In all honesty, I was terrified to draft and publish this blog post because it’s forcing me to write down and reflect on my CURRENT thoughts. All my other posts are generally things that I’ve dealt with and thought about in the past, so it’s easier to reflect because I moved past that stage already. This topic, on the other hand, seems to always be a part of me no matter how hard I try to move past it. Thus, I was prompted to draft this post because I’ve been feeling this way since the beginning of this year. I hope it resonates with those of you who feel a similar way.
TW: body image issues, eating disorders
To begin, my first exposure to the Eurocentric ideas of a woman’s body began in eighth grade (which is, unfortunately, extremely late compared to children today). Up until eighth grade, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted to. I balanced nutritious food with possibly less nutritious food. I didn’t spend so much time thinking about food, my body, or anything related to my appearance.
Once in eighth grade, my athletic friends began to speak about how they have to go for a run to burn the calories from their unhealthy lunch or my aunts would comment on my supposedly ‘large love handles’ or I’d only see certain types of bodies being represented on TV shows I’d watch. Being around such stimuli began my so-called ‘fitness journey.’
I’d stop eating an actual meal during lunch and would rely on a pack of spicy Doritos or an ice cream bar to sustain me throughout the day. Once I came home at 4:00pm, instead of feeding my starving body, I’d force myself to run 2 miles on the treadmill nearly every day. On the days I skipped the running, I’d brutally criticize myself and would even sometimes punish myself by not eating dinner. When my mother would ask or try to force me to eat, I’d brilliantly win our arguments and claim that I was full and could not eat anything.
This same mindset trickled into my freshman year of high school. I’d eat an ice cream bar for lunch and proceed to go home and run a couple miles on the treadmill. Starting sophomore year, I started sharing my lunches with my friends, which worked out better for me because I was actually eating proper meals (chicken tenders, french toast, wraps, etc.). However, I kept trying to run every day.
Moving onto junior year of high school, the first few months I’d wake up at 4:45am to go to the gym with my dad. I’d do some cardio and abs while my dad did his own routine. We’d make it back home by 6:00, and then I’d stuff my face with some breakfast and hop on the bus to go to school. Though this time of my life taught me how to set a disciplined routine, I wasn’t able to stick with it for a long time because I was getting so drained while at school. I still remained pretty inconsistent with my ‘workouts’ during this phase.
Starting senior year, I was sick of my inconsistent running and bored of doing the same thing all the time and still seeing no results. That’s when I began getting more involved with fitness. I added some resistance training, Youtube workouts, and attempted to eat ‘healthier.’ I believe this is when I started to become more strict with labeling food as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Therefore, my body image was still nowhere near perfect because I’d continue to get tempted and eat the ‘bad’ food. I’d binge on food and would proceed to absolutely hate myself and my decision making after.
Finally in August 2020, during the pandemic, I begged and convinced my mom to get me a personal trainer. My trainer’s name was Harrison James and he singlehandedly changed my life. He changed my perception of food, fitness, and bodies. I spent a year training with him for about 3-4 times a week and that will forever be one the most important and life-changing parts of my life.
He taught me that food is fuel. Food is essential to ensure our bodies function the way they’re supposed to. Most importantly, he taught me to eat until I was actually full. Before, I used to eat for the sake of eating or not eat anything at all. With Harrison, I began eating 3-4 eggs every day for breakfast, added more brown rice for lunch, drank a smoothie every day, AND also continued eating the ‘bad food’ when I wanted to. My labeling of food began to dissipate. I ate until I was full and that was such a unique and satisfying feeling.
Harrison also taught me that fitness is not about becoming skinny. It’s about feeling strong. Before, my goal was to look like a stick. With Harrison, my goal became to tone up my body to be able to survive my days for a longer period of time, lift things with more ease, and overall, appear to have a bigger personality so that I could radiate my confidence better.
Unfortunately, once in-person college began, I could no longer continue training with him. Therefore, I transitioned to working out in my college dorm room throughout the fall semester. I would say that I was consistent enough and also maintained a pretty balanced diet.
It’s when spring semester began that I started to revert back to pre-personal trainer days. I became so much busier with extra-curriculars, academics, and social events that I no longer had the time or energy to workout or eat with as much balance as I used to. I was eating random food at random times, sleeping at wack times, barely working out. Even when I did workout, I’d get tired so much more easily and lacked the normal amount of motivation that I used to have. I noticed how my body changed (and in my eyes, it was not in a good way). I’d spend so much time thinking about my food consumption and waste so much more time hating myself for the way I looked.
At the time of me writing this post, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin because I’ve spent years trying to undo the damage that I and society have caused to it. However, I’m in this constant seesaw battle where I hate the way I look, BUT I also hate that I’m reverting back to defining myself based on my appearance. I want to go back to the times when I would be able to consistently work out because my goal, at the time, was to feel strong and release those endorphins. I was not focused on getting chiseled and looking a certain way. I want to go back to the time I could eat whatever I want and still respect my skin, my body, and myself. I want to go back, but in order to do so, I need to move forward and understand that bodies change. Bodies change so much throughout a single day, so imagine how much they’ll change throughout the years.
Camila Cabello does a much better job of putting my exact feelings into words here:
I want to end this reflection with a note to myself and all of you:
Let’s work tirelessly to replace all of the teachings of our patriarchal world. Let’s just be kind to our strong, beautiful, curvy bodies. Let’s not let anyone (including our parents, best friends, significant others, and anyone else) make us feel as though we are only defined by the way we look. Let’s give ourselves as much permission as needed to eat – whatever we need to fuel our bodies. Let’s make a vow to ourselves to seek for resources to help us heal because we are worthy of healing. Let’s love and allow ourselves to be loved. ❤️