It took me more than 20 years to learn that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no “right” or “wrong” ; when it comes to beauty. As a child, I began struggling with my weight from the time I was 7. I grew more and more self-conscious over the years. When I was 14,I finally decided I’d had enough of being overweight, so I began exercising and eating more food with high nutritional value and fewer foods that didn’t have as many nutrients. Every time I stepped on the scale, the number was lower and I received more praise and attention from more people. It was a high to me, so I kept going. I became obsessed with weight loss and I lost so much weight to the point I was unhealthy. Because I was starving, I began overeating. For the next 7 years, I struggled with binge eating. It wasn’t until I was at my lowest point in life, at my highest weight, when I finally decided to accept myself for who I was right then. I didn’t believe that I no longer needed to change—I knew that I needed to take care of my body and that I needed to reach a healthier point physically. But I finally realized that I first had to reach a healthier point mentally. I had to love myself despite my imperfections. I had to believe I was beautiful despite the physical changes I needed to make. And most importantly, I had to let go of believing I had to make those changes in order to BE beautiful.
I began believing that even if I never lost an ounce, I was still beautiful. I began believing that happiness was beauty. Goodness was beauty. Kindness was beauty. I no longer needed a boy to love me in order to feel beautiful. I no longer needed anyone else’s validation for me to feel happy or confident. I finally understood that this was a choice and that I could choose to feel beautiful, happy, and confident right THEN. At my lowest point. At my highest weight.
This change in my thinking is what ultimately empowered me to live a healthier life and to reach a healthy weight. The change was not instant, and it took a ton of hard work and constant vigilance so that my thoughts would not go back to negative thoughts that had been stuck on autopilot for years. But eventually, I completely let go of the need to control my weight and to be a certain weight. I didn’t feel like “healthy choices” were grueling, difficult, or even impossible choices anymore. I began to exercise more, but the word “exercise” no longer meant “staring at the elliptical or treadmill until you hit a certain number of calories burned.” Exercise began to mean fun new hobbies such as hiking or walking in the canyon while I look at the beautiful trees and listen to the calming sound of the river. Eating didn’t mean obsessing over every calorie or type of food I ate anymore. Eating began to mean what my body wanted to eat, when it needed to eat, until I reached the point of fullness and satisfaction. Sometimes my body craved an apple, and sometimes it craved Cinnabon. Sometimes it wanted pizza and sometimes it wanted a salad. It didn’t matter anymore. Neither did my weight. Neither did my looks. Neither did my relationship status. And I’ll tell you what—it was liberating. I was finally free from all the lies I’d believed my entire life.
Fast forward to today, 5 years after I made this life-altering discovery and these slow changes in my thinking. Do I ever feel ugly? Fat? Gross? Worried about my looks? What about those wrinkles that are popping up? Do I ever question how in the world I got married or what my husband sees in me? Do I ever feel incapable, lazy, worthless, depressed? Do I ever doubt myself or feel like a failure? YES—to all of the above, and more often than I’d like to admit. Most changes aren’t a cure-all for the rest of our lives. Most changes in our thinking, especially those that go against what society bombards us with constantly, take continual effort and time, even after we’ve reached a good point in our lives. I will probably have to be vigilant about my positive body image my entire life. I don’t know if it will ever be something that is on autopilot for me. What I DO know is that overall I am now confident and I truly love my life, I am thankful for my body and everything it allows me to do, and I am happy.