When I was an impressionable teen, I remember watching girls my age on TV shows doing stupid exercises to burn off a piece of cake they had just eaten. To compensate. It would drive me to go jogging instead of playing with my friends.
I was ashamed of my body despite the fact that I hardly had an ounce of fat to spare. My size was never small enough. I kept a pair of jeans until I was 28 in the hope that I would eventually regain that smaller size. It never happened.
When I came to Germany, I put on a lot of weight. My body changed and started looking more and more round. I would eat junk in secret and hide myself under oversized clothes. I was miserable because I didn’t look like the girls on the magazines, and the person I was with was quite happy to remind me. He had met me in my late teens and didn’t understand that my body went through changes I had little control over. He called me fatty, and would excuse himself by saying it was a term of endearment.
In came the body positive movement, which I started learning about and getting inspired by about 5 years ago. I was almost 30. All that time being unhappy with the way my body looked.
I didn’t change overnight. When I look back I can see how much I’ve grown, but it was a step by step process, and it still goes on today.
It started with accepting that I was not built or born with a slim bone body. I am curvy, it’s in my genes. My great grandfather was African. That didn’t mean I was less valuable than other girls with slim frames. By that point I was no longer in a relationship with someone who believed part of my worth was in how I looked, so that definitely helped. I got myself out of that and it made a huge difference in my self esteem.
The next step was learning to separate my emotions from food. Trust me, this is a process that is still ongoing. I slowly started to make myself aware of my feelings and how it drove me to food and binging. The more aware I made myself, the better I got at taking a minute before diving head first into junk food, and then telling myself it was not the best option. I promise you, this gets easier with practice. I can’t promise you that my willpower wins every time, because it doesn’t. But nowadays it wins most of the times. I make sure to give myself a pat on the back when I take the healthy choice over the unhealthy one. And on the days when I don’t, I don’t flog myself for it (not anymore anyway!).
Then it was about wanting to be healthy above wanting to look good. This I achieved by basically telling myself this every day, even though at first I didn’t really believe it. Eventually though, I did. Also telling others about it helped, because each time they would give me their perspective it would help build this idea in my head to the point I actually started believing it. One day I said out loud “I want to be healthy, the goal isn’t to lose weight” and found it to be true within myself.
The next step was learning about nutrition and how certain foods agreed more with me and my digestive system. I had always had a sensitive stomach, and found that the more nutritious the ingredients I put in my body, the better I felt. I had more energy, I slept better, I had less random pain and fell ill less often. My period was also much better (always a great indicator of your overall health!).
Throughout all of that, I continued to struggle on and off with the way I looked. But I had started falling in love with myself, with my worth as a loving and kind person, and that continues to help still.
My journey is far from complete. There are days I look in the mirror and am critical of every single thing. There are days where I enjoy the sight of the person looking at me from the mirror, and admire her for all she’s gone through. I’m happy to say the latter are taking over from the former.
I truly hope that my story will inspire you in your journey to self love and acceptance. You are worthy, and I admire you and respect you for taking the time to read this.