I cannot recall the last time I felt comfortable in my skin. I don’t think I can imagine my life without a crippling fear of appearing fat. I remember I would suck in my stomach as a little kid trying to make the baby fat go away. I would cry in dressing rooms as a teenager when I couldn’t pull up the zipper, well aware that I wouldn’t fit into the double zero jeans my friends were wearing. Shortly after, I decided I would stop wearing jeans so as to avoid the humiliation. I stayed home from my senior year homecoming because I thought my dress made me look fat. I buy clothes that are a couple sizes too big because if something is hugging too tight, I swear you can see every ounce of fat. Fat, fat, fat. It’s an F word thats ringing is as jarring as any other swear word. But I’m tired of this strident ringing. I’m tired of counting calories and not letting myself enjoy that slice of cake, so long as it’s gluten free. I’m tired of working out without regard for my well-being. And I’m truly exhausted from the constant self-doubt, self-hate, and intense shame I feel, every time I look in the mirror.
So here I am, tired of the way I live, but unsure of how to begin repairing the damage. I’ve seen this dilemma tackled in a variety of self-help books, various forums, and occasionally it’s been tackled in my own individual therapy sessions. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ve made very little progress in my journey to love my body. And then a thought struck me. In order to convince myself that loving my body is a worthwhile process, I need to see, and I mean really see, all that my shame has taken from me. If I’m going to listen to someone regarding something so personal, I might as well hear it from myself. So I wrote a Dear Mallory letter.
You’ve missed out on many incredible things in life because you were too busy hating your body. Don’t believe it? Here are a few examples:
-You missed many dances, simply because you thought people would make fun of your weight and not want to dance with you.
-You never tried on those clothes you thought were cute because your stomach wasn’t completely flat.
-You skipped out on swimming at both beaches and pool parties because as you so kindly told yourself, “nobody wants to see that”.
-You stopped enjoying eating out because you were so consumed with how much you ate relative to everyone else.
-Playing sports you loved since childhood became a chore because you would force yourself to hit the gym after two hour practices.
-You cried when people posted pictures of you that you so lovingly stated “made you look like an oompa loompa.”
The examples are endless and I’m so sorry that you’ve felt this way for so many years, but it’s time to begin healing. It surely is not going to be an easy feat. It is going to be a process, a long and difficult process. Each day you’re going to need to actively pay attention to your self-talk and your actions. There will be setbacks. Don’t let this discourage you. You whole-heartedly believe all girls and women should feel comfortable with their bodies. But for you to be able to say that statement you must believe it about yourself.
Think how much fun life would have been if you had danced at those dances, if you had jumped into the waves unafraid of your belly and thighs, if you had enjoyed the moments filled with good food and good friends, if you had allowed moments of your life to be captured and remembered. That sounds more in line with the life you actually wish to live. And it’s not too late. It’s never too late to make a change.
So tomorrow I beg of you to wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and say the words, “I’m beautiful just the way I am.” Be proud of your curves. Eat that slice of cake without worrying about calories. Dare to dance. Buy that pair of jeans that aren’t a double zero, but instead hug you just right. Enjoy going for a run without worrying if you’ve burned enough calories. This is your one shot at life. Stop looking at the scale and start looking at what really makes you feel alive. And while it may take years to repair the damage, what’s a few years of hard work compared to a lifetime of hatred and missed opportunities? If you weigh those two options I think you know what you need to do. It’s finally time to heal for you, and for all the wonderful girls and women still struggling to love themselves. It’s time to write our next chapter.