August 7, 2010 to be honest: a talk about beauty and the beast
as the days of summer continue to whittle away, i’d love to share with you all the emotional, frustrating, exhilarating, and at times frustrating few months i’ve had on this adventure we call life. plus, caitlin’s operation beautiful book just dropped so i figured what better time!
let me start from the beginning. self-confidence has always been an issue for me. i grew up with a mother who trash talked herself and in a culture where thin people earned more respect and attention and “fat talk” was simply a part of life. i floated through middle school envying the skinny popular girls and wondering why i did not receive the same attention from boys. during high school i sunk into the background, never wishing for attention and always shying away from any i got. no one could like me because i was ugly. because i was fat. because i was wholly unacceptable. even my boyfriend in highschool never got to touch me because i was so uncomfortable with myself.
during my first year of college i gained a significant amount of weight. i fell into the trap i swore i would not. my roommates and i spent many a night shoveling processed, unnecessary amounts of foods into our mouths. i did not watch what i ate. and, although i went to the gym, i still managed to gain a good ten pounds. ten pounds on a 5′ 1″ person looks like 20. by the end of freshman year i was absolutely miserable. i hated myself more than ever.
over the summer i lost the weight i gained and in returned gained a new confidence. i got a new boyfriend and a new group of friends. things went swimmingly. then i went to south africa over the summer. during my amazing trip, i managed to loose about ten pounds without trying. we walked everywhere, did not eat late at night, and ate three meals around the same time every day. plus, south africa does not use fake ingredients in their foods. my body took to the movement and the lack of processed foods very well.
so when i came home last august, i made the decision to become a vegetarian (happy one year to me!…though i’m vegan now!) and keep my lifestyle a healthy one. i liked how i looked and i loved how i felt. around the same time, i started to run. i utilized my school’s gym and hit the treadmill before my classes four days a week. although never “fat,” i certainly was not in great shape. i weighed somewhere between 130-135. and i am quite little — 5′ 1″. no one ever mentioned my weight to me besides my doctor, who cautioned against gaining any more weight because, according to the BMI chart, my weight teetered on overweight. (by the way, eff the BMI chart. it’s so ridiculous)
at first the runs were difficult. but eventually, i worked up to running 30 minutes without stopping at a pretty decent pace. i felt accomplished and happy. weight continued to come off. i never weighed myself because i could see and feel the difference. friends and family frequently commented on my weight loss, telling me how “skinny” and “thin” i looked. boys started noticing me more, too. talk about a confidence boost!
but, somewhere over our 6-week winter break, my healthy habits started to become unhealthy. i am a competitive person by nature. i know this about myself and mostly keep it in check but sometimes it gets the best of me. i remember learning of a friend’s completion of a 5-mile run. “wow,” i thought, “i wish i could do that.” so i did. i wanted to be better, to run longer, harder, and faster. so i upped the amount of days i ran. four became five and eventually, five became six and sometimes seven. i never ran under three miles. part of me loved running and part of me despised it. but if i did not run, i did not “deserve” to eat. if i did not run, i would become fat overnight. if i did not run, my entire day was ruined.
during this period of time (which, quite honestly, only ended roughly a month ago) i started unconsciously restricting my food intake. i cut out refined sugars. i cut out high fat foods. avocados scared me. and i cringed when i used “too much” olive oil. high calorie foods caused anxiety to well up inside of me. i questioned eating anything over 200 calories. i remember an instance at a family dinner a few months ago when my dad plated my dish for me. inside a bell pepper he put brown rice. but i thought he put too much and subsequently freaked out. i felt uneasy and panicky. i promptly removed a good portion of it.
when did i turn into this person? when did this beast of an inner voice become so strong?
on days i “over ate” (aka: binged) i killed myself by working out. i ran longer and harder the next day. i pushed myself through work out DVD’s. i found the more i pushed and the more i restricted, the stronger my urge to binge became and the unhappier i felt. suddenly, whenever i looked into the mirror, i did not see a pretty me. instead i saw fat. i saw ugly. i saw “trouble” areas. i cried so much on days where my self confidence refused to come out of its hiding place. i stopped going out because i felt so uncomfortable. i sunk into myself and instead of feeling happy and energetic, i only felt sleepy and depressed. and although i constantly worked out and left little or no room for rest, i found myself gaining weight. and losing my sanity.
i even found myself hunched over the toilet on nights i thought i “ate too much.” i can tell you i’ve always been the person who said “i could never throw up or starve myself” but i did it. and i was always shocked when i did.
about a month ago i made the (incredibly) difficult decision to stop running. almost immediately i felt lighter and happier internally. i threw myself into yoga, now my main source of activity. i cannot express to you how much yoga has helped me along my path to a happy, healthy, more balanced me. yoga lead me to a stronger self, both inner and outer. my core is stronger. my soul is stronger. every time i step off the mat i feel accomplished, proud, and whole. and, unlike running, i actually want to do yoga. yoga saved me from myself.
this summer has been one of growth. i broke down and collapsed and am now rebuilding myself anew. so much has changed in the span of one month. i look in the mirror and appreciate the body staring back at me. and i not only appreciate the body reflected in the glass — i appreciate the person, too. i spent nearly a year caught up in my appearance. i thought my worth as a human being relied on my thin exterior. no one wanted a “fat” girl. how silly. confidence should never be tied to how you look. it should reflect you as a whole. i am slowly starting to see the beauty in myself. i am worthy of all good things. you, my friend, are worthy of all good, beautiful things. i never used to believe in my self worth. but i believe in it now. i am truly a beauty, inside and out. and this beauty has almost done away with that ugly, ugly beast.
i’m not perfect; i have moments of doubt. but i no longer find myself in tears before the mirror. i no longer panic when presented with high calorie, high fat foods. because i realize now i feed myself well. and good food equals a good, healthy mind and body. there is nothing for me to be afraid of now. whenever i find myself in doubt, i remember a few things:
worrying about the superficial only takes away from the joy life
i am all these things i always told myself i was not
and, my personal favorite a la regina spektor, “i have a perfect body, but sometimes i forget.”
i challenge you now to throw out the fat talk. stop doing exercise you hate simply to “burn calories.” find something you actually love to do and will bring pure happiness to your life. write out a list of everything you appreciate about yourself and tack it above your mirror.
but most of all, believe in yourself. believe in yourself and you’ll find that beast gone, once and for all.