Updated: Mar 29, 2021
My struggle with my body began when I was 16, at least consciously. I had been a competitive gymnast and stopped competing at the age of 15 (because what teenager wants to spend all of their free time working out at the gym). As a child and young teen, I never worried about what I ate, or when, or how much, or what nutrients my body needed. I just ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and enjoyed it. And then, something changed.
Of course I felt the same pressures as all teens, to conform to the body image of celebrities and be the perfect size. That was never a problem for me as a gymnast, but naturally when I stopped competing my body changed- I gained weight, my boobs grew, my hips suddenly started shifting to be wider, my stomach was no longer flat and tight, and my thighs rubbed together- none of that felt normal. I secretly was spending my nights on the internet reading about “easy ways to flatten your stomach” and was doing workouts like Shawn T’s Hip Hop abs (if he was good enough for Nsync, he’s got to be good for me too!), running at night, and generally being unhappy about working out at all. I graduated high school and started school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the Fall.
Now, Cal Poly has an amazing orientation program called Week of Welcome. Not only do they spend an entire week orienting you with the campus, your community, and new home for the next 4 years, they do a spectacular awareness series. The awareness series focuses on many areas that confront college aged students such as drinking, depression, inclusiveness, and eating disorders. For me- that awareness series did something strange, not what it was intended to do. Every mention of health, healthy eating, body image, unhealthy habits, the “pressure to look like a ‘Poly Dolly’ ”….ALL of it suddenly felt like things I NEEDED to do. If I did not follow exactly what I was told was healthy, if I did not give my body exactly the right food and exercise the exact right amount, I would gain weight and be huge and fat and ugly. I was having thoughts like “I haven’t eaten in 8 hours, Oh My God, that’s a sign of anorexia, I NEED TO EAT!” even though my body was not hungry and I was receiving no signals at all that I should consume more food.
So began my obsession. I did not know it was an obsession, I did not know I had such an issue with my body and the way I felt about it. I did not know how much pressure I began to put on myself to begin to conform to what I was told was the right thing to do for ‘health’ and how much extra weight that put into my consciousness. I did not realize that searching and asking for what worked for other people to lose weight, or feel good, was the exact wrong thing to do. I never once stopped and asked myself “What do I want?” or “What does my body need right now?” But I sure as hell did a lot of: “My body needs more fruit today because I had a donut for breakfast! Why did I eat that donut? Oh shit, now I have to run after work, and only eat salad. No more carbs today. That had to be at least 450 calories in one little donut, it wasn’t even that good. Oh no I cannot have Taco Bell for lunch even though that is all that sounds good to my body right now. Nope, have to force myself to eat this nasty kale that I don’t even like the taste of because that’s a super food!”…you get the point. My mind was constantly focused on thoughts surrounding my body or food.
I am sure this sounds familiar to you. I could go on and on about it, drone on for pages and pages of stories about my struggle- but I am done with that. There is no need to relive that, because something miraculous happened, and it can happen for you too.
I graduated college, started working, and gained a bit more weight. At one point, I did the Beach Body Ultimate Reset. I must have been about 22 at the time. This program is designed to slowly remove meat, dairy, and wheat from your diet over 21 days, and then slowly add them back in to see how your body responds over another 21 days. A wonderful concept and program if you are in the right mental state to do it…I went in to it wanting to lose inches and pounds. Not the goal of the program, though definitely a positive side effect when followed correctly. It was a ‘huge success’ for me, I lost a total of 16 pounds and didn’t gain it back right away. But it did nothing for my mental state, how I thought about food, or change anything in what I expressed above in my obsessive thinking. In other words, it did not address the cause of my weight issues or body problems.
The craziness of my thinking continued, and shortly after I found my Spiritual path. My focus did shift some, and I was no longer stepping on a scale all the time. But the thoughts were all still there, and the feelings they brought with them. In April 2016, I stepped on the scale for the first time in what must have been a year, and was SHOCKED to see the number staring back at me. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!? Yes my pants didn’t fit anymore…yes I