Learn to Love Your Body and Cultivate Self-Love
I remember starting to hate my body in college. Prior to that, I always viewed myself as a strong athlete. But something changed in college and I became extremely aware of any weight gained, the way my thighs looked in spandex, and muscle and bulk in my arms and all the little things that I wished I could change. I looked at my teammates, and some were skinnier, some had bigger boobs or more luscious lips, others had smaller ears or smoother hair, their skin was clear and their teeth perfect. The sorority girls were adorable… prim and proper, mostly tiny with perfect clothes and makeup and hair. I was lucky to have dry hair or clean sweats to wear to class. My view of myself became so jaded and negative. And I didn’t even know these thoughts were going through my head.
Two years into college, I got incredibly ill and was bed ridden. I ended up having to retire from playing volleyball at USC and I lost what felt like my entire identity and purpose. It led me to an eating disorder, so I could control something. I would count every calorie, limit myself to less than 1200 calories each day, chew on gum instead of eating a meal, drink zero calorie flavored water to get something with taste, snack on rice cakes with low fat everything and if I ever ate just a little too much, I would beat myself up. It wasn’t until I met with my college nutritionist, Kristy Morrell, that I realized what I was doing. (Listen to her episode here for more on my healing journey with food and her take on intuitive eating.)
I’ve spent years staring at myself in front of the mirror, picking apart everything wrong with my body. Nothing was ever good enough. And working in sports and television and trying to appease every man in that industry was an uphill battle and one that I lost, over and over. I was either too skinny, too fat, too blonde, too much cellulite, too tall, not sexy enough clothes… the list goes on and on. I lived to get a compliment, because for that one brief moment in time, I wasn’t failing. But it never lasted. I would be ripping myself to shreds shortly after, finding something else that needed fixing.
Leaving a world where men decided my future, my success and my level of beauty was a huge step for me. Not having to wear layers of makeup every day and spend over an hour on my hair was freeing. I wasn’t focused on trying to be something for everyone else. Finding value in myself outside of my looks was the true game-changer though. For so long, I thought my value and worth was wrapped up in my looks. Thinner thighs and a tighter waist meant success, attention and importance for much of my life. Once I was able to shift my perspective and realize that I had intelligence, thoughtfulness, kindness and many other gifts that mattered more, I was able to let go of a lot of the control.
My relationship with food is massively improved, and I show myself love and grace when I start spinning out of control and picking my body apart. I’m not sure it’s something that completely goes away, but appreciating myself for the depths of who I am as a human and knowing that most of us have these similar feelings at one point or another gives me a sense of peace. Food is nourishment for me, and I love to enjoy every bite and appreciate how much it gives to my body. I will never be perfect, and neither will anyone else. But finding love for my evolving body is the greatest gift I can give myself.
I’ll leave you with this quote from my sweet friend Victoria Garrick during our interview for The Platform Podcast.