I’m 30 and I finally love my body

How I finally came to appreciate my body after years of dieting and obsession

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

It all started 22 years ago…

When I was 8 years old, I heard my freshly separated parents arguing on the phone. My brothers and I had become accustomed to witnessing their heated exchanges, but this one was different.

My mom was trying to keep her voice down but she wasn’t doing a very good job because I heard her telling my dad that I was not fat. She was passionately trying to explain that I was starting to develop and was upset at his lack of understanding.

As an 8-year-old girl, I had obviously never given any thought to body image or size. I had never given any thought to what I ate or how much. I was just a kid lost in my own little world, until I heard this conversation.

After this, I was sad and confused not to mention guilty thinking that my fatness somehow contributed to the demise of my parent’s coupling.

This led to a nasty habit of emotional eating. Once again, I was so young I didn’t think about it, but looking back on my life, I definitely was, but as my body and mind charged into full-blown puberty this emotional eating became dangerously combined with an obsession with my body image.

Starting at age 11, I would constantly look at fitness magazines, exercise alone in my room, and try diets like Slim Fast.

Sadly, though, I was overweight. Throughout middle school, every physical I had conclusively determined this fact. All this did was fuel my obsession and planted seeds of depression in my young mind.

My first round with weight loss

When I was 14 and in my Freshman year of high school, I lost weight a good amount of weight. I joined the swim team and I was suddenly in the best shape of my adolescent life. Boys started to talk to me and I didn’t feel like the fat girl amongst skinny friends.

But the troubled period of my life was far from over. Instead of helping resolve the issues I had already had with food and my body for so long, this weight loss just exacerbated the problems I was struggling with.

Now, I saw a new body, but I still felt fat. In fact, I didn’t even realize what my body actually looked like. I was only going off of what other people recognized. When I looked in the mirror all I saw were problems that needed to be fixed.

I was still obsessed with fitness magazines, and I always wondered why I never looked like the lean women that I saw plastered throughout them.

At the same time, I became extremely fearful of ever gaining weight. I had to maintain this new body that seemed to be appealing to other people. Suddenly, I was an athlete and revered for my abilities and looks. I never wanted to lose that approval. It was everything to me.

As I got older, things secretly got worse. My on-and-off dieting always continued and for a while I was even bulimic, thinking that was the only way I could ever avoid weight gain.

Eventually, I stopped. I was too self-conscious about being overheard and too ashamed to have resorted to that. But that didn’t stop me from trying out sketchy diet pills and skipping meals.

Finally fit and healthy

When I was 20, I joined Weight Watchers. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed it, but my mom had just joined and I decided to go to meetings with her as moral support.

I’m glad I did, though, because it taught me a lot about health and nutrition. I ended up losing 30 lbs and getting my body in shape with a lot of visits to the gym.

I had never felt better in my life in terms of physical health, but still, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was an imperfect body.

I still felt bigger than my friends. I still had the big butt, big hips, and overall voluptuous shape that I had come to hate. Why couldn’t I be a petite size 2 or 0 like all my other friends? Which was an insane thought in retrospect considering I was a size 4 at the time!

And that size was not easy for me to maintain. I had to work out every day and basically starved myself. Sure, I liked people commenting on how small I was and I even relished in the attention I got from men, but I felt empty and my confidence was still pretty damn low.

Over time, when I would ease up a little on the fitness front, I would go to a size 6 and my fear of being fat would immediately kick in again. Seriously, you have no idea how much I feared this. Any time I saw the slightest change in my body I’d immediately start dieting and exercising obsessively.

This went on for years, but it wasn’t until this past year that I stopped caring so much. I ditched the gym membership and food tracking for a more intuitive lifestyle.

That was just about a year or 2 ago, and now, I’m 30 and I actually feel good about myself and my body.

I’m a size 8 instead of a 4, but I like it and I now embrace my curves. I watch what I eat, but I’ve eliminated the word ‘diet’ from my life. I exercise by doing things I thoroughly enjoy like walks, tennis, and dancing instead of spending 1 or 2 hours at the gym every day because I think I have to. I stopped focusing so much on what I ate and decided to indulge a little if I had a craving.

For what do I owe this miraculous change?

I can’t pinpoint one specific thing, but instead, there were a few realizations I had that I think can help anyone struggling with body image. These might seem a little existential, but I think looking at the bigger picture can help put any issue into perspective.

My epiphanies are as follows:

1. Life is too short to obsess over how you look

Seriously, people, life really is too short to focus on things like this. In the grand scheme of things, it’s trivial.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have gotten older (probably) but the past year or 2I have really been considering the fact that I can die any moment. Any of us can, and the only guarantee in life is that we will die.

I don’t want to sound morbid or depressing, it’s actually quite the opposite. This thought motivates me. It’s what drove me to take the leap and finally go into business for myself, and it’s a big part of why I now value my body and my health.

I looked back and thought about all the time I wasted just focusing on how I look, and how I was never satisfied. And for what? Did I get anything out of it? Other than this life lesson, no. It never helped me get anywhere other than depressed.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time contributing to the world in a positive way and being happy than worrying about what size jeans I can fit in.

2. Become comfortable with the fact that your body is unique

One thing I realized is that I’m never going to look like the women I envied in my younger days. I’m never going to be a 5'10" supermodel. I’m never going to not have a curvy figure. I’m never going to be a size 2.

And you know what? I’m glad. I don’t want to look like someone else. I want to look like me, and that’s how I’m built.

And do you want to know the irony of it all? There’s someone out there who wants something you have.

As much as I used to hate my shape and size, I always had friends who I envied my curves because they were so petite. Meanwhile, I was looking at them wishing I could eat whatever I want and not gain a pound.

So we were all basically looking at each other with envy for the things that we hated about ourselves. How idiotic is that?!

3. Instead of finding and focusing on faults, try being grateful

Be grateful for your health and the body that you do have. I used to spend so much time thinking there was something wrong with me, but that’s just crazy. I can walk, I don’t have any medical issues, and most importantly I’m alive!

And I’m alive because of my body. This strange biological machine keeps me conscious. It allows me to go places, hold things, and do things I love to do like dancing.

When you really think about the complexity and absolute perfection of the human body, it’s mind-blowing.

So instead of bashing the thing that allows you to see another day, why not be grateful for your health and body?

It’s time to put an end to negative body image

I wanted to share my story because I hope it will open the eyes of anyone else who is struggling with body image. It doesn’t matter if it’s your weight, your skin color, or even your facial features, obsessing over body image is damaging, and can spiral into some seriously unhealthy habits.

Feeling like you’re not beautiful enough is what leads people to get unnecessary plastic surgeries or deprive their bodies of vital nutrients. It leads people to try mysterious supplements or obsessively workout.

But most importantly, it tortures the mind which can be detrimental to life itself. That might sound dramatic, but when you’re obsessing over something as small as body image you are depriving yourself of a fulfilling life.

Instead of focusing your efforts on accomplishing other things that make you happy and appreciating yourself, you’re part of a never-ending battle to be ‘beautiful’ according to someone else’s standards.

And this problem is more pervasive than people realize. It affects women and men young and old. I was only 8 when I started to be concerned with how I look!

If my story can help one person feel better about themselves and avoid over 20 years of body dysmorphia then that’s all I care about. Because the world doesn’t need more self-hate. The world needs more self-love.

Freelance copywriter by trade, but a free spirit, artist, and spreader of good vibes 24/7, 365! Stop by for reflections, random thoughts, and inspiration.

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