A letter to my body:
I am sorry for all of the abuse I have put you through. I am sorry for shaming you and calling you names you didn’t deserve to be called. I am sorry for the countless hours that I have stared at you and pointed out flaws that didn’t even exist. I am sorry that I have starved you at times and overworked you other times. I am sorry that when I miss the gym for a few days in a row, it’s hard for me to not feel bad about the way you look. I’m sorry that after all this time of finding love in myself, I still point flaws out in you on a daily basis.
I never thought much about my body image until I went to college. As a student-athlete, we were quickly put on very regimented diets as freshman. Instead of gaining the freshman 15, I lost it. After losing that weight and starting to view my body in a different way, being fit became like an addiction. There was always pressure on us to be fit as athletes – I can remember constantly stepping on the scale after each lifting session and being angry with myself if I weighed a pound heavier than I did the day before.
Sophomore year, my desire to be fit turned into an obsession. My calorie count was beyond low in comparison to what I needed for the amount of training I was doing for track. I remember the summer leading up to my sophomore year, I would wake up every morning before work and run 3 miles combined with a workout video and then after work I would then go and do my already scheduled track and lifting workout. I would refuse to eat any food that took me away from my diet, which included all of the foods that I loved. I was paper thin and after a while, my body broke down due to lack of proper nourishment and I couldn’t perform well at practice or at meets anymore. I knew I needed to make a change and eat more, but seeing my very muscular body change to add some necessary fat, was really difficult to endure. I developed this obsession of checking for my abs in the mirror, just to check that they were still there, and if they weren’t I became angry with myself and thought of all the calories I needed to cut later that day or the extra ab exercises I needed to do. There were so many races following my necessary weight gain that I told myself I couldn’t run fast because “I was too fat”. I knew deep down that I wasn’t fat, I just felt like I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t worthy because I wasn’t able to maintain the unrealistic body image I set up for myself.
Fast forward to today, three years after I hung up my track spikes and ended my track career, and I still struggle with my body image. I have truly come a long way in that I allow myself to fulfill my cravings, I don’t diet, and I don’t over-exercise, but I still truly struggle. I especially struggle on the days when I am balancing seeing friends and family after work, and having to miss out on the gym. And I struggle even more when people at the gym recognize I haven’t been around for quite some time. Those are the days when I feel myself tempted to restrict calories or make scarifies in my life, just to get a workout in. At the end of the day, no one will remember me for the muscles that I had or how much time I spent in the gym, but they will remember me for the way that I made them smile and laugh and the experiences that we shared together. Being healthy is important, but being healthy mentally is equally important and when I shame my body, I am not being healthy mentally or physically. When I start to have a negative body image day, positive affirmations about what my body is capable of are key to helping me feel better. I remind myself that I love my body because my body is strong. I am grateful that my body is strong and is capable of allowing me to do all of the things I so often take for granted, like walking or going for runs that clear my head.
We will spend our entire lives in the bodies we were blessed with, we might as well start showing our bodies a whole lot more love and appreciation. I have to acknowledge that I put my body through turmoil for 15 years of my life as a track athlete and I have to truly thank my body for not falling apart and being so resilient after all of that abuse. Growth for me means that the next time someone at the gym tells me it has been a long time since they have seen me, I will be grateful, because that means I am busy making memories, I am busy working on my mental wellness, I am busy learning to love me, with every single flaw, I am busy building a beautiful life.
You and your body are perfect just the way you are – you are more than a number on a scale or a size on a piece of clothing, you are a loving, funny, caring human being, and you deserve to treat yourself that way. Our life experiences are more important than having the “perfect” body, whatever that means to you, so remember to enjoy every moment, because life is too short to ever say no to ice cream.
Be Beautifully Simply You