10 Years of Body Image Highs and Lows

I’ve never really shared any of this with anyone before. Acknowledgement is the first step to improvement, right? Well here goes.

The shorter version goes something like this..

I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. It was either an enemy or a best friend.

I felt sick all the time. So at several points I stopped eating, sometimes for days.

There were also a lot of stress and emotional binge eating that happened on and off.

I didn’t like how I looked or how I felt about myself.

I remember crying in front of the mirror a lot. Then there would be months of avoiding mirrors.

I thought boys didn’t like me because I wasn’t pretty enough.

I knew my outer appearance doesn’t define me. I knew my weight is just a number. But I cared even when I told myself not to.

I never felt beautiful. I never believed any of the compliments I was given. The voice in my head told me they were lying or being sarcastic.

It was cycles of poor eating, not eating, binge eating and a lot of guilt when I didn’t eat and guilt when I did eat.

I knew I had to change my mindset and learn to see food for its real purpose. I wanted to accept myself and my body appearance. I worked on that for many years.

Eventually my thoughts and lack of control led to me feeling a sense of worthlessness. Only until recently I realized I’m not the only one facing these kinds of negative thoughts. It doesn’t make them okay, but it also means I’m not alone.

I’m having a hard time being honest about this, in fear of being judged and misunderstood, but I’m hoping my transparency can lead to a positive change.

The truth is this is something I’m still struggling with to this day.

I wish I could tell you, oh this was me 10 years ago and I’m no longer like this.. but not yet. I hope some day I can say that. In the mean time, I’m working towards finding that confidence and improving my self-esteem.

Sometimes I feel like a total hypocrite because I want to be this positive person, hoping to spread God’s love.. but I’m not even loving myself nor do I see myself in a positive light.

I am making a promise to find this self-love, to take better care of myself and to see myself as the woman God sees me as.

If you’re wondering what the last 10 years have been like.. here’s a somewhat condensed version.

2006

At this age, I didn’t think too much about how I looked. I did experiment with makeup for a short time, but that didn’t last long. The only exercise I got was in gym class in high school, which wasn’t much. Side story: I almost didn’t graduate high school on time because I failed gym class multiple marking periods in my junior year. I rarely made it to the locker room in time to change and not changing meant getting a 0 for that day. I had to take 3 periods of gym back to back in my senior year, and luckily I did graduate on time!

avah2006a
July 2006.

2007

I spent my weekends moving and being active. I played sports, never was particularly good at any, but I played a little basketball, handball, racquetball, and ping pong. Growing up, I was always the sporty girl type. As a child I really wanted to learn dance, gymnastics, and karate like all the others kids, but my parents worked a lot and any kind of classes were costly and would require someone to take me. Rollerblading became my thing. They took me to a proskater shop one day and willingly bought me a really nice pair of skates (I still think it’s crazy they love me enough to spend $140 so I can have realllllly smooth wheels). I stopped rollerblading after moving to New York when I was 11 years old, which was also the same time I started frequently feeling sick. I rather not go into great details about how I spent a lot of my mornings feeling. Just imagine having to burp 1,000+ times before feeling a little better. This went on and off for years, sometimes being worse than others.

2008

This is me right after graduating high school. I played handball almost every day. Still constantly feeling sick after eating, I was often scared to eat – so I skipped meals and didn’t eat regularly.

avah2008a
June 2008.

I started college in the summer of 2008. Because of a poor diet and lots of Starbucks frappuccinos, freshman 15 happened. The “handball arm” also developed.

avah2008b
August 2008.

2009

I worked at Disney World for several months for an internship. I continued to gain weight and my face got rounder by the day. Having an inconsistent work schedule of long hours caused both bad sleeping and eating habits. I relied on drinking Coke to get me through the day, and made daily trips after work around 1 or 2 am to the Wendy’s right next to the apartment complex I lived in. Lunch was usually cup noodles, hot pockets or sometimes just a bag of ranch Doritos. I snacked on chicken nuggets and Pringles a lot. The end of 2009 was the beginning of my negative body image. I really didn’t like how I looked, especially my ridiculously big right arm (uneven arms) and ‘thunder thighs’.

avah2009a
September 2009.

2010

I continued to eat poorly, didn’t exercise regularly and was not happy. In a sense, I think I just started to accept the negative image of myself. Hence why I didn’t really care to work out, and instead made the mistake of turning to food for comfort when I was sad or stressed. I ate huge portions of the most fattening, oily and processed foods you could think of. Obviously, binge eating led to even more weight gain, feelings of guilt and physical sickness. I remember I looked at this picture of myself and didn’t recognize my own face. See, this is where weight and body image becomes a touchy subject. It’s not about how I actually looked, whether I’m chubby or thin, it was how I felt on the inside: unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin.

2011

This entire year was a roller coaster. I had lost some weight, but it was not from a safe or healthy way. I remember I spent days before my birthday crying and feeling so down about myself. I was looking for acceptance and wanted to feel loved, falsely thinking if I looked better, I would ultimately be happier.

I had in my head the idea that my value was found in my appearance. I thought maybe if I’m prettier or skinnier, then someone might like me? Then maybe I’ll be happier? (Warning: DO NOT THINK LIKE THIS!!) I was trying too hard to be liked that I forgot to love myself. By now, I was a self-critical, sensitive, overly emotional girl that cared way too much what others thought of me. So much to the point that I kind of stopped being me.

avah2011c
March 2011.

