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How I’m Learning to Stop Hating My Body

10687183_10152933794650309_5212273555077320533_n I’ve always hated my body.

I was never overweight in the slightest, but I still always wanted to be skinnier and skinnier. The skinniest. I can still remember the numerous days in high school I spent stressing about my body, obsessively counting calories and restricting food. I still remember feeling too ashamed to eat in front of my friends. And I even remember how uncomfortable I felt wearing a swimsuit in my first swimming class in middle school. From a young age, I viewed my body in an extremely distorted light.

When looking back at photos of my 15-year-old self, it’s now clear to me that I was actually quite skinny and if anything, probably would of benefited from gaining some weight. But I remember exactly how I felt looking at those photos when I was 15 — the heaviness in my stomach, the frustration and tension in my body and the growing sense of dissatisfaction clouding my judgment. I constantly thought about how if I was just a bit skinnier, I would be happier and life would be easier. Nothing anyone told me — not my parents, friends, boyfriend or even professionals — would change my mind. Whenever someone said I was too skinny or delusional in thinking I was fat, I just assumed the person telling me that was simply trying to spare my feelings and make me feel better. What I never realized was that the problem was never my body — it was how I thought of myself. I had low self-esteem throughout middle and high school, and because of that, I felt flawed. I made myself believe that if only I was that much skinner or that much prettier then I would be happier and more accepted. All I needed to do was learn to accept myself.

What I’ve come to slowly realize is that we’re stuck with the body we’re born with, so what’s the point in wasting away years of our lives wishing it was different, counting calories, restricting food and feeling ashamed of ourselves? I’m not exactly sure when and why it happened, but at some point in the last year, my perception of my body changed. I stopped restricting food, I started to become fully comfortable eating in front of everyone, and I stopped caring so much. I can eat a cupcake and not wallow in regret all week. I feel comfortable being naked, and I work out with the goal to be healthy and feel good instead of the goal to lose weight. And I’m a lot happier because of it! I feel comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve learned to appreciate things I once hated, such as my not-exactly-small derrière! Through experience, I’ve learned that 1) people aren’t generally attracted to skin and bones and 2) everyone’s body is different and unique so why would I waste time comparing myself to others?

I still have days when I feel less-than-happy with my body, but believe me, that’s life — just like it’s impossible to be happy for every single second of your life, it’s also probably impossible to feel satisfied with yourself every single second of your life. However, what I’ve learned to do when I have those days is to not let myself spend more than 5-10 minutes stressing over it. I remind myself about my favorite aspects of my body and how it makes me unique and beautiful. And then I distract myself, and usually the frustration and dissatisfaction passes. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve come a long way, and every day that I accept and love myself more and more, the happier and more satisfied I feel.

I know of way too many people, especially young girls, suffering from either eating disorders or unhealthy thinking about their body. My heart literally aches for them. I know the pain of feeling as if you’re surrounded by “perfect” yet you’re unable to reach it. In reality, the “perfect” consists of unattainable and unrealistic standards.

If you can’t love yourself for who you are — internally and externally — how are you ever going to feel good enough to get what you want and deserve? The only person who can decide you’re good enough, is you. No one else can do that for you (another lesson I’ve had to learn!). If you’re struggling with your relationship with your body, realize that you’re fully capable of changing your perception of yourself and that with time and effort, it will happen. Also recognize that as you become older, your body will change; work on accepting that and embracing it.

Read my  upcoming post for some of the steps I have taken to change my relationship with my body from a negative to a positive one.

If you or someone you love is living with an eating disorder, please know there’s help for you — right here.

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