Sugar coating my story may make it more comfortable to read and digest, but then what point would there be in sharing it?
Like many girls, I grew up in a home that idealized the “model” body and so perpetuated that as what was beautiful. This meant that from a very young age, when I hit puberty to be exact, I began to hate my body. This hate created a cycle of criticism and degradation.
I’m sure I’m not the only girl who stood in front of the mirror and said to herself,
“You look like a boy.
“You should starve yourself.
“Or throw up your food.
“Your thighs are too big.
“Your hips are too wide.
“Your arms are too flabby.
“People are disgusted by your presence.
“I’m sure they can’t even look at you.
“Or they make fun of you behind your back.
“Why don’t you look like her?” and the list of criticism never ends.
My family perpetuated it. I remember my mother telling my sister she couldn’t have any new clothes until she lost weight. And when we would workout, the family would stick around and poke jokes at us and make fun of us. Laughing at how we jiggled as we exercised or making running commentary and criticism at whether or not we were following the video workouts correctly.
It’s no surprise, I developed a very bad relationship with my body that resulted in no self-esteem to speak of and a total of zero on the self worth scale.
At the age of nineteen, I moved out on my own. I developed the vicious cycle of dieting, working out and binging.
The goal was always to become skinny.
My relationship with food was one of reward and then punishment. I’d look at people who were skinny because they had eating disorders and wished I was one of them, not realizing the severity of those disorders or the fact that I may already have one.
To top it all off the self degradation continued around the clock. It led me to date a man seventeen years older than me- who I had no attraction to- just because I believed I didn’t deserve better. It led to wearing clothing I hated because they covered all the body parts I despised. It led me to seclude myself from others because I was sure they saw me through my eyes as well.
Shopping focused on how much the outfit covered because I didn’t want people to look at me and gawk at my fatness and my cellulite. I’d wear pants with a knee length dress over it because I hated my knees and thighs. Shopping led to more binge eating because it was such a miserable experience and I’d go home thinking there was never an end to this misery and so who cares anymore?
I considered suicide multiple times. Often while driving I would think to myself that I could just drive off the ramp, or into that tree at top speed.
The degradation didn’t stop at my physical appearance, but seeped into my emotional and mental state as well. My life felt pointless. I mean, who feels purposeful when they can’t stand the body they are born in; they can’t stand the mind they have; they can’t handle the emotions they feel? All of which put them in a cycle of self loathing.
Now that I think on it, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I started to turn things around. A number of things happened in my life that began to show me that I was worthy. Body Positive memes, pictures of beautiful plus size models, learning how to wear makeup, finding one or two outfits that made me feel good, starting a romantic relationship with my crush. All these things gave birth to the faint whisper in my mind, “Maybe you aren’t all that bad.”
Four years pass. I broke up with my boyfriend who had been my crush all those years ago. I no longer had a man who complimented me and loved me even when I felt fat and ugly. I no longer had my rock to keep me from diving into the deep end of my pool of self degradation.
I joined a crossfit gym.
It had a six week introductory program that held their members accountable. I still wanted to be skinny. I still looked at the other women in my program and wished I looked like them. It was something to do. To keep me distracted from my personal life that was falling apart.
Joining this gym exposed me to women who were muscular and strong. They flew on the bars and lifted weights I never imagined a woman could lift. I remember staring, wide-eyed at these women. They were beautiful. Not Victoria’s-Secret-model-skinny-beautiful. But strong-fit-kickass-beautiful.
I believe that’s when I started to shift my views on what beauty I wanted to embody. I don’t think I’ll ever not want to be skinnier- that’s imprinted into my psyche so deeply it’ll take a lot more time and effort to be rid of that, but I now want something more- I want to be strong.
With this mindset my dedication to Crossfit was iron clad. I started off working out three days a week. After the six week program was up, it became 5-6 days a week. Crossfit showed me how to measure my progress beyond the numbers on the scale and I became addicted. I created a spreadsheet of all my personal records or PRs and consistently updated it, seeing that I was getting stronger and the weights kept getting heavier. Before I knew it, I had also lost over twenty pounds. Though the scale was a victory, the other measurements of my progress were my focus.
As time passed, I saw my friends and coaches constantly getting injured at Crossfit and this scared me. I didn’t want an injury that would force me to stop working out for weeks at a time. I couldn’t go back to my life before this. So, I varied my workouts with weightlifting and yoga.
Creating a variety of workouts and programs for me to choose from was possibly one of the best things I did to keep me motivated and dedicated. I would assess my energy level and my needs for the day. Did I want to be part of a class and workout with others or did I need the solitude with music as my company instead? Do I have the energy for a vigorous workout or do I need to focus on strengthening and stretching? The answer to these questions provided the workout I would do that day.
I fell off the wagon. A number of times. Usually before this point, if I fell off, I never got back on. If I binged after a week of healthy eating, I’d say “Fuck it, I just ruined the whole week. I’m not strong enough to control myself. I love food.” Or if I went a week without working out I’d tell myself, “You weren’t making progress anyways. It’s too much time and you don’t have it.”
This time my focus wasn’t on punishing myself. It was on the rewards of getting stronger. So I would miss a few days and I’d tell myself, “I need to get back so I don’t lose all the progress I made. I need to get back so I can keep getting stronger.”
A few weeks ago, I had a friend visit me from out of town. I worked out three times in two weeks. And I missed it. It took me another two weeks to get back on the wagon. But it’s so fulfilling and satisfying to be back and so I refuse to beat myself up over the four weeks of rarely hitting the gym.
I quit crossfit.
It was perfect to get me the motivation and dedication I needed in making an active lifestyle a habit. But I realized I preferred working out in solitude and weight lifting was that for me. I won’t stop there though, because I don’t want to end up getting bored and falling off for good. I plan on getting into boxing and taking martial arts.
Variation is key. A healthy mindset is key. A good relationship with food and and an active lifestyle is key. A good relationship with your body is key.
These are so much to juggle all at once. For me, developing a healthy mindset and building a better relationship with my body were the first things I focused on (following healthy, body positive, plus size models and people on Instagram and Pinterest helped immensely- they were unapologetic of their existence and up until that point my life was one big apology). Then I developed an active lifestyle that became an integral part of my day. My relationship with food followed. I refuse to diet, but I do try to eat healthy for the most part and I am aware of my macros even if I don’t quite track them anymore.
This doesn’t happen overnight. I haven’t reached my goals yet, but I’m more focused on the journey as opposed to the end results now. I’m embracing every change and every progression I make no matter how small or insignificant.
This struggle is real. It’s tangible. It’s being felt by more women and girls than we think. Let’s share our stories. Let’s help uplift and support one another on our individual journeys. In the end though, to make any lasting change in our lives I learned that we must find the strength and motivation from within.
My brilliant photographer (IG & Facebook: Sierra Prime) asked me to write a piece about my transformation. This was the result of our colaboration.