An Odyssey of strength and self love

At the age of 11, I was already trained to hate my body and the fact that my stomach was not flat. All my insecurities are my most noticeable features to me, and I am able to nitpick my body apart for hours. I am able to spout out all the facts of obesity and how that affects my body thanks to the diet ideas my parents and society taught me.

I have always been a larger size so diet culture ideals have been told to me repeatedly my whole life. The first instance I can think of is at age 10,  in the beginning of fifth grade, when my aunt recommended a weight loss program for my family and I to “improve my health” despite me having no issues besides weight. My family joined the program whose mission is to fight childhood obesity. Here the children were taught lessons such as if you aren’t hungry enough for an apple you just aren’t hungry enough and other tricks to lessen food intake. This program viewed me as a star pupil for the progress I was making and allowed me to interview for the local news about the success of me and the program. The most important thing I received as a star pupil was a fully paid trip to a two week long weight loss camp.

      I went to this camp the summer going into sixth grade and there I was doing weekly weigh-ins to see how much weight I lost throughout the week. The weekly weigh-ins were so stressful because I had to use the restroom fully before and not eat breakfast so I could see the water weight be gone.  The food here was limited to skim milk and fat free alternatives of all the classics. In the provided health classes we would learn how to make these healthier alternatives of things like guacamole and pizza. Sadly the food was the highlight here with most of my time here being spent outside in the Georgia heat exercising.  Every day was spent doing different exercises or sports until I was exhausted and just ready to crash. 

      When I returned from this camp two weeks later and twelve pounds lighter no one questioned the weight loss but complimented me and told me how much better I looked. My family went as far as making fun of a picture taken the Christmas before and calling me an ogre. For months after this camp I kept up the tricks of drinking water and chewing gum when hungry. When I stopped doing these tricks and went back to eating snacks my mother would always question if I really needed that food or if I was just bored. My mother would also make comments about how disgusting her body was and how she needs to lose weight despite being smaller than me. These comments made me feel so bad so I started to snack only when alone. 

My unhealthy relationship with food lasted for a while because I would feel guilty eating. To combat this guilt I would only eat small meals in front of others and consume most of my calories in private. 

Comments from friends started when middle school started and ramped up in the eighth grade. Friends would try to be helpful and give me advice such as just eat less and drink more water. They did not stop at the advice; they also poked fun of my current weight to provide more inspiration. I would receive comments saying things like “no one would date you”, and that my stomach was hanging out of my pants. 

I have learned to push through the comments because I can not change other people’s opinions of me. The ideals and standards that people who say nasty things have are unattainable so there is no need to try and reach it. This took a lot of time and self reflection to reach the point of not caring but it was the best thing that has happened for me because I am able to love myself fully and spread the self love to others. Self hatred feels like a never ending cycle, but there is a way out when you surround yourself with the right people and stop comparing yourself to others.

  I am now, after years of practice, able to love and embrace my body despite what others say about it.