How Traveling The World Was The One Thing That Taught Me How To Love My Body

by Dayana Aleksandrova

Ninety percent of my existence in college was spent worrying about my body.

I woke up at 6 am to hit the gym. I ate nothing but dry spinach and grilled chicken seven days a week, and I drank a gallon of water every day. I lived in misery.

I had let myself succumb to the pressure of social media, and I worked relentlessly toward a six pack and ridiculously lifted ass. It took me years to realize this was hurting me big time.

Today, my body isn't perfect. And that's totally OK with me.

I'm a 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and I have a very strong appetite. I mean, I could easily eat seven full meals a day.

That being said, I'm very passionate about nutrition. So, all I eat is literally vegetable stir fry with quinoa, nuts, fruit and eggs.

Regardless of my healthy diet and naturally petite figure, I felt like I needed to lose weight from my hips. So, I exercised super hard.

After all, all I could see all over the place were posts shaming love handles. I felt ugly.

With time, all that training to slim down my curves hurt my joints badly, and my morning routine turned into torture.

I've always been slim, but it was no longer enough. I needed to be lean and mean.


Seeing hundreds of sculpted Instagram models made me want their shredded midriffs so badly, I began testing all kinds of diets – from Atkins to the three-day military diet – in the hopes of looking like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner.

This struggle went on for a few years. Then, I gradually began snapping out of it.

What changed?

Well, right after college, I began traveling the world. That meant if I wanted to fully commit to this experience, I had to sample local food. I couldn't count every calorie.

While I was in Bali last year, I ran out of fucks to give. I had just been served this enormous plate of fried fish, spicy vegetables and noodles, as well as a cold Bintang beer.

My guy friend and I were at a tiny shack where the owner, Mama Rus, prepared every dish with love. She made sure all her guests were happy.

I looked around and realized I was surrounded by all kinds of interesting people with incredible stories.

And guess what? None of them looked like those toned Instagram models. Instead, these people were real.

They were all kinds: short, curvy, super skinny, tall and with bellies that showed they lived well.

The more I disconnected from social media's unrealistic image of a "perfect" body, the more I realized I was doing just fine.

I'm a size 4. I work out for about half an hour a day, and I don't follow any diet.

I cook a lot, and I take great pleasure in it.

Do I have a six pack? No, I don't.

But do my dresses fit just right? Yeah, they do.

Do I have a thigh gap? HELL no, I don't. But my pants fit just fine, and my bum is as perky as ever.

So what if there's some fat around my waist? I'm not trying to be Kim Kardashian and squeeze myself into one of those ridiculous corsets.

I picked up yoga, which has a mantra that says, "You are enough."

You know what? I am enough.

Marija Mandic

I have great stories to share from all over the world. I'm not supermodel material, but I'm healthy as fuck. I get sick only once a year... at best.

I don't kill myself at the gym anymore. I jog and listen to music until it stops being fun. I jump rope at the park, and I haven't counted calories in a year. I never turn down a homemade meal.

The trend for extremely fit bodies is beginning to fade. Models like Iskra Lawrence promote body positivity, and are absolute rockstars and idols for many girls.

It may sound corny, but we have to look past our physical appearances and stop being so self-critical. As human beings, we are a combination of body and personality.

So, it's time we stopped restlessly pursuing a toned ass at the expense of having nice dinners, good conversations and vacations with friends.

As long as you feel good in your body, don't let any photo on the Internet bring you down.

You are enough. Own it.