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In high school, I struggled with body-image issues and restrictive eating habits. I was a Varsity Track Athlete and ran 6-7 times a week. I struggled with my self-worth because I thought I had to obtain an extremely thin frame in order to be liked more. I reached my lowest point around the time I turned 15 and was a size 00. At the time, I celebrated this, but my health quickly started deteriorating. For the rest of high school, I was able to put back on some more weight, but always worked myself too hard and didn’t eat enough. I struggled with whether I would ever feel ‘good enough’ and was scared of getting heavier.
When my family noticed I was starting to pass out more and more, they became very concerned. My mom encouraged me to see food as fuel, and to try to avoid counting calories or trying fad diets. I could tell she was worried, and at first I did try to take better care of myself. However, I struggled with making healthy decisions, because I felt like I got positive attention from my peers when I looked skinnier. It took me until I got to college to stop tracking everything I ate, and to see exercise as a fun stress reliever rather than a daily chore.
Freshman year of college, I tried so hard to stay in the same shape as I was in high school. I quickly learned that in order to do so, my life would have to revolve around meal prep and spending hours in the gym each day. By the end of that first year, I decided that enough was enough. Over time, I thought about how much happier I would be if I loved my body for how it is, and stopped punishing myself for not being thin enough. Things changed for the better once I made the decision to love myself and treat my body with more respect. What also helped were the more positive friendships I made while at school. Getting involved in different clubs and extra-curriculars, I began to see that I am liked for my character and personality…not for how much I weigh.
Today, there are still some moments where I find myself having negative thoughts about my body and worth. However, I know that self-love is something that can always be worked and improved upon, and I am so proud of how far I’ve come. I still love to eat healthy foods and go running/to the gym. The difference is that I now do this to feel good, rather than to try to constantly change my body. I no longer step on a scale or get discouraged when last year’s jeans won’t fit. I know that I matter, and what’s on the outside won’t change that. My goal is to lead a happy and fulfilling life, while getting the opportunity to make a positive impact on those around me.
For those who may be struggling with a similar issue, know that it takes time. I didn’t wake up one day and automatically love myself. Over time, I realized my worth, and kept reminding myself of why my past habits were negatively affecting the way I get to enjoy my life. Challenge yourself every day to break harmful habits, even if you have to take baby steps. Seek support from family or friends you trust, and seek environments in which you feel comfortable and accepted.
Over time, I thought about how much happier I would be if I loved my body for how it is, and stopped punishing myself for not being thin enough. Things changed for the better once I made the decision to love myself and treat my body with more respect.
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