Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Age 19

Hi, I am 19 years old and I am a curvy women. Since I was young, I have been weight conscious because of my family and society. I can remember when I was 9 years old, my mom and grandmother telling me, "Are you sure you want to eat that?" and "You need to take care of your weight?” I carried this belief that I was not skinny, attractive or beautiful enough until I was 18 years old.

Throughout the years, my weight has fluctuated, but my perception of myself has not. I had gotten to the point where I could not see pictures of myself or I would break out in tears and would only eat around 500-800 calories a day and exercise for 2 hours in order to lose weight. I have been to therapists and have done almost every diet and self-help under the sun. My main concern was not being attractive enough and never having a boy who would love me. I thought I was hideous and no guy would like me. I was shy and felt like I didn't deserve to speak out, that my voice didn't deserve to be heard. It was painful and I suffered.

It was only until a year ago that I saw the damage I was doing to myself. Did my clothes size truly define my value? Was the amount of fat really indicative of my intelligence and the quality of personality? The answer was no. It isn't. I am much more than my weight and the only one that is letting the weight define me is myself. Yes, people judge. Yes, some guys are superficial. But I was tired of making my life miserable and putting myself down because of it. I decided to move beyond my body. I started to let my true personality come out and see myself in a new light. I looked in the mirror and realized that although I was a size 10 instead of a size 4, I was still sexy and I was still beautiful. I let myself have the mentality of a sexy beautiful girl and the change around me was magical. People were more attracted to be around me, I began making more friends and feeling more confident and productive in my studies. I started to explore who I really was, separate from the judgment of my body size. Yes, I still had some insecurities, and yes, I still freaked out about weight now and then (it had been too many years of these negative thoughts for them all to go away over night). The difference was that I didn't let them control me and I didn't let them define me.

A couple of days ago a woman came up to me and gave me a card that read "Cure Against Obesity." My mom was outraged and I was a bit shocked. Two years ago, this would have taken me to a mental breakdown and I would start seeing myself as horribly obese. However, instead I just threw the card away because, really, it was her problem, not mine. Society is hyper-conscious of weight and the business sector takes advantage of this and manipulates it to make a profit. Advertisements endorse fatty foods and weight loss produces during the same commercial break. Girls are taught to fear muffin tops and stomach bumps more than F's on a test. This is how backwards it has become.

I have a friend from Ghana. When I told him about my weight insecurities and that I didn't perceive myself as attractive he was in shock. He told me that he saw me as one of the most attractive girls in the college and that he just didn't see how I could see myself as overweight. I was also in shock and I realized how body size and beauty were all based on perspective. All women's sizes are beautiful. From size 16 to size 2 - as long as it is your natural body size, you are beautiful. And I learned that I was not built to be a size 4. I am eating healthy, exercise and am a size 8…and I am happy. My body does not fulfill society’s expectation of beauty, but it fulfills mine and that is all that matters. I know the "love your body" mantra gets old, but there is truth to that. Healing the relationship with your body is a process and it has its ups and downs, but I know now that instead of heading towards a destructive and sabotaging future of weight consciousness and constant dieting, I am heading to a future of confidence, happiness and self-fulfillment by loving myself just as I am.

Ironically, the less I cared about how I looked and the more I concentrated on my personality, the more weight I lost because by being in tune to who you are, you no longer have the need for emotional binging and bad habits. Taking care of your body becomes effortless and you naturally move into your right and healthy weight which may not be model perfect, but is perfect for me.