Have you ever struggled with body image?
This blog is going to get a little personal. Body image issues are especially troublesome in the diet-driven world we live in today.
This is especially tough for me, as I have struggled with body image my whole life. Today, I am going to share my journey with you in hopes of inspiring someone with the same insecurities as me that it is okay – you can whole heartidly achieve health promoting behaviors at any size and respect your body for what it does for you.
When I was a teenager, I was discriminated for my body size. Girls made fun of me because I was “bigger” than them. It lead me to chase a smaller body by restricting foods, skipping meals, over-exercising, and comparing myself to others. This highly affected my relationship with food, body and self.
Just a background on me. I absolutely love exercising–I love anything from swimming, running, dancing to weight lifting and body weight exercises.I have completed 2 half marathons, a sprint triathlon, numerous 5K’s and 8K’s.
During my teenage years, I felt poorly about myself. It was not until I began attending Zumba Fitness classes that I began moving my body regularly–and regularly at that time was 2-3 times per week. I was always trying the new “wellness diet”-convinced that was the only way I could love myself – if I lost weight. Despite all of that, I still lacked confidence. Once I started doing Zumba, I felt better about myself, and I was a lot happier. Zumba was my gateway to fitness, and when I turned 16, I started instructing my own dance fitness classes.
By the time I moved to Collegedale, TN to begin my first year at Southern Adventist University, I was regularly exercising doing more than Zumba. I was attending spin classes, Pilates, and running. I tried to keep my fitness regimen up even though I was not instructing anymore. In my second year at SAU, I taught a cardio class and strength class to continue my love for showing people that exercise can be fun. I had a great following, and it inspired me as an instructor to come up with new material.
So it seems like I had it made, right? I was teaching fitness classes, enjoying time with friends, passing all my classes–but I still struggled with my body. However, it was not because I was upset with my body…it was because of the negativity I received from my shape. One day, this girl asked if she could borrow some of my clothing for a date she was going on. I was flattered–she must like my sense of style. She comes to my dorm room and goes through some clothes. We found a top she likes, but it went best with colored pants. She did not own any colored pants–but I did! She proceeded to ask me what size I wear, and I told her…”I am a size 4″.
In the most horrified, shocked, confused tone of voice she responds “You’re a size 4!?” It was a complete shock to her. I then said “Well, I have size 6 too?” She kind of apologized and said “Well, I mean, I just thought you were bigger than that. I can’t believe you wear a size 4!”
Fast forward two years…I was a 21-year-old Nutrition & Dietetics student whose ultimate goal was to help others achieve their dreams of becoming healthier individuals. I want to inspire others to live better, and now, I truly believe that is accomplished through gentle nutrition, joyful movement and active spirituality.
Despite my dream, I had a lot of discouragement, especially when I started my nutrition program. It was a constant battle between “oh no, I am going to fail this course, and if I do I am going to get kicked out of the program”. However, after my exercise physiology class, I was in a different state. I was in the state of “oh no, my anthropometrics numbers are not within normal limits. My body fat percentage is too high. I am fat.”
How can this be? I had such an amazing fitness and wellness journey and am comfortable with the size I am. How could I feel so crummy about myself? So what if I am 156 pounds and have a body fat percentage that is “high”? Why can such stupid numbers affect me so much? Why do I get so down on myself when people are praising others because they are so fit? I should be happy for them, but it is so hard to be when you are sitting in the corner thinking about how much time and dedication you put into your workouts and lifestyle and no one notices. There I was, 2 years later…still getting discriminated for my body size.
Despite these repressions of my body dysmorphia struggles, I tried so hard to find a silver lining. Then I realized something–the only true way for me to get a silver lining is through spirituality. Remember when I said the three ways to truly live a better life were gentle nutrition, joyful movement, and active spirituality? I was missing a key dimension in the plan. Yes, I am an active Christian, but I was not looking to God for my body image issue. I was looking at other people and comparing myself. I was putting myself down and hurting me–that is it. I was hurting me not anybody else.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You see, we are God’s “handiwork”–he created each and every one of us. He loves us just the way we are. Now, I do believe in 1 Corinthians 6:19 he says “Do you not know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” By Him saying this, he wants us to take care of ourselves. Remember the way to take care of yourselves? Gentle nutrition, joyful movement, and spirituality. That is the way.
So there you have it. I have been judged for the way I look. But you know what? It really does not matter what others think. I am doing what I can to keep my body healthy and most of all…happy. You can be healthy at any size, hunnies! It does not matter what size you are, the color of your hair, or how fast you can run a mile–it is about how you see yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others; just focus on making YOURself the best YOU that you can be.
Love yourself–respect your body. Love what God has given you. He created you the way He wants you with the ability and strength to achieve whatever you want, be it a half marathon runner or dance instructor. If we were all the same, life would be boring. When you can fully love who you are as a person then you can love others they way Christ intended. There are so many other barriers we have blocking us from truly loving ourselves–this is just one of mine. You can look to Christ for any of these barriers, and I encourage you to do that.
You are beautifully & wonderfully made.
Jumpstart your mindful eating journey by downloading my 6 Steps to Mindful Eating guide here – it’s free!