I learned to hate my body at a young age.
For a long time that was hard for me to admit.
I wanted to pretend that I was a confident woman. That I didn’t care what others thought of my body. That I loved myself regardless of my flaws. But if I’m being truthful, that was always a lie.
The truth is, I am still learning how to love my body now.
Growing up, I always knew that I was a chubby kid. I loved to eat, but I also loved to play and write and draw. I had a lot of things I liked to do when I was little and I wanted to make friends to share those things with, but every time I approached someone new, I was reminded of my weight.
I was reminded that I was bigger than them. I was reminded of my crooked front teeth. I was reminded of my frizzy hair.
It didn’t take very long for me to curl into my shell, to protect myself from the jabs and insults from my classmates.
I became a very shy kid after I realized how much my weight mattered.
I am twenty four years old and I am just beginning to crawl out of my shell. To peal away the layers and expose myself the way I used to. It’s harder now. It will always be harder than it was when I was little. When I didn’t know that others could be mean and words could hurt and sting just as much as any cut every could. When I didn’t know that my hair, and my weight, and the size of my breasts mattered. Maybe one day these things won’t matter-to me at least.
A Life Full of Diets
I was ten years old when I went on my first diet. I liked to walk around the neighborhood then. I lost a decent bit of weight that summer. I felt happy when I returned to school. But the weight didn’t stay off. It never did. And so my dissatisfaction over my body grew.
I was diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was in 6th grade. I was well over 150 pounds at the beginning of the school year. I had budding breasts and a big belly. By the end of the school year I was dipping close to 100 pounds. I was all skin and bones now.
I struggled with my weight and body image long after my diagnosis. I gained back the weight and then some. I never did develop breasts. That was enough to shatter the confidence of a young teenage girl. The girls were cruel. The boys were even crueler.
I was shy and hated dating. I hated the thought of taking off my shirt and baring my breasts and showing them my emotional scars.
I can still see the little curl of his mouth as he stared. Disappointment. Everyone was always disappointed by how I looked.
I never believed them when someone called my pretty. I never believed them when they said my breasts didn’t matter or that they liked my big hips. Everyone always loved my smile when the braces came off.
I hated it all.
It wasn’t until I started college that I realized just how much I hate let my lack of body confidence run my life. I knew women who loved themselves. Women who were heavier than me. Women who were freckled and frizzy. And I knew women who hated themselves: skinny and blonde with big breasts and brilliant smiles.
I tried to love myself. I read every article and book and watched every movie to try to convince myself I could love myself just the way I was: that my weight didn’t matter.
The spring after I graduated from college I scheduled a breast augmentation. I don’t regret the surgery or the money I spent. Despite what people say about women and plastic surgery, the procedure did help my confidence. I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I’m not afraid to date.
I just desperately wish it didn’t have to come to that. That I didn’t have to have a surgery to be happier with my body.
The older I get, the more I talk with women. Real women. I’ve discovered the things I like about myself. I like my big hips. I like my smile. I even like my hair.
But I still struggle with my weight.
I want to diet and lose ten pounds and I feel guilty when I eat cake or don’t exercise.
I’m trying to do things for the right reasons. I want to exercise and eat right to be healthy, not to lose weight, But the scale always haunts me. The before and after pictures littering the internet haunt me.
Why can’t you be like them?
You could probably stand to lose a few pounds.
I pinch and squeeze and frown when I look in the mirror. I try to imagine what I would look like ten pounds lighter.
I fight these demons every day. Sometimes I lose. I’m trying though and that’s what matters. Some days I look in the mirror and I think to myself: damn, you look fantastic! My boyfriend says so too, all the time.
I wish we could be as easy on ourselves as the men who admire us are. They believe that we’re sexy. They love the bits and pieces we wish we could will away.
I don’t always believe him when he tells me how beautiful I am.
But one day I will.
Until then, I’m going to keep fighting.
Because learning to love your body is like learning anything. It takes time. You fall down a lot. You want to quit. But one day you’ll pick it up and then you find out it’s just like riding a bike.
You never forget how.