We live in one warped society. Instead of being grateful for the bodies that allow most of us to run, dance, and skip, we stare at our bodies in the mirror and criticize every last imperfection. Yes, there has been a recent surge in body positivity, but many of us are still brainwashed into thinking that our bodies aren’t good enough. This negativity begins as early as elementary school for some children. I think most people go through a stage in their lives where they are insecure about how they look. For me, those insecurities started in middle school. I always felt a little on the heavier side, especially compared to some of the shorter, more petite girls in my class. However, each year as I get older, I realize more and more how much I love my body. I’ve hit bumps along the way, but I’ve realized that I don’t want to be skinny. Skinny to me means weak. I want to feel strong and energized. This is what health means to me now–fueling my body correctly, challenging it, and being proud of all things that I can do with the body that God has blessed me with.
This vision I have of health took a long time to develop. When I was in middle school, I could care less about health, fitness, and nutrition. My mom tried to feed the family healthy meals, but that was about it. I did sports recreationally, but I was not into physically exerting myself. I mean, I would cry when we had to run the mile for gym class. Cry. I just hated running that far (plus I was always one of the slowest people in my class, so that didn’t help anything.) Like I said, in middle school, I was taller and bigger than a lot of the girls in my class, so I didn’t have a lot of self esteem. It wasn’t anything detrimental; I just wasn’t as loving towards my body as I am now.
In high school, my attitude towards health changed. In health class, we had to set a health goal, so I decided that I wanted to run the Make-A-Wish 5k for my neighbor’s team. I found a training schedule, and I actually ran the whole thing. That was such a huge accomplishment for me–going from zero running to being able to run 3.1 miles. In addition, I became very conscientious about the food that I was putting in my body. I really wanted to eat fresh produce, lean proteins, and not a lot of sweets. I was fascinated by the nutrients in food (and still am interested), and I loved learning how to properly portion what I eat. This was also around the time where I found out that I was lactose intolerant, so I was adjusting my diet to not include dairy. It turns out that I got a little too carried away with limiting portion sizes; I ended up not fueling my body correctly. I was on dance team during this time, and I had long practices nearly every day. It turned out that I wasn’t eating enough. So around my sophomore/ junior year, I actually had to gain about 15 pounds. I actually found this to be quite difficult. It sounds fun at first, but having to constantly eat food even when you are already full is tough. It took quite a few months for me to gain the weight that I needed to.
After I had gained that weight back, I realized that for me, I didn’t need to be so conscious about my food. Yes, it is good to be aware of the food that I am eating, but I didn’t need to always measure out portion sizes or look at the calorie count. What I did need to focus on is how my body feels. I think this is the key concept that leads to body confidence– a shift from how your body looks to how your body feels. I started focusing on eating the foods that made me feel energized, but I never limit myself. Heck, anyone can attest that I eat ice cream (usually dairy free) about every other day. In addition, I started doing workouts that I loved. For me, I love variety, so I vary up my workouts all the time–running, swimming, cycling, Zumba, yoga, etc. The final thing that I have stopped doing is weighing myself. I found that if I weighed myself regularly, I would get obsessed with a number. This number doesn’t tell you how fit you are. For instance, people who starts building muscle are typically fitter than they once were, but more times than not, they end up gaining weight because muscle is more dense than fat. Tracking weight cannot be the only way to track your fitness; that’s why I stopped tracking it at all.
Right now in my life, I feel strong. I’m so proud of the fact that I ran my first 5K in high school, and I’m even prouder of the fact that senior year, I ran a half marathon. I’m no size 0. I have stretch marks, knocked-knees, and other imperfections, but that has never gotten in the way of my goals. God has given me a body that allows me to stay active and to challenge myself. Our bodies truly are a blessing. Think of all the people in this world who cannot move the way they want to–due to sickness, a bad accident, violence, etc. I think we all need to remember that it is a gift to have a functioning body, no matter what it looks like. Furthermore, God created us individually in His image. If we constantly criticize ourselves in front of the mirror, aren’t we criticizing God’s work? I fully believe that God created us exactly how He wanted us, so we need to start treating our bodies with a little love and respect. That is why I will choose to embrace my body with all its imperfections, and I will view health based on how I feel on the inside, not on my exterior appearance.
I challenge you to think about how your body feels right now? What do you love about it? What has your body allowed you to do? Take some time to genuinely be grateful for the gifts that you have been given!
Lots of love,