I was standing in the checkout line at Target wearing a baggy sweatshirt, even though the weather wasn’t quite cold enough yet, attempting to hide the fact that I had simply swapped my pajama bottoms for a pair of jeans. I set an armful of items on the conveyor belt and let my eyes rake over the racks of glossy women’s magazines bursting with promises of exercises, fad diets, and health products that would fix the reader’s “problem areas.” Seemingly happy, confident women with Photoshop-enhanced abs and thighs no bigger around than a can of low sodium green beans beamed at me while the cashier rang up my frozen pizza, two pints of ice cream, package of cookie dough, and two family size bags of candy. My brother was away at college and my parents were out of town for the weekend, so I was going home to an empty house. It was the perfect opportunity to stock up for two days worth of binge eating.
My disordered eating patterns didn’t develop overnight. I would stand in front of the mirror before I got dressed and pinch my stomach, thighs, and hips, willing my body to get smaller. I walked through the hallways at school mentally measuring the circumference of every other girl’s waist, trying to see how I measured up. Even if the scale or a measuring tape labeled me as “healthy,” in my mind I was fat, and to my sixteen-year-old self that was the worst thing I could possibly be. In my near constant inner narrative of criticism, fat was what was holding me back from happiness, confidence, and satisfaction within my life. I decided I would change, and I would do so by any means necessary.
I skipped meals whenever I could, saying I didn’t have time for breakfast in the morning and going to the library instead of the cafeteria at school under the guise of having to study. But after days of this, as soon as I was alone with food in the house, I’d give in to my hunger and eat everything I could get my hands on, overfilling my stomach until I felt sick. Afterward I would punish myself for days, thinking I could be thin and beautiful if only I had the willpower.
I started calling my binge episodes my “cheat days”—something diets in magazines always seemed to include—as if eating macaroni and cheese constituted a moral failure. Six days of near starvation followed by one day of bingeing. During the week my stomach ached constantly with hunger, and I grew to crave that ache.
On the outside, I looked fine. But on the inside, things were falling apart faster than even I knew. My dislike of my body turned into hatred, and then the hatred of my body turned into hating everything about myself. Anything I did that was a hair less than perfection was considered complete failure. My weight fluctuated rapidly with my bingeing patterns, and my sense of self-worth went with it.
Even worse, for a long time I didn’t think I had a problem because I thought this was completely normal. I thought that all people, especially women, hated their bodies. Why else would “ways to fix your problem areas” litter every other commercial and daytime talk show? I assumed that happiness and acceptance of myself and my body could only be achieved if I “fixed” myself to the standards I was seeing.
Turns out, I was utterly mistaken.
No matter how many lumps or bumps or bulges it has, your body is not a problem that needs to be fixed. No matter how much or how little you resemble a cover model, your body is part of you, and it deserves your love and your respect. And your life is not something that will start after you’ve lost enough weight. You’re living it—here and now—so don’t waste another minute hating your body or believing you’re not good enough.
Love your body because it’s the one you have.
Love your body because of the amazing things it can do.
Love your body because it’s what you deserve.