A saying that has been preached to me since I was a small thing. And honestly, it’s something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. Fully embracing & loving yourself can be a mission, & for me, it was something so unimaginable. As if self-love was some fantasy. This mindset & how I viewed myself ultimately broke me.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week & NEDA’s theme, ‘Come As You Are,’ encourages individuals, no matter how “big” or “small” their problem is or at what stage of body acceptance & recovery they are at, their stories matter. It’s taken me years to finally open up about my struggles & the journey it took for me to find self-love, acceptance & appreciation for my body. Below is my story.
Remembering my childhood, I was the muscular girl who played football at recess, just praying for the Lord to bless me with some boobs. I wasn’t too concerned, but it would have been nice to be able to wear a bra at 15. 18 came & He was probably laughing, because I was still rocking that A cup. I think it was about this time that I started to compare myself to those around me & really pick myself apart.
I’ve never been one to think of myself as sexy. I mean, even typing that in relation to me makes me feel weird – like it doesn’t fit. I would look at other girls around me & wonder what it is that makes them so special? How are they so pretty & why am I so average? And it’s these questions I would continue to ask myself up through high school & college & then, finally, I came up with the answer: I wasn’t good enough. My hair. My clothes. My body. Everything must be out of place. So, I tried molding myself into what I thought people wanted & what would make them like me. Thinking that this would fulfill whatever need or desire I had at fitting in & being noticed.
You know, it started off with how I dressed, talked, what I participated in, drinking, etc. It wasn’t so much of a thing with food, but more of my social status. And I changed. I was the happy girl at school, involved in cheerleading or sorority life, but then I’d go home & just cry. Like crazy girl cry. It’s as if no matter what I did, I still wasn’t enough. I hated myself. And I was exhausted from trying to live up to unrealistic expectations that no one but myself was asking of me.
And after all the nights of crying & break downs, fights with my mom & telling her how I was insignificant, she suggested I see a therapist.
I decided against this because, in my head, that was me admitting something was wrong & I wasn’t ready to face that realization.
The big spiral & worst of it all was definitely freshman year of college. Ever heard of the Freshman 15? It was something I feared like the plague. I put a “Remember the Freshman 15” sign on my dorm mini-fridge to avoid temptation & excessive snacking. At first it was just a casual reminder to stay healthy, but it turned into an obsession. I would tack notecards on the wall, heck even the ceiling above my bed, with quotes I found on Pinterest about weight loss. I found this app that let me keep track of calories to live a healthier lifestyle.
I remember studying my body in the mirror. I’d measure my waist with my hands, suck in until you saw my ribs & measure again to get my “ideal” measurements. That calorie counting app became everything & I began going to the gym. Not once, not twice, but sometimes 3 times a day. Before class, in between classes, before or after work; you name it, you could find me on that stair master. I was trying to burn double, sometimes triple, my calorie intake in order to lose more weight. And when calorie counting wasn’t enough & I started restrictive & crash dieting.
I started out by skipping breakfast, having a granola bar for lunch (maybe a bowl of rice if I was tired) & eating a salad for dinner. Then I dabbled in crash dieting. A typical day of eating would include the two pack of granola bars. I would eat one half for lunch & the other half for dinner (maybe an orange if I was really hungry). Then I would go some days without eating at all, claiming I “forgot” or I wasn’t all that hungry. If I went to a party & we got Taco Bell later that night, you bet I was in the gym all day trying to burn it off.
I lost 20 pounds within the first month and a half of college, dropping from 125 to 105 – a weight I hadn’t weighed since elementary/middle school.
Y’all, I was tired. Exhausted. Emotional. Needy. And I craved validation & acceptance from others. Because in my mind, accepting myself wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t just physically unhealthy, but it was taking a toll on my mental health as well.
This effected my relationships. I would have breakdowns where all my insecurities were put on display. One of my best friends from high school, he couldn’t take it anymore, & to this day we don’t speak. My boyfriend, or sad excuse for one (being honest), occasionally voiced his concerns & I would get annoyed & mad. He was cheating on me & eventually he ended things. I begged him to stay, which I cringe at thinking, but I felt I needed him. I felt I needed someone to tell me I was pretty or that I was tiny. It’s hard to admit that, but it was true.
I stayed in my dorm room, moping around, I’d go to class crying & I remember my RA brought me cupcakes to make me feel better, but what she didn’t know was that it made me feel worse. I couldn’t eat that. I couldn’t add another reason as to why someone wouldn’t want me.
My mom asked if I was eating; I would get so angry at that question because I didn’t want her to intervene with something I wasn’t ready to admit was a problem. One day, I decided to go to the grill in my dorm. I was craving mustard for some reason & figured I could treat myself with fries for dinner. So I got in the elevator & noticed I was lightheaded. I started seeing those sparkles you get, you know when you stand up too fast? As I exit the elevator, I start to sweat & I’m shaking. Then I just can’t see anything. Everything was going black & I went to the floor. I remember calling my roommate & telling her that if I wasn’t back in so many minutes, she needed to call someone for help.
That’s when it hit that I wasn’t ok. So I confided in a close friend & told her what I was struggling with. And she was there for it all. She was straightforward & honest with me, spoke truth to me & made sure I was eating. She really stuck with me. I can remember her finding me in a closet crying. No joke, if you couldn’t find me at a party, I was either in the bathroom or the closet crying. And she would pull me out & talk sense into me. It was during this time where I was coming to terms that I was not ok.
I started going to church, surrounding myself with positive & supportive people, & through some tough love & communication, I was able to see a bit clearer.
Side Note: after I passed out, I made it back to my dorm room. The next day I threw out every calorie journal, “motivational” piece & anything that made me feel badly about myself – trying to remove all the toxicity that had built up over that year.
It took awhile for me to ok with where I was at in my appearance. Gaining weight & muscle back was something I had to remind myself was beautiful.
I’ve spoken a bit about my struggle to girls at church camps & teenagers who see their worth as a number on a scale. Our bodies have a purpose & a function. I have seen women who have given birth, women who have fought off cancers & who have been through so many challenges, not only physically, but mentally & through it all, they are beautiful & they are strong.
If it weren’t for family & friends who accept me & love me for all that I am, I think this journey would have been more difficult.
Today, I have a healthy relationship with food. I do workout, but I don’t weigh myself. I’m more concerned & interested in how I’m feeling, my energy, my mood, etc.
I’ve learned that beauty radiates from within. Confidence is sexy. How you talk to & treat people, including yourself, is far more attractive than any brand of makeup can make you. And if I’m really in a rut, I should remember all the things I love about myself & what makes me unique.
And finally, vulnerability is something I have been working on. I’ve told myself that strength & happiness can come from talking & sharing your emotions. It doesn’t need to be a weakness. So thank you for taking the time to read this. It’s personal & it took a lot for me to share. I was so worried about the judgement I may receive from others as well as a shift in perception of who I am. But the girl you see, all smiley & full of life, that’s me. And I’m happy & healthier than I’ve ever been.
A midwestern gal raised in Oklahoma & the face behind DANIYORK.com - created to share my life, loves & all the crazy in between.