Learning to love your body is a message we're hearing all over these days. From #GainingWeightisCool to fitness bloggers exposing the power of lighting, there are more and more people telling us to love the skin we're in.
It's a movement that has the best of intentions and is really making a positive difference.
But it's often easy to feel bad when we struggle to share this mentality. For some of us, picturing our unflattering angles, enjoying the food we think is bad for us and ditching the number on the scale doesn't come easily.
When fitness, weight goals and a "clean" diet are something we obsess over, embracing an imperfect body seems basically impossible.
For me, I thought to get the perfect life, I needed the perfect body. All my insecurities would go away once I reached my goal weight. I would find someone I wanted to be with only when my body was attractive enough. I would be the carefree person I desired to be when I was finally comfortable with how I looked.
So, what did I do? I worked out every day, stuck to a clean diet (even ditching my beloved carbs) and punished myself every time I had a treat.
Soon enough, my hard work (more like suffering) finally paid off. The number on the scale was what I had been working toward for so long. I should have been relieved, proud and satisfied with what I had achieved.
In reality, I couldn't have been further from any of those emotions. Instead, I felt utter disappointment. I was sure when I reached this weight my stomach would be more toned, my clothes would look better and my confidence would be sky-high.
That just didn't happen. So, I disregarded my progress and instantly took to setting new goals. This time, I would definitely be happier, look way better and be so much more confident. All I had to do was reduce calories more, work out harder and take away the temptations I had been giving into.
Fast forward: I hit a weight far too low, had no social life and things had gone too far. I had become so obsessed with getting the perfect body that I lost the person inside it. I had no idea who I was, I only knew what I wanted to look like.
Then, one day I just reached a breaking point. When would my goal stop? When would I ever get to a body that I actually liked? When would I stop making sacrifices to get the "perfect" body?
I guess I finally realized how I felt toward myself had nothing to do with the number on the scale, the size of the weights I lifted or the salads that I had eaten. It didn't matter how hard I worked or how much weight I lost, it wouldn't change the discomfort I felt from within.
If I wasn't OK with myself, I would never be happy with my body, regardless of how it looked. Essentially, it was my mindset that needed altering, not my body.
So, I gave myself a break. I took time to enjoy life outside of the gym, ate the foods that were good for the soul and made an attempt to get to know myself again. I dedicated time to learn what makes me happy, to let go of the little things and to learn to fall in love with myself again.
Sure, as time went by I put on weight. I couldn't do up my favorite jeans and I probably went a little too far with the amount of cake consumed.
But, in the midst of it all, the craziest thing happened... I learned to like my body again. I stopped trying to fix it.
Instead, I started to eat healthy and go to the gym to nourish my body. I pushed myself in the gym to make me stronger, not to reach a number on the scale. I ate food to give me energy, not so I could survive a gym session without fainting.
And, even though I have fat rolls in places I never had before, I eat chocolate every single day and skip the gym if I'm ever slightly lacking in motivation. I'm happier with my body than I have ever been.
I've finally realized I may not have the perfect body, but this doesn't impact my happiness in any way. I guess when you like yourself, the perfect body just seems irrelevant.