I was so excited to share my huge giveaway yesterday, I postponed my body-positivity post for today. If you haven’t seen any of the previous posts, check them all out here. Today’s guest blogger is Milan from Milan Darling. You may remember her from our little Q&A last Friday! I’m really sad to see this series go, but am hoping to do another one this fall. If you are a blogger or writer and are interested, contact me here, and I’ll put you on the roster! Milan’s post is really intriguing and is such a great piece to read. Thank you so much, Milan, for writing this post!
I will never forget the awful perception of body image I had starting at a young age. I remember obsessing about it since at least 8th grade, constantly wearing jackets to conceal what I thought to be an overweight body. In reality I was an average sized teenager, I wasn’t actually overweight but I had this idea in my head of what a body should look like. Between obsessing over magazines, parents who were always on me about how I looked and the boy in 9th grade who called me “a little big,” I never loved my body or myself. I just wanted to be pretty and skinny and at the time Miss “Oops I did it Again,” Britney Spears was a woman I looked up to along with Charlies Angels and the girls from Bring It On. One thing they all had in common? They were skinny.
I missed out on a lot of normal teenage things growing up because of my poor body image. Growing up I loved being a cheerleader but when it came time to try out in the middle school gym I was too self-conscious and scared to be judged, not good enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough. I always looked back and wondered what could have happened if I didn’t hate my body so much. Would I have continued to love cheering? I will never know but it’s a shame that I let my body image get in the way. I don’t ever want to look back again and say what if? It is one thing when there are other obstacles but when I was my only obstacle… I was my own worst enemy… that’s the worst regret.
I was literally consumed by hating my body and this went on for years to come.
Fast forward about a decade later and I am in college. The freshman fifteen hit me hard and I was at the biggest I had ever been in my life. I still hadn’t let go of the poor self-esteem or body image. I would dream about the day that I would be skinny again. I would share conversations with friends where I learned I wasn’t alone. Everyone around me seemed to have struggled with body image in one way or another… it was uncommon if you actually loved your body.
It was safe to say I lost all respect for my body. I ate poorly, slept poorly, drank a ton of diet coke and never worked out. I was at an all time low and my weight at an all time high. One afternoon I struggled out of bed, depressed and feeling alone… I made my way to the bathroom where I just stood there and stared at my reflection. I stared at myself and realized how much I hated who I saw looking back at me, more than ever. She was an imposter. Not the girl I was raised to be.
I was wearing my typical oversized t-shirt to conceal my weight and my comfy Nike shorts. This day I noticed they weren’t so comfy but actually quite snug.
I stepped on the scale to see the largest number in my life and I began to cry. Right then I told myself, this ends right now. It never seems that easy but in that moment, it was. I meant it with ever bone in my body. I was disgusted and hated myself more than ever. I told my roommates they could have my sugar loaded off-brand fruit loops and that I was giving up soda. No more eating dinner sized meals at two in the morning and no more fast food. I was serious and that day truly changed the rest of my life.
Slowly I made changes and slowly I began to lose weight. I drank green tea in place of soda and I began to make a point to get to the gym for some cardio every couple days. I really didn’t make my changes too drastic, I still allowed myself to eat carbs and cheese but I made sure everything I ate was homemade so I knew what was going in my body. Potatoes, salad, breakfast burritos and baked cauliflower were what I lived off of. I didn’t calorie count or deprive myself. Things were looking up for me and I was happy with my weight changes. All my friends noticed the weight coming off and always asked what I was doing differently. When I look at it now it never seemed that hard because I was so excited about it and I felt great when I made those changes, inside and out.
As time went by I began to get more serious about working out. I began to hit a plateau after doing the same workouts for so long and I had never known anything outside of abs and cardio. By the time I was 20 I was in a serious relationship and my boyfriend became seriously interested in fitness as well. He taught me different movements for lifting weights and I began to really dig the weight training. I bought books and researched endlessly about working out and followed all the fitness models I could find on Instagram. The poor body image began to seep in again as I wondered when I would look like these fitness gurus. I would look into how they got there, what they did and how I could do it. I became obsessed with the idea and sad when I felt like I would never get there. My workout buddies would remind me that those people worked for years to get where they were with dedication and hard work. Yeah, yeah, yeah… but when will I be at a point where I love my body?
