What makes life good? Is it the perfect house, grades, or family? Is it being rich, or successful? For me, a good life was once defined by the size of my jeans.
Sometimes I wish I just looked like someone else. For many years, I struggled to see myself in a healthy way, and even when I heard people say that body image is all about perspective, I struggled to change mine. I tried to listen to those women who said, “love yourself” and “beauty comes from within,” but those mantras felt like a lie.
My unhealthy relationship with my body and food started when I was nine. I remember posing for a picture and was told to suck in my stomach. From that moment, I never liked my body. I wanted to change, and I thought that changing my body was the fastest route to a happy life. By the time I was eleven I had what I considered the perfect body, it was accompanied by a total daily intake of about 300 calories. My doctor told me my weight was healthy, my mom was proud of me for losing weight, and let’s be honest, I loved my body at a size zero. I have access to healthy food, places to work out, and access to the information needed to lead a healthy lifestyle. So, what was trapping me in a life fueled by negative body image?
When I woke up, I looked in the mirror and got on the scale first thing every single morning. That number told me how I felt that day. It told me how to live. It defined me. I went to the gym four times a week and all I did was jog and go to the sauna to “sweat off the pounds.” Working out was a way of burning calories. Eating was a way of getting fat. Not eating was a way of getting skinny. I obviously had a lot to learn!
I now know there were two lies that I let myself believe:
- Habits were only about weight/size
- Self-love was conditional
There needs to be a new definition of health and happiness. The truth is that health can’t be seen in weight, BMI, or size. Health is one of many factors that contribute to our well-being. I never realized that the thing I was missing most was being and feeling good overall rather than having a “perfect” body. I have learned to remind myself that loving life does not depend on the size of my jeans. Do I love my body and feel confident every day? Definitely not! But every day, I choose to love myself just a little bit more than the day before.
I show my body that I love it by feeding it a balanced diet and giving it a good workout every day. When my workout starts getting hard, I don’t tell myself to do it because I am fat and ugly, I tell myself to push harder because I am strong! I deserve those endorphins! I deserve to be healthy! When I go to a restaurant, I no longer order a salad because it says 100 calories. I order something balanced, and delicious. If I want some pizza, I get a slice. I am learning to have a healthier mindset about food, exercise, school, and life as a whole!
Whether I want to lose weight, gain it, eat healthier, tone up, or tone down, I can’t achieve anything by hating myself.
Loving my body is not conditional on my size or weight that day. Changing my attitude about the way my body looked was the first step in, though cliche, my wellness journey. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about body image is that loving myself does not mean that I can’t have goals to change my body.
Loving yourself is reaching your goals in a healthy and positive way, and it is the first step to feeling and being the best version of ourselves that we can be.
What makes life good? It’s the little moments, a smile from a stranger, learning something new, a hug from someone you love, a beautiful sunset, a nice walk, a compliment. If we treasure those little moments, life is suddenly more than just a size. I found joy in the realization that no matter what size I am, I’m still me! Enjoy life, and all of the little moments that come with it. Those moments, just like you, are each beautiful in their own right.
Yasmin Latchman is a Sophomore at Regis Jesuit High School. She is from Colorado though she lives in Barbados currently. Yasmin is interested in medicine and hopes to go to college after graduating high school.