At a point in my life I had an insecurity: my body. The constant “checking” in the mirror. Had I gained weight? Did I look the way I am supposed to? I knew for a fact that I did not look like the girls on billboards or on televised advertisements. The perfect girls with their skinny waists and thin limbs. Not an ounce of fat existed around their faces, on their stomach, thighs, or arms. Yet, they always somehow had the perfect figure, every single one, and that was how girls are supposed to look. The standard… it pissed me off. I had just recently lost twenty pounds that I needed to rid my body of after months of overindulging unhealthy junk foods and not getting enough proper exercise. Did I need to lose more weight? I had changed my eating and exercise habits and now looked back to the way I used to look, according to photos, yet I could not seem to see myself in any other way except ugly.
Do you know how difficult it is to push yourself daily to change something about yourself, even on days where you really don’t want to put in the effort? I learned to be consistent, to come up with a routine that worked to help achieve my goals. Thirty minute warmup on the elliptical followed by three miles of running and walking on the treadmill. At least one hour of cardio daily. Many argue that working out is the most difficult part; I would argue it’s the eating. When you are a little kid, calories and fats do not exist. You try to sneak in an extra chocolate bar, an extra scoop of ice cream, just a couple more candies. Halloween is the best holiday of the year, because a collection of candy is gathered and hidden away in closets and drawers as a secretive stash.
As you age your metabolism decides to slow down and what you eat suddenly matters. It sucks. People with fast metabolisms always annoyed me during this time. Sure, they probably had issues and insecurities of their own, but I was jealous of them. I wished that I could eat whatever I wanted and never gain a pound, but that was out of my control.
Granted, learning about what was going into my body was enlightening. I felt a sense of power that I could know exactly what was going into my body at all times. I learned how unhealthy some foods really are and the benefits of others, which allowed me to change some of my habits. Small adjustments provided more energy, which I had been lacking significantly. No matter how well I ate, I still did not look like those perfect girls. It was almost an obsession to transform my body into theirs, despite knowing they had eating disorders, the genetic lottery, or both. Photoshop distorted not only their images, but the perception of the viewers, myself included. Bikinis and crop tops, articles of clothing I once looked forward to wearing, became the enemy. Low waisted shorts, pants, and skirts were unthinkable. “You need to have a perfectly flat stomach to pull those off,” I reminded myself, not really knowing what I looked like anymore. I never quite knew where this obsession with perfection came from. The endless mental game seemingly omnipresent in every moment. Maybe it was the televised advertisements? The instagram models? The compulsion to look perfect followed me everywhere.
Throughout the process of losing the weight, I remember the mixed emotions of self loathing. I remember thinking, “how could I have let myself get to this point?” despite the weight increase not being that significant. I would sit in bed for hours, trying to fall asleep, and my mind would wander in fear that I could not change. What if this was all for nothing? I remember the horrible things I said to myself; I felt like I deserved those self deprecating words. My parents constantly reminded me to speak kindly to myself. I couldn’t. I deserved the hurt.
I think it was around two weeks into my weight loss when my mindset changed, just a little bit. I felt empowered. My clothes started to fit just a little less tightly and I felt just a little bit better. I started to look forward to my workouts, because I realized I was making progress, no matter how small. After a month of hard work, my quarter mile treadmill sprints started to feel easy, so I upped the speed and increased the distance. I began to crave the challenge. Time on the elliptical no longer felt like a chore, but an enjoyable time to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix while rotating through different levels on the machine. After three months, I could physically notice the change in my body, but more importantly, I changed mentally. For a short time, my once pessimistic outlook began to change to a more optimistic one, my organizational skills improved as a result of my daily routine, and I felt a sense of accomplishment that I never had before. The only issue was no matter how hard I worked, it was never enough.
If I could not be skinny, I might as well try and get strong. I continued my treadmill and elliptical cardio, but added weight training to the mix. Back and biceps, chest and triceps, legs and glutes, shoulder and abdominals. I rotated the strengthening of different muscle groups throughout the week. Back and bicep days were always amazing, and legs and glutes religiously sucked. I began to see progress in my broadening shoulders and defined triceps. I was able to do pull ups, something I had never been able to do before with such ease. This sort of “high” lasted about four months and for the time I felt powerful and strong, until I got back to Blair. Maybe it’s the fact I am a teenager or that I compare myself to others, but I could not help analyzing the differences in my body versus those around me. Especially other girls who seemingly gained nothing from eating whatever they wanted. I turned to the internet to compare. Big mistake. All I saw were perfect bodies, washboard abs, and other unrealistic standards I could not reach.
No matter what I did, I always found fault in my imperfect body. My waist was not slim enough, my arms not big enough, the indecision to try to get my legs thinner or grow my quads. A whirlwind of emotions that followed me daily. So here I am today; still conscious of how I look, but accepting it more as a condition of being a teenager. I take comfort in knowing I am doing everything right, and more importantly that I have maintained my body condition in a healthy way. Some days I feel empowered by my body; others, I am overcome with insecurity. I am still accepting what I believe to be my faults.
It is better to focus on the better days, is it not? It’s definitely easier. Yet, one must be mindful of their worst days, because those are the days of self improvement and accepting who we are. I will never be the perfect, skinny model, those perfect girls. I will never jeopardize my own health and safety to achieve an unrealistic standard. I will never spend days without food or put my body through unspeakable horrors to achieve the perfect look.
I will be me: my own sense of perfection.