When I was in fifth grade, I was overweight. With a round face and proportions much different than my other classmates, I felt self-conscious. I felt like there was something wrong with me, and worse, I felt ugly. Even though I played lacrosse and volleyball, my body just wasn't lean, and that really frustrated me, because when you're a fifth grader, things feel much more dramatic then they often are in the big picture. So one day, as I was looking at myself in the mirror in my messy room, I decided I would change my body. How, you ask? I would go on a diet.
The diet I chose? The South Beach diet. This used to be a pretty trendy diet, and it was essentially a diet that emphasized eating anything but carbs and sugar, the age-old demons of weight gain. At first, the diet was hard. My friends would be eating pizza and sandwiches and drinking Capri Suns and whatever-the-heck-they-wanted. I, on the other hand, would be eating turkey patties, low-carb protein bars, oranges and water. That was it. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I stayed faithful to the diet for almost five months, and I dropped a ton weight. I didn't look exactly like the string-beans in my class, but close enough.
I didn't go back to as much over-eating as I did before, when I would sneak into the pantry and eat mini marshmallows in secret, but I learned to have a healthier, balanced lifestyle, with exercise and nutritious eating.
I haven't "dieted" since then, although I was tempted to over the years, because even though I was healthy, I didn't look quite skinny enough. There's no daylight between my thighs, my cheeks are on the fuller side, and yes, I have a big butt. High school made me realize this all the more, when I would try and wear outfits that looked cool on a body type different than the one I have (PSA, American Apparel tribal print leggings do NOT look the same on curvy gals, I know first hand). And although I accepted my body in some ways, I cursed it in others. It made me feel like no guy would ever be attracted to me. Why would they go for someone like me when they could have someone with sharper features and a willowy physique? I had a good sense of humor, sure, and excellent taste in music and movies (I'm biased), but what good would that do me?
And I thought like that for a long time. Why? Why did I allow myself to do that? What makes a curvy body less beautiful than a skinnier one, can't they both be?
It's that time of year where a lot or us are becoming aware of the warmer weather that's just around the corner. We're heading to the gym any chance we get, hoping to shed our winter skin by the time that summer comes around. And I think that's amazing, and it's healthy to be active. But I want you to remember something as you make those trips:
Your weight does not define your beauty.
Let that sink in. Seriously. Meditate on that. Because it's true. Take it from someone who has battled with body image for the majority of her life. Your worth doesn't lie in whether you fit into a size 6 or a size 8. You are beautiful because of the soul inside of your body. The one that laughs and cries and has empathy for those around them. Beauty isn't something that can be earned at the gym or by eating copious amounts of kale. It comes from your character and how kind of a human you are.
I've come to a place of love with my body. Does it always look perfect? No. Will there always be stretch marks and bumps and parts of my body that aggravate me? Of course. But to fight with my body is pointless. All I can do is treat it with respect by being as healthy as I can and making sure I take care of myself the best way I know how, and the rest is out of my hands. So, please, please, please, give yourself some grace. You're beautiful at any size. Because beauty has nothing to do with the size of your waist, it has to do with the size of your heart.