When I would focus so much on the celebrities and fitness models I found myself in never ending pit of doom. Comparing is the ultimate source of unhappiness. This concept was the hardest for me to grasp. The root of happiness comes from loving yourself and to do this you have to accept yourself. All along I just couldn’t accept myself, couldn’t accept that my metabolism is slower than others and my height will always be only an inch taller than petite. My size is considered average but not represented in magazines or movies. How could I let some subculture be my ideal world of perfection and happiness? What about the real world and the real people around me? It is important to keep your goals realistic and attainable. I had to stop telling myself I needed to lose 30 pounds before I would be happy. I started to interact more with the people around me and realize that this “ideal” world isn’t real. Comparing myself to a celebrity was stupid and it was no wonder my body image was so messed up.
I put aside my desire for the perfect body and tried to forget about it. But something that’s been a part of your whole life doesn’t really go away, and hating my body was something that I never knew much different. I was smaller than I was the year before but I was no longer satisfied with where I was.
I had been weight lifting and working out long enough to realize that nutrition was everything. I never really understood proper nutrition however until about a year ago, when I was 22. I stumbled upon Kimberly Snyder, a nutritionist to the stars. I found a green smoothie she swore by along with Channing Tatum and Drew Barrymore. I thought I would give it a try, it was only one meal a day and in order to feel the results I was supposed to drink it every day for a couple weeks. The time went by and I was obsessed with the smoothie, the taste was fine, not delicious but the results were amazing. I had never felt so great in my life. My weight was the same but my body felt so clean and energized. I began reading her books and taking an interest in actually learning about my body, how it works and how to take care of it properly. I learned about how our bodies digest the junk versus the good stuff. The book promotes a vegan diet but I wasn’t quite there yet. I tried it out for a week and I enjoyed it but I missed my chicken burrito bowls at Chipotle.
Once I felt how certain foods made my body feel it was easier to avoid the junk because I didn’t want my stomach to ache or feel bloated. I wanted to continue to feel great and energized and it’s a feeling I can’t really describe other than fantastic.
My perspective on my body changed when I started to understand how my body works and how I feel as a result instead of comparing the way it looks to beautiful women in Glamour.
It can be easy to get off track no doubt, it has happened to me constantly but what I have found as a result of this new understanding of my body is that I don’t begin to hate my body. I know what needs to be done to get back to feeling good on the inside and that starts with respecting your body enough to care about what goes in it. The way I look at food now is as nutritional, not just something to fill me up. I look at cheese and see a stomach ache waiting to happen and sometimes, yes I still choose to eat it because I love pizza and mac n’ cheese. At the end of the day you have to loosen up a little bit.
But what I have come to find is balance. Make your body happy as often as you can. Look at kale and see how it aids your digestion and is high in iron, which is a supplement women are typically low in. Look at salmon as something that will provide omega 3’s and help boost your mood. Look at food and activity as things that benefit your health, your mood and your energy, not just your appearance.
When I made these changes I felt it and I saw it. And guess what, others saw it too. Everyone would comment on my glowing skin and tell me how I looked happy and healthy. The truth was that I was happy and I was healthy, something I have never been able to say before in my life. Nothing had changed but the way I looked at my body, the way I looked at food, the way I looked at working out and the realization that my body is different than anyone elses out there.
Skinny does not equal happy. Healthy equals happy.
A few months ago I went to the counselor and was able to say that my body image was not an issue. It was no longer something I needed help with, something I needed to discuss and deal with. Being able to say that with honesty and truly mean it gave me such a feeling of relief. It felt amazing to say out loud for the first time in my life, “I love my body.” Is that something you have ever said to yourself? If not say it now. It’s freeing. It was foreign to me… but it made me smile.
To actually achieve body positivity and body love one must view their body as something they care about and something they love. You care about the way you look so why not care about they way you feel? And I don’t just mean your emotions; I mean the way your body feels.
How to achieve body love and body positivity:
-Treat your body with respect
-Never call yourself negative words
-Eat foods that make you feel good and provide the nutrients your body needs
-Be active! Make it fun; dancing, hiking, biking, surfing! Just do something that gets your blood flowin’ and your heart beatin’!
-Stop comparing yourself to others. We are all built differently, we all function differently.
-Don’t hate what you don’t understand. Do the research, read up on the way your body functions and the way it processes different foods. My favorite books are Kimberly Snyder’s series and the Champagne Diet.
So what are you waiting for? Start taking care of yourself, loving yourself and living your life to the fullest!
Good luck darlings and always feel free to reach out to me.