Ever since I was little I can’t say that I had a positive body image about myself. Growing up, I was always bigger than the other kids and while my mom told me it was because the Stark family was “big-boned,” it didn’t make me feel any better. Why did I have boobs in third grade and wider hips than any of the other girls seemed too?
Obviously part of it was due to hitting puberty earlier too, but I was also never a thin girl. I struggled with it more and more as I got older and into middle school. Thankfully my personality helped me because I have a positive and kind personality, so I was never bullied for my weight in school. When all the girls were going out on their first dates though, I was being turned down and I think a large part of it had to do with my size. I was friends with the boys, but nothing else.
When I was in high school and fluctuating between a size 24/26 jeans, I really knew something was wrong. It wasn’t that my parents allowed me to eat junk all the time. I didn’t grow up eating as many fruits and vegetables as you should, something that has completely changed for me
now! But I would eat three decently well balanced meals a day and while I didn’t play sports after middle school, I didn’t sit inside and play video games. I did go outside and swim in the summers. I just was big. I knew I was big and larger than any of the girls and that made me super self-conscious.
When I started dating my second boyfriend at the end of high school and beginning of college, I remember he was very thin. It was the first guy I was ever intimate with and while at that point I had lost a little bit of weight, I was still super uncomfortable in my own skin. Almost every time we had sex, I would keep on my tank top at least over my stomach area because I just didn’t want him to see that.
It was the beginning of my junior year of undergrad that I started to really make changes in my life. My best friend, Megan, worked at a gym and she had me start working out with her. When we were in school, we lived together, so she’d get me out running and if it was summer she’d have me take a class or run outside and go lift weights. Megan started to allow me to see change in myself. She gave me my first push and helped me to expand my eating as well. My mom never had a large palate for other foods, so it wasn’t until Megan got me eating and trying different vegetables and salmon (this was the time after I stopped being vegetarian and pre-vegan) that I realized how good “healthy” foods could be.
During the time from my junior year to my graduation day of undergrad, I lost a lot of weight. I graduated and finally had more free time, so I began eating super consciously, counting macros, and working out, a lot. By my first year out of college, I was down 100 pounds. While it was an amazing feeling and I truly did love how my body looked. I had the inner mean girl in my head always telling me I was still fat. That I hadn’t really changed because I still had a stomach even though what I didn’t realize was that a lot of that stomach was loose skin at that point.
I remember that Christmas, 2015 I believe, Megan came home from Hawaii and my friend Amanda was over as well. We were playing games, drinking w*ne, and having chips and salsa/guacamole and I was tracking my food. I was obsessive. I felt I needed to lose more. They told me that I looked amazing and definitely did not. Even though I had lost the weight after thinking so negatively about myself for the first twenty-three years give or take of my life, it was hard just to push past those thoughts.
Looking back on it and learning what Orthorexia is I think I could have had that. While I was never diagnosed, looking at the symptoms and how obsessive I was about every food that went into my body and the two to four hour workouts I would always fit in even though I was working 70-80 hour work weeks clearly wasn’t healthy. Although, during this time the good thing that came out of it was that I did find a love for working out and eating healthy that I never had before.
Fast forward to the beginning of my grad school career in 2015, things started to change for me. Once again, I didn’t have as much time to work out. At the beginning of 2016, I was in school full-time, working downtown full-time, and doing an internship. My workouts and eating habits suffered and then I became depressed. Depression changed everything for me because I stopped caring about everything. I put absolute sh*t into my body and I couldn’t have cared more.
It took me a while to get out of that mindset and while during that time I gained about sixty pounds back to get out of that depression mindset I had to work on my mental self quite a bit, something I had never done before. That’s what changed for me. Even now though I would like to lose weight again, I know that if my head isn’t in it then it’s not going to work for me. I learned and realized how obsessive I was before and how unhealthy that is. I’m not afraid to have something unhealthy sometimes. If I’m really questioning my eating choices I ask myself “is this going to nourish my body?” Instead of thinking of food as good and bad, which I think is an unhealthy way of thinking about it.
I can’t say I’m perfect, but my inner mean girl has really toned down when it comes to the negative self-talk. I feel much more confident in my own skin because I know I can do the work, I know I am a healthy person, and I know that my personality and the work I’m doing is amazing and inspiring to even myself!
Working affirmations and mantras in helped a lot with my body image issues as well. No matter what size you’re at I think you should be able to
feel confident in your skin and not feel like you need to fit the media’s representation of what you “should” look like. That’s why I’m in the process of creating a body image workshop – it’ll be all about focusing on the mental side. Later on, I may be developing another one with food/exercise worked in with a fellow boss babe of mine, but I think getting the mental shifts down first is what changes and breaks old habits down. I know it’s what did it for me.
I realized as I became comfortable in this current skin that I’m here to show people that you don’t have to look a certain way to love your body. Whether you’re thin, overweight, muscular, or so on you can be confident and love yourself. At the end of the day that is what matters most. If you don’t love and trust yourself and your own body, it’s hard to trust yourself in the other aspects of my life and I’ve suffered the consequences first hand.
Be the light. Be the change. Inspire others.