For months, I was unhappy with myself, with relationships and confused with everything I was feeling and going through. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I just had no appetite. I attempted to eat when I was with people to avoid being questioned. It’s ironic how my shirt says love, but the way I was treating myself was not with love at all. I didn’t tell anyone how I really felt. I was ashamed and wanted to avoid any criticism from others.

avah2011d
May 2011. (Please excuse the blurriness.)

I just kept trying to be happy. I tried to keep myself busy and surrounded myself with people who I thought could help me be happy again. What I learned is that people can only help you so much, it really starts with yourself and from within.

avah2011d-2
July 2011.

2012

Thankfully 2012 was a turn around year. I made positive changes and focused on ME. Cared much less about how others viewed me and started to put myself first. By now, I was going to church about 70% of the Sundays for a little over a year, and many of the messages helped me make sense of what I was going through. I learned about faith and soon my own faith grew.

avah2012
January 2012.

 

I made a legitimate effort to exercising regularly and eating better. I went to the gym 3-4 times a week, drank more water, ate cleaner and saw a huge improvement of how much happier I felt. My skin also improved!

In a long time, I was actually feeling happy, confident and proud of who I was becoming. I was myself again. Then Summer Conference happened, which was truly a blessing I never expected but certainly prayed for. Not only did God show Himself to me while I was there, for the first time, I truly knew what it meant to feel God’s presence. He told me, “You are my child. You are loved by me. Your past is forgiven. Believe in me. Trust me. I am for you.” There was no doubt that that voice was real, the words were tugging at my heart like I’ve never felt before. I stood to my feet without second-thought, and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior. Everyone I met was extremely welcoming and kind, and now I had brothers and sisters from Church. After attending for over a year just on Sundays and disappearing as soon as service was over, I now felt I was part of the church and that was something I’ve been wanting for a long time. Everything was slowly falling into place.

2013

The year started out at Urbana Missions Conference. It was there that I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol when asked in a seminar what is something in your life that is hindering your relationship with God. Alcohol was a part of my past that I no longer needed or wanted to depend on for temporary numbness or false healing. The other reason was for health. (It has been 3.5+ years!)

It was a very challenging year. I had just graduated from college and still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got baptized. I went to Miami. And so many other great things happened. But the first few months were tough. Prior to baptism, I was fighting a lot of bad thoughts. Like the day I had this strong urge to jump into the tracks at a subway station after days of feeling so utterly miserable and worthless. Truthfully, I just wanted all the pain and negative thoughts to end. Luckily I wasn’t alone. To this day, I still thank Phil for holding onto me and consoling me the way he did, it’s kind of a blur in my memory – but I do clearly remember him hugging me to the point that I could not budge, my face literally stuck to his chest in the middle of the platform. Needless to say, I was feeling sad for reasons even I couldn’t figure out, wasn’t exercising and in turn, stuffed my face with ice cream and anything sweet for comfort. Thankfully, God is faithful, He was there all along and eventually though lots of prayers and talks with friends and family, it got better. 

On a whim, I decided to go back to school for my second bachelors since I wanted to learn about nutrition and at the time wanted to become a Registered Dietitian. A week after going back to school, I got into a car accident and that mentally took a huge toll on me. Having to cope with a lot of anxiety and stress soon followed.

I was stressed almost the entire year. School and work pretty much took over my life. I rarely exercised. I was in school learning about nutrition but was not eating healthy myself. A lot of pictures taken of me in this year makes me cringe, especially ones taken at my cousin’s wedding. I was bursting out of my dress, which I did not want to believe I needed a bigger size than usual. It was evident that junk food and overeating got the best of me.

2015

This was an extra self-conscious year. I was blessed to be able to go to Miami, LA, DC, Cape Canaveral, Bahamas, Wildwood, Cape May and twice to Philly. I didn’t like how I was looking in pictures so I stayed away from the camera and most of the pictures I took were of food. And of the ones that were taken with me in it, I didn’t feel good about posting majority of them.

I’m awkwardly smiling here because I felt like a whale on the beach and did not know whether to sit or stand or dig a hole and hide under the sand.

2016

I’ve been working on my portion control. I’ve been staying away from all you can eat buffets. Portion control on cruises as you can see is my weakness. For the most part, I’ve been trying to eat smaller meals frequently instead of eating huge meals at a time.

I’ve also been running. It allows me to challenge, compete with and push myself. It’s something I love. But I’m a slow runner. Calling myself a runner is still weird to me because I never could picture myself be a runner before, and runners in my head are fast. So technically, I’m a jogger, but wouldn’t you agree that runner sounds cooler? Hehe.

Once again, I just want to reiterate.. this post is not to focus on how I actually looked, whether you or I think I was too skinny, too fat, too insecure, or too whatever. The focus is on wanting to feel great in your skin. Having the confidence that makes you walk out feeling great about yourself, and not being the person who constantly wants to hide. It’s about accepting yourself and feeling happy with who you are. I want to love myself with or without love handles, jiggly arm fat or insert any other part of my body I’m not entirely pleased with. That isn’t to say I shouldn’t work out regularly, watch what I eat and care about my health. And because God gave us our life, our unique image and our bodies, I believe it’s our responsibility to love and care for it – which is why I wrote this reminder post to myself to love and accept myself even when I have a hard time doing so. I looked back at 10 years of my life, seeing how I viewed myself, so from here on, I can be more self-loving and aim to be way more positive with my body image despite what I may be going through or feeling at the time.

I want to feel my best, be my best and look my best. 

xoxo, hugs for you.

If you’re sad or feeling discouraged at this moment, remember this feeling will pass. You are worthy, you are great, and you are loved deeply. May God give you strength and wisdom to know and remember this.

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