When I was 14, I started drinking SlimFast.
I, like most girls, probably started hating my body because I was taught I'm supposed to hate my body. But the thing is, it's never really failed me in any way. I have no reason to hate it, other than somehow deciding I just did.
I, like most girls, probably started judging my body because I was taught I'm supposed to judge my body.
Since then, weight issues became, like, my thing.
About a year ago, I realized I had subconsciously memorized how much I weighed each Christmas break, starting my senior year in high school and going all through college.
Here is what "my numbers" were through my late teens and early 20s: 134 pounds (2007), 159 pounds (2008), 142 pounds (2009), 150 pounds (2010), and I graduated college at 145 pounds in 2011.
I think the reason I committed these numbers so deeply to my memory is because I didn't own a scale at school, and the only time I would check my weight is when I visited my parents for the holidays. This made weighing myself an annual tradition, burning the number on the scale into my long-term memory waiting to be compared to the following year.
Since graduation, my weight has been on a slow crawl upwards. Over the past six years, I've steadily put on about 20 pounds, landing me today at 163 pounds on a good day, 167 pounds on a bad day.
There, world. Now, you know. After years and years of faking, hiding and lying about my weight, now it's stuck on the internet forever.
Even now, at my heaviest, I am not fat. I'm not here to say I am fat, nor do I think there is a special number on the scale that suddenly makes you "fat" once you cross it. This, I swear.
But now, I can confidently say that I feel sexy. I am sexy. And honestly? It's a real bummer to think about how much of my happiness was wasted on judging my looks.
It's a real bummer to think about how much of my happiness was wasted on judging my looks.
This is what I looked like in 2007, when I graduated high school, at 135 pounds.
The years I was lighter are the years I seem to remember feeling happier. Looking back now, there are no real reasons as to why this would be other than I must have just felt "prettier."
After an impressive 25-pound weight gain my freshman year of college, I started teaching yoga, which helped knock off some of the extra weight, and for the most part I was able to bring myself back down (sans one year studying abroad in Europe living off of cheese and wine).
This is the only photo I could find after I packed on that freshmen 25. (I must have deleted the worst of them a long time ago.) I'm probably right around 150 pounds in this picture.
Again, I was never FAT. Looking back at this photo, I can see with clear eyes and confidence that that person is just a normal human being who committed hard to leopard print and rhinestones. (We all make mistakes, ya know?)
But at the time, I felt ginormous.
Three years ago, I met my boyfriend, and looked like this (HelloOOoooo side dress cut-outs!):
But even THEN, I remember thinking, "I could stand to lose a few pounds."
That was always my general attitude, no matter what my weight was. I could always, always, always "stand to lose a few pounds."
Unfortunately for my weight but fortunately for my love life, my boyfriend and I coupled up in the dead of winter and spent three months binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating pizza, and by spring I had put on 12 pounds. Honestly, it was the best three months of my life.
But, my brothers wedding was coming up, and I was worried about how I would look in photos. So I stopped eating carbs and woke up every morning thinner than I went to bed.
I was the incredible shrinking woman, and I was STARVING. I angry-ate vegetables and obsessed about every single thing I put in my mouth.
How many carbs are in almonds? When can I cheat this week? When can I eat again? Is this low-fat? Is this gluten-free? Can I get that on the side? Do you have that in diet?
Can I eat that? Can I eat that?! CAN I EAT THAT?!?!
Can I eat that? Can I eat that?! CAN I EAT THAT?!?!
Here I am as a bridesmaid, and despite the days leading up to it where I was hangry AF, I felt beautiful this day.
But a month later, I was back where I started: squishier, chunkier, and binge eating pizza on my couch.
One rainy day, before my boyfriend moved in, I got drunk on rosé and went to make space for him in my closet. I used the opportunity to organize my clothes into four piles: toss, keep, keep in case I lose weight, keep in case I gain weight.
I tried on the clothes in the "keep in case I lose weight" pile. I held up each button-up blouse and would recall a Facebook photo of me wearing it and remember feeling fat at the time.
Now, I had inches to go before they would even button.
I tried on the clothes in the "keep in case I gain weight" pile, and everything fit. Like a damn glove.
I ended up throwing out every pile accept the "keep" pile, which was predominantly sweaters and athletic wear. (It wasn't my most fashionable summer.)
Over time, my boyfriend and I fell more in love, he moved in, and very recently, we got a puppy. Everything was going amazing up until last year, when I was diagnosed with chronic, aggressive anxiety and severe panic attacks.
This is when I became so, so grateful for my body.
Weirdly and totally out of character, I started running to burn off my nerves because I didn't know what else to do. As the panic attacks became more frequent, the distance I could run grew longer, and somehow, I ended up being in the best shape of my adult life, all while feeling the worst I have ever felt mentally.
I ended up being in the best shape of my adult life, all while feeling the worst I have ever felt mentally.
At night, I'd stay awake hanging my head over the toilet, sick with anxiety, and in the morning, I'd run until my lungs broke. For me, I maxed out at about four miles (which is, like, a big fuckin' deal for me, OK?).
After one really bad day spent clutching a subway rail thinking if I let go I would surely die (very dramatic, very Hollywood), I sought therapy. I decided to quit a toxic job I had. I started yoga again. I took a lot of naps. I went to a lot of expensive dinners with my friends.
I put on 10 pounds in three months, and slowly but very surely started breathing again.
And then, truly magically and over night — I stopped hating my body. It happened so quietly, I can't even remember when I first noticed it.
I was so thankful for my brave, strong body that took care of me while my mind and brain were weak and vulnerable.
It didn't die all the days my panic attacks told me I was going to die. It didn't break all the anxiety-ridden nights I thought I was going to break.
Here I am before running an 8k this past Thanksgiving. I weigh roughly 165 pounds.
I have great curves. I'm like Joan from "Mad Men," and if you guys recall, EVERYONE wants to look like Joan from Mad Men.
When I see myself in the mirror, I now feel like I earned every ounce my body has, NOT that I'm being punished by it.
Today, at my heaviest, I can run four miles and do crow pose in yoga class. I sleep at night with no pants on and feel like a goddess.
And PLOT TWIST: My boyfriend still wants to have sex with me. I look AMAZING in bras. My boobs are supple, soft and perky.
I'm "overweight" on the BMI chart. And I'm also heavy with love.
What I look like today, as I'm writing this:
So, hot tip to any 14-year-old readers reading this: YOU DO NOT NEED TO DRINK SLIMFAST. YOU ARE A SNOWFLAKE.
Each body is different, and the ideal weight for you is when your body feels, functions and runs its best. Health and size are not one size fits all.
If I could talk to my teenage self, I would rip the SlimFast from her perfect, little hands and tell her to snap out of it. I'd tell her it's awesome she hit puberty before her friends, and one day, she will love her body. Just. Be. Patient.
And never step on a scale at Christmas.