a requiem for hating my body

This story I’m about to tell you is not unique, but it’s mine, and I can guarantee most people have a similar story. There’s no dramatic story here of anorexia or bulimia, over-exercising, or bullying from classmates about my size, though many people, men and women, have these stories to tell, and it’s heartbreaking. I’m sure girls who were physically larger or smaller than I have similar memories, whatever the details are. The majority of us have a story where we feel less than our classmates and peers because of these bodies we were gifted with.

My story starts here.

I distinctly remember the first time I felt unhappy with my body. I was in fourth grade, at church of all places, and I remember sitting next to my friend whom I’d known since birth, someone who I’d always considered an equal to myself, whether that be beauty, brains, etc. And I remember looking down at our short-clad thighs touching the wooden pews and noticing her thighs were smaller than mine. And this thought ran through my little 9 year old brain that maybe something was wrong with me – maybe my thighs should be as skinny as hers – and because of this difference, I felt for the first time I was less than my friend.

And so began my journey with dissatisfaction and unhappiness with my body.

In middle school, I remember feeling awkward much of the time, but doesn’t everyone? I was skinny in weird places and had “fat” in others – my body was changing, just like it was supposed to. On top of that, I matured a few years earlier than most of my friends, so I felt especially awkward. I remember wearing a one piece at the pool when my friends were wearing bikinis, because I was very afraid of showing my stomach if it was larger than theirs.

If my memory is correct, I’ve always had a very healthy appetite, maybe even too healthy. I grew up with the classic Midwestern meals of meat and starch and was encouraged to seconds and thirds and felt badly if I didn’t clean my plate, no matter how much food I was served. But according to my mom, when I started high school, I exercised too much and ate too little. I was the smallest I’ve ever been in an adult body at that point, and I probably could never be that small again with any amount of diet and exercise.

I was happy with that very tiny size, but it was not sustainable. Gradually, I eased up. I put on a little weight and no longer took an hour to get ready in the morning. I ate normal amounts of food. I was very healthy and active, usually at school from 7 am to 9 pm doing all sorts of extra curriculars (I’m a former over-achiever). But in my mind, with this more healthy size came less approval from my male classmates. I had a very long list of things I would change about myself that I was sure would make people like me more. Less fat on my tummy, smaller thighs, less acne, a shorter and less pointy nose, eyes that didn’t crinkle up so much when I smiled.

When I look at photos of myself from high school, though I know it was filled with lots of teenage angst and turmoil, I see a very healthy and happy girl. But in my high school mind, I had felt like there were abnormal amounts of flaws that verged on making me unlovable to a male partner. It’s absurd, really – but it’s not unique. Most of us feel like we have this physical ugliness we won’t be able to overcome.

College was a totally new experience. I still knew I had imperfections; it was more of a journey of listening to my body. Drink enough water, don’t eat too much fried chicken and ice cream. I still felt the unnecessary necessity to clean my plate. I didn’t know how to listen to my stomach telling me it was full or thirsty. I wasn’t involved in three sports to keep my body in shape anymore. Working at restaurants makes you eat a lot of unnecessary food, even if you are on your feet and walking for hours at a time. Although I no longer hated my body, I still treated it like I didn’t really care for it.

And so it has been a swinging pendulum with self-love and self-care – hating my body, trying to run my ass off, realizing I hate running more than I hate my body. Loving my body, being good to it for about a week, then falling out of routine and not able to establish the right habits.

So naturally, I just finished a diet. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done one – I hate the concept. But after a summer of eating food served to me at a children’s camp (starch+starch+starch) I wanted to eat normal, healthy amounts of food again. Correct sized portions. I wanted to be kind to this one body I get for this lifetime, not achieve a certain look. I didn’t want six-pack abs or to look like a super model; I never will, and that’s just the way I’m built. I want to be strong and able-bodied and alive with energy.

So I portioned my food into color-coded containers. I worked out with a super-fit woman in tiny shorts on my laptop screen every day, telling me to give it my all. I felt silly. I probably bothered my downstairs neighbor. I cheated a few times. But I didn’t give up, and I feel a lot more healthy now.

In the videos, the super-fit woman says “Give me 21 Days and I’ll give the body you always wanted” while you’re supposed to be doing push-ups for a minute and you want to shout cuss words at her because it’s hard. But that body I always wanted in high school no longer exists anymore, because it’s unrealistic. I’ve never had a thigh gap and I never will. My heritage is a long line of farmers and hard workers and cold weather people who need strong bodies and a few extra pounds to keep them warm. My heritage is tall, strong, beautiful women who are guessed to be ten years younger than their age. My heritage is lion-hearted women, people of faith, people of impeccable moral standard. And now, this is the body I have always wanted, not because it’s perfect, but because it’s mine, and it’s the only one I’ve got.


One thought on “a requiem for hating my body

  1. Congratulations on finding your inner peace as far as how you feel about your body. At least, you’ve started which is great. I think we live in a society where we are easily influenced to think that “healthy” is a standard that is measured by the numbers on the scale or what’s being advertised in the media. Diets don’t work. Eating right does work. It’s not about just the quantity of food but the QUALITY of food that matters. It drives me crazy how much emphasis people place on ‘calories’ – 200 calories in a trail mix pack is totally different from a 200 calories of plate full of mixed veggies, sweet potato, and chicken breast. Good luck with your personal goals rofeldkamp – just make sure they are truly your goals and not someone else’s.

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