Advice, Optimism

Overcoming your body image issues

Do you even eat? Hearing those words sent an ever-familiar chill down my spine (and cued the eye roll). “Yes. I actually eat a lot,” was always my reply.

At the time my five-foot-four-inch-100-pound self was absolutely sick of hearing that question. If someone didn’t ask me that (for once), I instead got statements like:

“You’re sooo skinny.”

“You need to build some muscle tone.”

“I bet you work out every single day.”

When people said this to me, I just brushed it off. Sorry, I can’t help the way my body looks. I ate normally, I never ever worked out, and I was healthy. Therefore, it absolutely did not matter what other people thought of my body.

It wasn’t until I gained (a healthy amount of) weight that I realized those questions and comments affected my perception of myself.

I love myself… I hate myself

According to BMI calculators (which are not always accurate), at 5’4” weighing 100 pounds, I was listed as “underweight.” In the long run, it’s probably good that I put on some weight. Although I ate normally and was just naturally skinny, being underweight isn’t healthy. It can lead to a variety of issues.

I began to gain weight as I entered my first year of college, mostly due to not eating healthy and not exercising. Before I left for school, I weighed 115 pounds, and I still felt like the same old Julia. Slowly but surely, my jeans no longer fit and I began wearing leggings more often than not. I still felt comfortable and confident with my body, but I knew I was no longer a size zero.

As the years went on, so did the numbers on the scale, and before I knew it I was 125 pounds. This is when I noticed that all those years of people saying “you’re sooo skinny” really affected me.

I was caught in this weird limbo. I wanted to lose weight because I felt big compared to what I was used to and I knew people didn’t see me as the “skinny girl” anymore, but if I started to lose too much weight I was worried I was going to be “too skinny” again. It was a viscous cycle of loving and hating my body.

We all have issues

The weird part is that even when I was 100 pounds, I didn’t like the way I looked. You see, every one carries fat on their bodies differently. Some carry it on their hips, some carry it in their thighs, some carry it everywhere. I always carried it in my midsection, which meant that I always wanted to get rid of it—even when I was already underweight.

My point is that every single person wants to change something about themselves. Even the person you think is absolutely perfect hates something about their body.

That just breaks my heart.

What would you change?

What spurred this train of thought is a video that I watched on Facebook, which is shown below. (Watch it, you won’t regret it.)

The video starts out with the interviewer sitting down with adults and asking one question:

If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?

The video then goes through their answers, which all focus on fixing their “imperfections.”

Next, the interviewer sits down with children and asks them the same question:

If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?

After thinking for a while, the first little girl made a perplexed face and said, “Umm, you know, have a mermaid tail.”

I cried.

As I’ve said before, I’m a very emotional being, but hearing her say that really got to me. She was so innocent. She didn’t care about her hair or her ears or her stomach. She just wanted to swim around like a mermaid.

The other children in the video followed suit, replying with answers like “Probably a shark mouth” and “I could have teleportation in my body.”

They were all so innocent.

Unhappy? Find your truth

We can all hope to be as innocent as those children, but what are the chances of that actually happening? Unfortunately, no matter how much we look in the mirror and tell ourselves we’re beautiful, there will always be something about your body you are unhappy with. The key is to find the truth in your unhappiness.

For example, if you aren’t happy with the way your stomach and sides flow over your jeans, ask yourself why this is happening. Are you eating too much fast food? Do you never exercise? Are you a daily ice cream lover? Or are you still trying to squeeze into your jeans from five years ago?

Instead of picking your body apart, feeling terrible about yourself and starving and overworking your body, address that truth. Limit your fast food consumption. Go for a 30-minute walk every day. Eat ice cream once a week instead of once a day. Buy jeans that flatter your body, not suffocate it (You’ll feel 100x better, I promise).

Sometimes we worry about things that, if changed, will better our health. But other times we worry about things that absolutely do not matter. (Having to buy size 4 jeans instead of size 0 jeans does not mean you’re overweight. It just means your body is changing.)

Whether your body image issues center around your weight or your hair or your nose, you can overcome them. I’m working every day to love my body for what it is, and to change what needs to be changed according to my truths.

You can do it, too.

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