have gotten older, these words have stuck with me. When I look in the mirror, I see parts of myself that I’d like to be thinner, more toned, tanner, leaner, or different, and I hear that person’s voice in the back of my head. It’s saying “be different, change yourself, you’re too fat and not pretty enough.” It’s saying, “To be beautiful, you have to change.” It sounds silly; why can’t I just erase those negative words from my past and move forward? I wish I could. Truthfully, there is rarely a day that I don’t look in the mirror at some point and subconsciously feel those words as a part of who I am.
There have been times in my life that I’ve gone to extremes… one both ends. In middle school, I gave my sandwiches away or ate just a couple of bites, because I feared gaining weight and having to hear about it. When I get really stressed, I forget to eat, and for about four months, it was a regular occurrence that dropped me from a size four to a size zero. There have been other times that the only thing that makes me feel better is M&M cookies (and to be honest, most times, those are the things that make me feel better). There have been times that I’ve focused on eating healthily and taking care of myself. Those are the times I prefer to reflect on.
When I hear that other little girls are facing similar situations, it breaks my heart. It makes me want to grab whoever is doing the brainwashing by the shoulders and shake them up a little. We live in a world that tells young girls (and guys, too) that they are not thin enough, tan enough, tall enough, pretty enough, or good enough. We constantly talk about the perfect body, and for weeks after the annual VS Fashion Show, all over social media, we see people inquiring how to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. News flash: I’m 4’11″… that’s not ever going to happen. When little girls hear over and over that their body is not okay the way it is, they will go to measures to correct it, even if those measures are dangerous, unhealthy, or downright ugly. It is not fair to rob a child of a childhood at the expense of her body shape. Especially considering that puberty does some pretty weird stuff with our bodies and we’ve all been through it, it is our responsibility to lift these beautiful people up and turn them into confident young women (and men) who will take the world by storm in beautiful and exciting ways.
As a 20-something, I’ve decided I have to move forward and shake off the painful memories surrounding the absence or presence of stretch marks, the way my body looked in Spandex leotards in a full-length mirror for eight hours a week, and whether or not my thighs touched when I stood with my feet together. It has not been an easy journey for me all the way, but it has been a learning experience at every corner, and for that, I am thankful. I’ve learned more than anything that healthy is more important than thin, and that if you’re redheaded, you probably can’t rock a tan. I’ve learned that my identity is much more than a six-pack or the size of my jeans. Personally, I’ve decided we should judge people based on the size of their hearts… isn’t the size of your heart supposed to be big, anyway?!
After a lot of talk and a few weeks in the gym for the right reasons, I have decided to do something big for myself to grow in this journey and celebrate healthy lifestyles in the process. This October, to commemorate my 21st birthday, I, along with my mom, aunt, and best pal Carrie, will be running my first 5K. Trust me when I say I’m not really sure what this adventure has in store, but I am SO excited to get started!
I am hopeful that this experience will not only bring peace to my own journey, but also help develop a lifestyle that I can enjoy forever, and impact the people I’m closest to in a positive way, too. (I’m also really excited because I get to run in a tutu.) I’m going to be training all summer long, and I’ll be sharing my story along the way. I’m hoping to help that little girl that’s now turning 21 (holy oldness) to see that your body is a beautiful, strong, powerful thing… not something to tear down and try to change. And more than that, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to do the same — for the voices inside of you to change from voices that tear you down into voices that tell you to keep pushing and keep getting stronger. I’m doing this for the little girls (and boys) all over the world who know what it feels like to be told that their body isn’t enough. Guess what? Your body is enough, and with the right equipment and a goal in mind, it can do anything.
You are strong. You are beautiful, just the way you are. You are loved.