learning to love myself

I actually debated posting this because putting it down in words and funneling it out to the interweb means I can't hide behind it anymore. Like many girls, I've struggled with body image and my weight for much of my life. I grew up competitively swimming, and I trained twice a day, burning up to 5,000 calories each day. Basically, I could eat whatever I want (within reason) and not gain weight. Throughout high school, I had a complex about my weight that was kindly given to me by a coach who felt that telling 14 year old girls that they were fat was a good thing. For the record...this was his definition of "fat":

^^^ I'm on the far left. And yes, we are petting a goat. We were in the Netherlands.

My mother clued into the fact that this coach was messing with young girls' body images, and we left that team pretty fast, but his words stuck, and I officially had a complex that was going to stay with me whether I liked it or not. My weight pretty much stayed the same until college, when I discovered that, yes, you can gain the freshman 15 35 even if you do work out twice a day. 

Needless to say, I've pretty much rid myself of every image from that time period because I really did hate it so much. I lost it all again when I transferred to Utah for my Junior year, and I remained the same, healthy weight until I finished my NCAA eligibility, at which point, I went through I stint of  pretty significant depression. I didn't know how to identify myself as anything but a competitive athlete. I ate my feelings, and it just got worse. I gained everything back that I'd lost from the previous weight gain.

I wasn't happy though, and I certainly wasn't healthy, so I worked hard, and I lost it all again. This time though, I continued losing it. I got thin, and I got a lot of compliments, and I was healthy, happy and focused on me. I was running a lot, doing light weights, swimming open water races, and I'd really found my stride.

^^^ My thinnest since college...just 10 lbs more than I weighed going into college.

 It remained that way for a good year and a half until I met my ex and fell into a horrible relationship that really just ate away at my confidence, and I turned to the comfort of food again. I don't have any pictures of that time period left again because A) they bring back horrible memories, B) I can't look at them without cringing and C) just no.

I found CrossFit after I ended my engagement with my ex. It became an outlet for that frustration and anger that I had, plus I really enjoyed the competitive nature of the sport. But here's the thing. My body was not made to be a lifter, and I started getting injuries one after the other, all the while gaining about 20 lbs in muscle mass. I finally had to quit CrossFit after blowing out my knee during a max-height box jump and, while I miss my friends and the sport, I think it's good for me to find a balance with my body again.

^^^ All taken within a 1-year window. I gained almost 20 lbs of muscle, plus I ate poorly for my body type.

These days, I'm lucky to be in a healthy, happy and positive relationship. Ryan loves me for me, and he supports me in wanting to be better, but he always makes certain that he loves me regardless. He supports my need and desire to be fit and maintain my muscles, but he teaches me that I don't have to go to extremes, either. I can be a balance of both and they is that I need to love myself regardless. I need to be kind to myself and patient with my progress.

If anything, my body image issues  have taught me that words can make a serious, life-long impact on one's psyche. I'm not sure I'll ever be entirely comfortable with my body, as that nagging voice of doubt was implanted so long ago. I can say one thing though...if I have daughters in the future, you'd better believe I will make certain they know that their value is not in the least bit based upon their weight. 

16 comments

  1. My body is something I have struggled with as well. I played soccer my entire childhood and through high school and I was always bigger than the other girls. Athletes are supposed to be skinny and fit and I didn't look/feel that way. Then I hit college and got married (a weight gain combo) and look back at pictures of when I was in high school and miss being that size. Yes, I was "bigger" than the other girls but I also had a completely different body type and I was healthy! Nowadays I just strive to make healthy food choices and exercise with my husband whenever I can. It helps that he tells me I am the most beautiful girl in the world every day :) I can totally relate to your experience.

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    1. It definitely helps to have that unconditional love, doesn't it? It's a journey...and a process...for so many of us.

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  2. You should love yourself, You're stunning, I love the way you look and you're not fat or anything! Damn, can i have your body?

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    1. Thank you, doll. I appreciate your sweet words more than you know. I'm getting there! :)

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  3. Yes, Yes, Yes. I can relate to just about everything in this post! When I stopped swimming twice a day my body took a serious hit. Years of coaches comments and feeling bad about how I looked finally caught up with me and I spiraled down bad in the body image area. A incredibly negative relationship just sent me spiraling down even more. It has taken me years to understand my body type and come to accept my body the way it is. Most days are good, to this day some aren't. My personal struggle with eating and body image is actually what lead me to my career choice today. I can't thank you enough for posting this and really getting vulnerable!

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    1. It's crazy, but SO many swimmers have gone through this! I didn't even know until I started actually taking it to heart and learning more about why it was so rough. Thank you for sharing your story, doll xo

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  4. Melissa, Thanks for being so honest. I know sometimes it can be hard to show our "true" selves on our blogs, but I think it makes us more real. I can relate to many of the things you went through in the past and I know it can be difficult. You are beautiful! And lucky you - you have a fantastic fiancé! :)

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  5. I'm glad you posted this! I've struggled with my weight for so long and have days that self doubt are really crippling.

    I'm so glad you found someone to love and support you and push you to be the best you in POSITIVE ways!

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  6. self doubt and confidences issues are really cripping***** (can't type..need more coffee)

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  7. i love your heart!!!! you are amazing and what a blessing to others for you to share your story. i know it's hard. my sister sturggled with similar issues, so i understand from right in there with the family!!! may you be blessed in sharing your story as i know you are blessing others!!!

    hugging you! cheers!!! xx

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  8. girl I'm sure you look great. You have an amazing heart and are an inspiration rather you think so or not girl. You're a blessing to man.

    pinkowl07.blogspot.com

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  9. my high jump coach in high school told me my freshman year that sometimes when girls hit maturity and start to become a woman their bodies change and i might not be able to high jump because of it. i will never forget how that made me feel. stupid. i also went on to high jump in college. so she is extra stupid.

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  10. I hate that we all have to conform to a certain body type set by the media and outside world. You are a competitive swimmer and an athlete- you are healthier than 99.9% of the people in this world!

    XOXO
    Chelsea
    http://www.anchorsaweighblog.com/

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  11. Try being pregnant..I can't tell you how many people told me "my body would never be the same". It scared the shit out of me! I was so worried about stretch marks and flab. I was 10 pounds heavier then what I was pre-baby when I left the hospital after I had my daughter, I could tell my hip were bigger.. but you know what? I haven't weighed myself since I've been home. I gave BIRTH. Which is an AMAZING thing. I refuse to think negatively or let society tell me what's beautiful. It's hard, and I used to be SO self conscious. Now though, I'm just appreciating what my body was able to do. You look AMAZING girl, Don't let anyone tell you any different! xoxo

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  12. I've struggled with my body image my whole life. Having a healthy, positive relationship makes all the difference. My husband is so supportive of me. I had two unhealthy relationships prior to meeting my husband, both of which led me to be unhealthy. (one led to my lowest weight ever - the other to my highest)

    I appreciate you sharing this. I hate that coach made you feel that way. You look great! Lean on Ryan for support, and don't let negativity get you down.

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  13. You are beautiful. Inside AND outside. You're the whole package of what a good woman should be. Be proud of yourself! I'm proud of you for writing this! :) I have struggled with my body as well, so I know how down it can get you. I feel the opposite with pictures... I see pictures of my 20 year old body and miss how it looked... but, to be truthful with you, that look wasn't completely natural. I'm healthy now... THAT is what matters. :)

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