As early back as I can remember, I struggled with body image. I hit puberty at an early age (4th grade) and grew faster than most of my friends. I did not like feeling “bigger” than the other kids, especially boys! I hated being taller than everyone else.
The Early Years
I can even recall my friends discussing how much they weighed and I felt upset that I was 5 or so pounds more than they were. This was right around the time I began reading “teeny bopper” magazines and wishing my body looked like the models. I would sit in my room and do sit ups and leg lifts that were demonstrated in those magazines. I was hoping to achieve the “perfect” body because I thought boys would like me. I think I was 11 years old.
The Weight Gain
I was always active throughout adolescence. My parents never let us watch much tv and I was involved in lots of sports: soccer, volleyball, track, and basketball. I kept my weight in check with these activities until my sophomore year.
When a school trip to Florida was planned my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to lose weight. The only way I could think to do this was through ultimate restriction. I let myself consume about 800 calories a day, consisting of a tiny bowl of cereal, maybe an apple for lunch, and a few bites at dinner. No one was the wiser. I ended up losing weight and felt happy because I went on the trip slimmer.
However, when I came back from Florida, the diet was over. I began to eat as I normally would. After restricting for almost 7 months, my body clung on to whatever I ate, and I was not eating the healthiest. The weight just kept going up.
At 5’6″, my highest weight was 162 pounds. It was my junior year of high school and I had really low self esteem. I was eating the same way my brothers ate and I knew something had to change. I felt unhealthy and was struggling to fit into a size 12.
I finally got smart and talked with my mom. We bought a great book that mapped out sensible meal plans and exercise routines. My goal was to lose weight for my senior year. The process was slow…try eating sensibly with three brothers going through growth spurts!
However, small changes made a big difference. I stopped drinking soda, replaced chips with fruit and yogurt, and started exercising more. Slowly the weight started coming off and I was losing 1-2 pounds a week. By prom, I was able to wear a dress that was a size 8! Success!!
I don’t quite know how it began, but in my second year of college, I started to get obsessive with exercise and food. The more I learned about nutrition, the healthier I wanted to eat, and the more dissatisfied I became with my body. I didn’t just want to look “good,” I wanted to be perfect. I wanted the washboard abs, the cute little butt, and the sculpted Jennifer Aniston arms. That was my goal and I took unhealthy extremes to achieve it. After all, that’s what the media tells you right?
I started exercising compulsively. No matter what I put in my mouth, I would go to the gym to “burn off.” I carried on like this, “secretly,” for 2 years. I could not talk to anyone because no one understood. I wasn’t losing OR gaining weight because my metabolism was so screwed up. It was USED to surviving on nothing.
There were nights I would just sit alone in my dorm room and cry. I felt trapped and had extreme anxiety about gaining weight. All I saw in the mirror was the “old” me. What was I going to do? I knew what I was doing was NOT normal but I just didn’t know how to change. If I changed my ways, I would surely gain weight right?? So I continued on…
My breaking point finally came a year or so after I started dating my current husband. As you can tell from the picture, he is perfect. He’s not tall or “macho,” but he is absolutely 100% confident in himself and that is what attracted me to him. He was everything I wasn’t and I LOVED that about him.
Obviously, he soon realized that something wasn’t right. I was withdrawing from Brandon because I hated myself. I actually thought about ending the relationship because with no love for myself, how I could I love someone else? It was my brother’s wise words that kept me from making that mistake. He said, “Erin, if you break up with him because of your own insecurities, you will always regret it. You won’t find anyone better. He’s awesome.”
So I did the only thing I could. I confided in Brandon. I told him everything; all the ups, all the downs, and everything in between. He listened and he was there for me. He put up with a lot and I learned THAT is true love. Slowly he started to show me that I didn’t have to be “perfect.” He taught me to love myself and I gradually started changing. I began looking at food as sustenance and nourishment, rather than ”good” or “bad.” I challenged myself to eat whatever I wanted, no matter how intimidated I was. I ate until I was satisfied….and that included ordering French fries!
Learning to moderate was the best knowledge I ever acquired. It turns out you really CAN enjoy one brownie and not feel guilty. The brownies really will still be there tomorrow. And ya know what? They taste SO much better when you aren’t binging on them!
After a LONG battle to get to a healthy mind set, I realized that I COULD maintain my weight by eating normally and exercising sensibly. I started to get my life back. I stopped negative self talk and began positive affirmations daily.
Today I am at my “happy” weight. I have been maintaining a weight of 130 pounds for the past 4 years through moderate exercise and sensible eating. I know that if I drop below 130 pounds, I am getting too restrictive because I feel moody and depressed. My lesson in life has been that it’s all about balance. There is no such thing as “perfect” and you have to love who you are before you will ever want to do healthy things for your body. God gave us one body to take care of and I want it to take me to old age. I want to cherish the fact that I can walk and run and live a healthy lifestyle. My main focus is wellness, fitness, and HAPPINESS!