I was overweight for a long time...and because of this, I struggled with body image issues.
There was this instance when I was in the 5th grade playing on the playground. I distinctly remember hanging on the Triple Horizontal Bars … (you know the bars that are used in gymnastics)… when my shirt rode up and exposed my stomach. Even though I had a small muffin top, that was enough for one kid to point at me and say, “Wow, you’re fat!”
Hearing the words “you’re fat” fueled my mild food addiction.
In middle school, I found myself wanting to stop eating when I was full but couldn’t. In high school, I ate large quantities of food at a time when I wasn’t hungry. I was doing this because I believed people already thought I was fat and ugly. I might as well live up to it, right?
What I didn’t know was that I was eating food as a way to comfort myself. I found solace in food because it helped me avoid what was going on – the real emotional issues. I had low self-esteem and found personal failure in my body size.
I wanted to make a change in what I believed about my appearance, but I didn't know how.
In college, I assumed dieting was my solution to a negative body image. As a result, I thought about food and my weight constantly. In the beginning, I consumed a lot then burned off the extra calories through exercise. I gradually restricted my food intake to 1200 calories a day (which is not enough for a collegiate athlete). Counting calories and exercising is recommended as a good path towards weight loss, but I was taking it to the extreme.
The funny part was that I believed I cured my body image issues! I lost 30-40 pounds and “looked good”. The reality is that people with a negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder. In my case, I went from slightly binge eating to being obsessed with weight loss all because I felt ashamed of my body.
I knew I had to make a change in my relationship with food when I had to go to the ER for severe headaches and vomiting.
To make this change, I sat down and thought about how I could eat without bingeing or feeling guilty. I surmised that the key to a long, healthy life revolved around a vegan diet coupled with exercise. I didn't have the willpower to eat a plant-based diet until January 30, 2016. Eliminating animal products, byproducts and dairy caused a radical change to my body. I got better sleep, had few to no headaches and eliminated my excess bloating.
Emotionally, eating a vegan diet help me eradicate the need to count my calories, restrict my food intake and control my weight excessively. I have recalibrated my body and mindset with this lifestyle. For instance, I have a deeper appreciation of where my food comes from, make healthier choices naturally, and feel happier about what I am putting into my body.
I see now why this lifestyle is the best option for my overall health and wellness. Not only do I feel better physically and emotionally but I am starting to cultivate inner perceptual awareness towards positive thinking and mental health.
I still have body image issues to work on though. For the longest time, I could not wear a bathing suit in public. The idea of doing so gave me sheer panic and anxiety. Today, while I still have some reservations, I can feel comfortable in my skin. It’s a process you guys!
Until Next Time,
“Your life is happening now. Make it amazing!”