image from womenfitness.net
Body shaming is something that has unfortunately become very popular in our culture. From judging someone’s weight silently in your head to making a public “Dear Fat People” YouTube video. If judgement is all around us, can we recognize when we’re doing it to ourselves? I’m going to tell you how I realized I was unintentionally shaming my own body and how my life has changed dramatically since I’ve stopped.
To start with a little background, I am a very petite person. I am only 4’11” and have been used to being “tiny” all my life. I never had any mentality of being overweight or ever really thought that was a possibility for me. I had quite a strong love for fashion and loved putting myself together every day- it was fun for me and made me feel great about myself. All throughout high school I could pick up anything in an XS or a size 0 and know that it was going to fit me. I never had an athlete’s body or even a flat stomach for that matter, but I was confident and felt good in my own skin. I never worked out and didn’t pay much attention to what I ate because I was 18. I could eat anything I wanted and look great, right?
Wrong. Over the next 4 years I ate poorly, exercised very little and slowly started gaining weight. I opted for more loose-fitting clothes to convince myself that my weight was okay with me (“These parachute pants still fit, so I’m fine, right?”).
By the time I was 22 I was extremely self-conscience about my body. None of my pants fit me anymore, my shirts looked like they were bought at BabyGap and I rarely left the house in anything but sweats and leggings. I was around 15-20 lbs overweight, which may not sound like much, but consider my height. An extra 20lbs on my petite frame looked like an extra 50 (trust me). Quite honestly I felt like an Oompa Loompa. Now here is where the body shaming comes into play.
For a very long time, I avoided facing the fact that I was bigger than I was in high school. I tried to hide myself behind baggy shirts and sweatpants thinking that if nothing fit me too tight, no one would see how big I really was (and felt). I pretty much stopped buying clothes altogether because I refused to purchase clothes in a size Large when I used to fit into an XS. My love for fashion went completely out the window; my morning routine consisted of which leggings and which sweatshirt I wanted to wear that day. I did, however, get very invested in makeup. I learned how to carve and contour my face in ways I never even knew existed, and basically all of my money went to building a baller makeup stash. Why? Because makeup would always fit me. Unlike my unexistant wardrobe. I would tell myself that I could buy new clothes when I had lost my excess weight. Without even knowing it, I was actively punishing myself for my weight by not allowing myself to buy new clothes or feel confident. Essentially, I told myself that I didn’t deserve them because I was fat. Healthy thinking, right? And then I would pick up take-out on the way home and do absolutely nothing to change my lifestyle.
As I mentioned, I rarely stepped out of the house in anything but sweatpants, and seeing as how I worked in childcare, it was easy to avoid wearing “real” clothes to work. As I got lazier, I stopped finding reasons to put makeup on every day. And then found reasons to stop doing my hair. And little by little I felt like I had completely lost myself. Soon I felt like a complete slob day in and day out. I woke up every morning feeling that I wasn’t enough (or literally, that I was too much) and that meant I should feel ashamed of myself. And after years of this same circle, feeling very depressed and having zero self-confidence, something finally clicked.
One day I realized: I am bigger than I used to be, and that’s okay.
I accepted the fact that I had gained weight.
I realized that I had been the one putting myself down and I was tired of it. I had been punishing myself for almost 2 years for gaining weight and wouldn’t allow myself to feel comfortable in bigger skin. I wouldn’t allow myself to buy new clothes, I wouldn’t allow myself to feel pretty. I was the biggest problem in my own life because I was shaming my own body.
Learning this about myself was the first step in truly changing my life. Without feeling like I had to cover up or apologize for my weight, I started doing positive things to LOVE my body as I began the process of changing it. I bought new jeans for the first time in years- and not “if it zips it fits” jeans, but jeans in my true size that flattered my body. Waking up every day and putting effort into my appearance was a morale-boost like I never could have asked for. Seeing myself differently for the first time in years motivated me to keep making efforts to look better and better by losing weight. I started doing as much research as I could on ‘clean eating’ and workout plans to really start getting my body where I wanted it to be, and I could see every pound that I lost.
Now, I still have a ways to go, but I am loving myself more and more every day. I could have put down the pizza and picked up the weights anywhere along the way during my “lost years” but I was in my own way by not loving and appreciating my body. Loving myself had the biggest ripple effect I could have ever hoped for- that happiness transpired into so many other areas of my life that everything that seemed so broken over the last few years all had a way of coming together and making me feel whole.
I am confident- I had forgotten what that felt like (side note: it feels REALLY good!).
I am happy.
So I wanted to make this post for anyone who has been where I’ve been. For anyone living day-to-day unhappy with what they see in the mirror, know that the ability to become a happy, confident person isn’t waiting for you at the finish line; it begins as soon as you take your first step.