I’ve struggled with my body image since I was in middle school. There were days when I’d walk the halls feeling like the biggest kid there. In the present moment, I still feel that way sometimes.
You see, I spent most of my high school years tracking every bite I ingested and starving myself so that I could feel pretty. I was obsessed with the idea that being thin would turn me into the “ideal girl.”
For so many years, my self-hatred prevented me from actually living. I refused myself so many opportunities to visit the beach, in fear of what I looked like in a bathing suit. I had a panic attack over my figure that was so bad, it made me miss my best friend’s 16th birthday party. In moments like these, I was so terrified of having my flaw on display that I couldn’t even show up for the people I loved.
Eating disorders blur the image of who we are. At my smallest, all I could focus on was how many rolls I had when I sat down and whether or not my collar bones were pronounced enough. I was the thinnest I’d ever been, and yet I felt disgusted in my own skin. Now, I have a bit more tummy and my legs have grown, replacing the thigh gap I once praised.
As we grow into the people we are meant to become, our bodies grow, too. As the years have gone by, I have certainly gained the weight back. When stretch marks slowly began to canvas my body, I found it hard to hold back the unforgiving tears. How could I let this happen?
I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to realize that there is more to me than what I look like.
With time, the red angry marks slowly turned into silvery lines, begging for love. I’ve come to worship the stretch marks that now hug my hips and thighs. They’ve become signs of strength and perseverance. They’re a permanent reminder of how far I’ve come in my battle with an eating disorder.
During recovery, it is crucial to see food as more than just calories. It is nourishment and fuel for our bodies, our personal homes that help us live and be and do. We deserve to eat what we enjoy, what we crave, without food rules dictating every ounce of sustenance that reaches the tips of our tongue.
Although I continue to be faced with new challenges along my journey of self-acceptance, I keep reminding myself that I am more than what I see in the mirror. I am more than the opinions and expectations of others. I am more than the size of my clothes. Most importantly, I am more than the lies my eating disorder told me.
I deserve to eat without fear.
I am grateful for the life I have, and the body I’m in. It allows me to move and love the people around me. And someday, whenever that may be, I know that I’ll come to fully love myself, too.