4 feet 11 & 3/4 inches. A height that doesn't always make you feel powerful. In fact, it was a height that for me made me feel self-conscious and subject to ridicule growing up. It also was a height that didn't flatter me during puberty. As my body was preparing for its womanly changes, I gained weight. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. The teasing at school increased. I even overheard family and friends commenting on my appearance. Little did I know weight gain is common before a girl undergoes puberty. Little did I know my friends and family were concerned about my health, not my appearance. What I did know is that I began to hate my body.
It's not surprising to me then that by the age of 13, I developed issues around food. I had all the common red flags, a best friend with anorexia, a mom on Weight Watchers, and a lack of control around major changes that happened in my life at that time. I started dieting. I started counting points of the foods I was eating. I started skipping meals. I lost a ton of weight in a short period of time. I looked at food as something that was evil and would make me fat.
My wake-up call was I stopped getting my period. I knew something was wrong and my body was trying to tell me I wasn't treating it right. My mother took me to see a registered dietitian who specialized in adolescents with eating issues. She set up meal ideas for me that would help me meet my calorie needs. The combination of her help & expertise along with making new friends at a new high school, all of whom had very healthy relationships with food, helped me to break the cycle.
The period of time when I had an unhealthy relationship with food was probably the worst time of my life. I neglected and mistreated the most important person in my life, myself. Many people do not know this piece of my life. It's a piece I like to keep quiet and brush under the rug. But the reality is it shaped me and motivated me to a place where I am now. And for that I am grateful. For the purposes of Guiltless, I felt inspired to let go of the guilt I feel toward my past and share my story in a hope to inspire others.
I have come a long way from that year of my life. I am thankful that my issues around food were short-lived. I am thankful that I never let it go too far to jeopardize my health. I am thankful that I have never looked back at food in a negative manner. I am thankful that I now have a healthy relationship with food and myself.
For those reading, if you are struggling with self-image or struggling with food, just know, there is hope. You CAN change. It may take time and it may not be easy, but don't give up on yourself. The most important relationship you have is with yourself. Also, don't be afraid to seek help. Confide in a family member, a friend, or a doctor. The positive support of others is powerful. That having been said, surround yourself with positive people who love you just the way you are. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
Start by making a change that is simple. Write down one positive thing about yourself each day. Tell yourself what you love about yourself. Shout it to your mirror in the morning. Today, I still tower at a mighty 4 feet 11 & 3/4 inches. But I love it. I love being different. Being cute. Being petite. Words I used to perceive as negative, I take pride in today. Good things come in small packages, I tell myself. Acceptance is a big part of self-love. Accept your body, its curves, its strength. It is who you are & who you are is beautiful.