By Emily George
In the past 13 years not a day has gone by that I do not think about losing weight.
We are all very aware of how the media has influenced the way we see ourselves, but despite this knowledge I still have body image issues.
I have spent a bunch of money on the promises of getting thin fast by various weight loss companies.
I have cried when I looked at myself in the mirror.
I have been envious of the skinny girl walking by me on the street. I have accepted “love” and “affection” by people who I knew were no good for me simply because I was the fat girl and they found me attractive.
I realized recently that I have been using my weight as a shield against the world. It has been my comfort zone and my protection from things I am afraid of. If people do not find me attractive they won’t hurt me. I will be safe as long as I am fat. None of this is true. People have still hurt me despite my “unattractiveness.”
People who abuse do not hone in on the confident person. People who abuse target those with low self-esteem. They target the ones who do not believe they are beautiful. They target the ones who are easily manipulated by nice words and over-the-top romantic gestures.
People who abuse are charming.
Charm is not a character trait, it is a behavior used to manipulate others. I learned this the hard way.
A few years ago I met someone through a mutual friend that was good looking and charming. He had a decent job, he was intelligent, he was funny, and he thought I was beautiful. He had all the right words and gestures.
And he thought I was beautiful.
Me. Beautiful. I couldn’t believe it.
I couldn’t believe this insanely attractive man would find a fat girl attractive. I had such low self-esteem and I so desperately wanted validation from a man (because that is what I was taught to want) that I ignored the warning signs.
It started with small things. He would get extremely angry at me if I hung out with male friends, but he was good at smoothing it over. His excuse was that he just loved me so much he couldn’t bear the thought of me with another guy. I, of course, fell for it. I stopped hanging out with said friends to make him happy and keep his love; this was the beginning of the isolation.
He started turning me against my girlfriends, my family and he even went as far as trying to convince me I should quit school all because he loved me and wanted what was best for me.
Once he had me isolated he began to tear me down emotionally and mentally. He told me I was fat and ugly. He told me no one else would ever want me and I should feel lucky that he did, and I did, until he tried to kill me.
I didn’t see it coming. He had never physically abused me. All of the abuse had been emotional and mental up to that point—of course at the time I did not see it as abuse.
It was then that I realized I was worth so much more than I had ever believed before. I had a moment of clarity where I realized I had let this person manipulate and control me, and sadly, he wasn’t the first to do so. The thought made me angry.
I realized it was time to stop the self-hate I had lived with for so many years. This was the last time anyone would hurt me and I would never be a victim again.
I knew in order for me to achieve this goal I needed to be more confident in myself. I needed to see my own self-worth. I needed to be happy with me and who I am physically and mentally.
I do not blame myself for what happened. I know it is not my fault, but I also know that my lack of self-love made me more vulnerable to that situation.
Now I work every day to love myself and this is how I do it:
I am mindful of what I eat.
There are so many foods out there that aren’t really food. They are so processed and full of chemicals that any nutrition is lost. I had been starving my body of nutrition for years, yet eating so much I would feel sick and gain weight. After many hours of research I realized what I eat does matter. I cut out the processed junk food and fast food and I have replaced it with real food.
Eating the right foods has not only made me feel better mentally, but my arthritis pain has gone, I have more energy, and I am sleeping a bit better than I was before.
I am mindful of what my body needs.
My body needs exercise. Laying around all day watching TV and not moving has actually become painful. My body is not happy when it is sedentary. Exercising not only releases hormones and chemicals that make you happy, but it gives you an energy boost and makes sleeping easier.
I am mindful of what my soul needs.
I take time to do things that elicit positive feelings. If I hear a song I like I sing it as loud as I can and dance even if I look silly. I take the long way home just to have a little more time to myself with no obligations. I daydream. I make things rather than buying them using upcycled materials. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and I feel good about saving money and reducing the amount of waste I produce. There are a million more examples I could tell you, but the main idea here is to do the things that make you feel good.
I am mindful of who I let into my life.
Some people are not good for us. Some people bring us down and are not helpful in our journey. Distinguishing who is good for us and who isn’t can be tough because it is not always black and white. I know someone who is not good for me and I love that person deeply, but I keep my distance. Sometimes we have to do what is right for us, even when it is hard.
Loving yourself is not easy in a world that is always telling you that you aren’t good enough, but you and I are worth enough to try.
Editor: Dana Gornall