How Giving Up 'Thinspo' Led Me To A Life Of Self-Love

Marija Mandic

In today's society, it seems like almost every woman is on a journey to health and happiness. At what point, though, does the effort to become healthy turn unhealthy?

I can date my tireless goals of being fit back to high school. My family was into working out and exercising, but I got carried away with it. The second I had my driver's license I was waking up at 4 am to go to the gym before school.

I also had two to three hour competitive cheerleading practices after school, but I didn't let myself believe that was "enough" of a workout. My senior year, I spent my dual-enrollment hour on a treadmill in the gym instead of working on my college course.

When college started I didn't share the same excitement as my friends. I chose to stay local -- community college -- so I was working, living at home and managing a heavy course load. My parents were on the brink of divorce, none of my siblings got along and I was under an incredible amount of stress.

The only thing I could control was what I put in my mouth and what I did with my body, so I began to constantly beat myself up. I was constantly comparing myself to other girls -- my stomach wasn't as flat, my thighs weren't as toned and my butt wasn't as round.

It seemed like I had to work 10 times harder than anyone else I knew to maintain my shape while girls who didn't even try somehow looked amazing. I resented girls I didn't even know; in the back of my mind I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't stop myself.

Looking back, I realize all those feelings came from a place of self-hate, not self-love. They say comparison is the thief of joy, and it's true. I was unable to focus on anything but losing weight.

Because of this unhealthy desire to be thin and attractive, I developed an awful relationship with food. Eating was no longer enjoyable to me and food became my enemy instead of something that nourished my body.

I started to dread social situations. I wanted to spend time with my friends, but the thought of ordering pizza or drinking wine gave me anxiety. I wanted to go to dinner with my boyfriend, but I would ruin it by complaining of guilt for the next 24 hours.

I went through up and down cycles of binge eating. I'd first fill myself up with unhealthy food and claim that it was pointless for me to even try and lose weight. Then, I would hate myself, go on a crash diet and repeat the unhealthy cycle of self-loathing.

I couldn't stop thinking about my next meal, my next workout or my next attempt at finally gaining the thinness I had been working so hard for. It ran my life and I hated it.

My first two years of college are full of memories of grueling CrossFit workouts I wasn't even sure I liked, Hydoxycut gummies and green tea tea pills that messed with my digestion. Oh, and I can't forget the daily battles with the scale that would leave me tearfully miserable and ruin my entire week.

I didn't realize that my destructive thoughts and awful mindset were sabotaging every aspect of my life because I was so blinded by self-corruption that thinness would make me happy.

I felt so alone and like no one would ever know what I was going through. There was hardly a positive thought in my mind, and when I looked in the mirror I was never complementary or kind to my body, just harsh and brutally critical.

I thought my life would be fulfilling when I was at my "ideal" weight; I thought I would finally be able to live and enjoy my life. Little did I know how wrong this was.

Before my last year of college started I moved in with my fiancé. He stuck by my side at my lowest points even though it frustrated him to see me so upset over my body.

The bliss of moving in with my favorite person was constantly bombarded by my obsession with food and fitness. I knew something had to change when we began to argue and it started to affect our relationship. I didn't want to go out, I didn't want to cook anything considered "heavy," and I was letting my workouts ruin our plans.

I no longer wanted to be a slave to health and fitness, I wanted to enjoy my life with him and my friends. I began to realize that dieting just wasn't a sustainable lifestyle. I wanted Friday night beers, Sunday game snacks and the luxury of sleeping in in the morning without having the weight of a workout hanging over my head.

It's been a slow process, but I've made one small change at a time to break free from the chains of being "skinny." For the last year, I've been on a journey of self-love to accept my body and to stop the negative thoughts and self-hate.

Here are the five things I did to have a "thinspo detox" that saved my life:

1. I stopped following "thinspo" accounts on social media.

Although there's nothing wrong with people who love to show their super-trimmed physique, filling my head with unrealistic pictures wasn't helping me.

To get to that level, I'd have to nearly starve myself and do nothing but workout all day. Instead, I started following strong, empowering women who are advocates for self-love and body acceptance. I also followed campaigns that stand up against the media's beauty standards like Iskra Lawrence, Healthy is the New Skinny and Gina from Nourish and Eat.

2. I started reading the right books.

I knew my journey to self-love wouldn't come without a commitment to actually developing as a person.

I came across the book "The Goddess Revolution" by Mel Wells and it's really transformed my attitude towards food and the way I respect my body.

3. I began to listen to podcasts by women who've been where I was.

I came across Maddy Moon, an inspiring girl who has a series of free podcasts called "Mind Body Musings".

There are over 100 episodes of her interviewing different people who have a TON of great experiences and thoughts to share; all of her guests are empowering.

I started to listen to the episodes while folding laundry, cleaning my room or before falling asleep. Hearing other people's stories and listening to their advice was an immense help. It gave me hope that there was a way out of the darkness of self-loathing.

Body acceptance does exist -- you just need to find it.

I also subscribed to online summits from "You Ain't Your Weight," where founder and anti-dieter Jenna Free speaks with 21 women about finding food and body freedom.

I would get an email every morning with the newest interview and it started off my day on a positive vibe.

4. I started to be kind to myself.

When I look in the mirror as I'm changing, I don't say "wow, you need to lose about 10 pounds of stomach fat." I think "your legs are looking strong" or "you're glowing from all the sun you've been getting."

Being mean to yourself will do absolutely nothing for your recovery. Nobody is flawless and a woman's body is an incredible thing.

5. I found a workout program I actually enjoyed.

I now know that working out should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what it can't. Workouts shouldn't be something you force yourself through because you ate an extra cupcake.

I finally discovered Beachbody programs and I  began to workout at home, do yoga and lower impact workouts and look to online chat groups for support. I regained the joy of exercising and it felt so freeing to work out because I wanted to.

I still have negative thoughts more often than I'd like, but the difference now is my mindset. I have the resources and influences to help me put negative thoughts to the side.

Being body positive doesn't mean every day becomes easier, it just means that now I'm working every single day towards being a happier and healthier me. Most importantly, I'm finally living again.

If there's one thing you do for yourself, detox your life from negative thoughts and self-hate. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it.