We each have our own individual and unique journey, our path through life, with its twists and turns, ups and downs. It may be a smooth road for some, or a bumpy road for others, but regardless of the ease or difficulty of your journey, it made you, YOU, and that is beautiful in itself.
This is my journey to self-acceptance.
How is it that we can be so kind to those around us, always wearing a smile on our faces and our hearts on our sleeves, yet hate and pick ourselves apart when no one is watching? Every day, an effort to pretend like everything’s alright while a constant battle ensues in our minds.
Why can’t I use the ladies room without examining my stomach in the mirror as if to see my last meal plastered there under my skin, or checking out my collarbones or my jawline to assure myself that they are still visible?
Ever since I can remember, I was ashamed of and hated my body, struggling with body image, skewed attitudes toward food, and binge eating. I grew up constantly comparing myself to my friends and other girls around me, never thinking I looked like them and feeling like I didn’t fit in. My eyebrows were too thick, my thighs were too big, and my stomach had too much fluff. I craved validation through others eyes as opposed to accepting myself through my own.
I refused to wear shorts to school until I was in eighth grade because I was embarrassed of my legs, so instead I wore capris. On 90 degree days, you’d find me, sweating in my capris. When I got a little older, the true battle began and I took action to fix the way I felt about myself. I went on restrictive diets and began a cycle of binging and restricting, a cycle of beating myself up over and over again. I had been counting each calorie, eating nutrient-poor foods, feeling bloated and deprived, and hating every second of it. I gained weight and fell into a depression, consumed by how I looked and obsessed over what I put into my body, over-exercising and pinching and poking at my thighs and stomach to find weight gain or loss. I would scrupulously plan every single morsel I put in my mouth, only to binge eat at night because I felt so deprived. The binge eating then lead to obsessively going to the gym as soon as I woke up or even twice a day to get rid of all of the extra calories I had ingested. I was sad and ashamed, in a terrible mental place. No matter how good I felt about myself, if I caved and ate something I deemed “bad,” I would immediately feel as though I had gained weight and would convince myself that I had put on pounds.
Because I wasn’t confident in the way I looked, I thought others thought less of me and only noticed my weight. I let my insecurities shine through as opposed to my kind heart and love of laughter. I believed the shape of my body defined who I was. If I didn’t like myself, why would anyone else? I shut myself off from friends and missed out on relationships.
One winter break, I had a rebirth, a kind of reawakening. I came into my body, began to treat myself like a friend, ate to fuel my cells, loved my hunger, and strived for self-love. How did I do this, you may ask? I simply read The Body Book by Cameron Diaz, absorbing information like a sponge, like a person who finally finds water after being stranded in the desert. The more I read, the more amazingly radiant I felt, the more my thirst for knowledge increased regarding my nutrition, and the more I wanted to help others to feel the way I began to feel. It completely shifted the attitudes I had toward food and my body. I felt so in control, so amazingly enlightened after reading her wonderful book. It was then that I decided enough is enough. I was sick and tired of hating myself and not feeling good enough.
I began cooking all of my meals with real ingredients, incorporating whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins from various sources. It was then that I discovered my passion for cooking and for creating deliciously simple, beautiful, and nourishing meals! I began an Instagram account, @TheBalancedRose, and fell in love with showing that it is easy to make simple, beautiful, and healthy meals that taste good, even on a budget. Increasing my knowledge about foods and spices and their effects on the body became my hobby and once I began implementing the things I learned about into my own life and diet, I began to understand the effects that proper nutrition has on the spirit and mind; I began to glow, from the inside out. I also fell in love with the community of inspiring people who care so much about each other even though the connection is solely through social media.
Fast forward a few months, one amazing book, a great counselor, and some really inspirational people on social media – I felt amazing. As my Instagram grew, I discovered more and more about myself. It has been a wonderful way to have support from people going through the same things as well as a way to hold myself accountable for my growth and to remain positive about myself. I began to feel better than I ever had. My binges reduced significantly, although I still faced some issues and continue to struggle a bit. I began to love my body, to realize that my view of myself was skewed and inaccurate. I realized I am my biggest critic and I need to be kinder to myself, because this is the only body I have and will ever have. I have discovered a love for yoga, for meditation and mindfulness, for being in the present moment and expressing my independence from things I leaned on before as a crutch. I have discovered that, contrary to popular belief, carbs aren’t the enemy. I was my own enemy and now I am flying my white flag. I’m taking time for me, going to the gym when I want to, not when I feel like I have to or I need to burn off the calories I ingested, and I have given up on counting calories. I am enough, just the way I am.
This whole journey I have gone through and am still working through has shown me that there is truly a silver lining to every situation, never give up because giving up is not an option. Through all of this I have discovered that I aspire to be a Registered Dietitian, attending graduate school in the fall of 2016 for a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. Soon, I will be getting up on stage in front of basically my entire student body, professors, parents, friends, and family members, as well as my fellow vagina sisters – sounds strange, I know – and I will be sharing my journey through my battle with body image in this year’s production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues at Springfield College. I will be standing on stage in front of my peers, professors, family, and friends and declaring that I AM ENOUGH, who I am, the body that I have, all of the parts of me are truly enough. My journey has made me stronger, relatable, and vulnerable. Oh how beautiful it is, this wonderful, amazing, scary journey life is, and I am still really in the beginning.
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