I don’t remember much about middle school. Generally, that time is deemed as everyone’s awkward phase. I think we can all agree that we just don’t talk about those years. It happened, it’s over with, it’s fine. However, I do remember the time in eighth grade that my best friend sat down at our lunch table and proclaimed that anyone who weighed more than 200 pounds was ugly and she couldn’t be seen with them. I laughed and agreed with her. I was such a mean girl. I’m a lot nicer now, I promise. 

A few weeks later my mom took me to the doctor for my yearly checkup and when I stepped on the scale it read in big, bold black letters: 204. I looked up to the doctor in a panic and then to my mom. “That can’t be right!” I exclaimed. I played volleyball and basketball, ran the same average mile time as everyone else in gym class – I thought I was healthy. Before that moment, I hadn’t even given my health or my weight much thought. It was what it was. It hadn’t defined me. After all, I was only 13. As soon as I knew I didn’t fit what my peers deemed as beautiful, I panicked. The doctor motioned for me to get off the scale and head back to the patient rooms for the rest of my appointment, so I stepped off the scale and dragged myself to the room. Later that afternoon, I pulled my (now former) BFF aside and told her what happened. We told each other everything. Her response was not nice or supportive. She insisted I start the same diet that she was on to lose a few pounds, but her method of dieting involved a lot of exercise and virtually no food. Occasionally, it would involve pigging out on ice cream or pizza for a night, but the next day it was back on track (accompanied with a lot of shaming). I wouldn’t learn that this method of 'dieting' was problematic until college. 

When I first got to college I chuckled at the thought of the freshman fifteen because my campus was huge. There was so much walking I had to do to get from one place to the next; I knew I’d shed all of my unwanted weight. 

But the walking didn’t outweigh the all-you-can-eat dining halls. So, instead of losing weight, I gained it, fast. By the time my first semester ended I had easily gained the freshman 15 (and then some), so I made it a point to lose weight the healthy way. I began working out a few times a week, I opted for a more balanced meal instead of the ice cream sundae bar, and I made sure to treat myself to my favorite foods about once a week. Sometimes the scale budged, sometimes it didn’t. I quickly realized that being healthy and making healthy choices has almost nothing to do with the number on the scale. 

I’m almost ten years removed from my breakdown at the doctor's office and four years removed from the beginning of my health journey, and at this point, I’ve completely tossed out my scale. Weighing myself daily and even weekly allowed me to slip back into middle school habits and I didn’t want that. 

start loving yourself

When talking about weight loss or getting healthy, you only hear about the exterior. You hear about the new wardrobe a person buys or how they met their current partner at the gym. No one ever talks about the process of acceptance or what it really takes to love your body. Even once you lose the weight, you still feel like “the fat girl,” and sometimes no matter how far you’ve come, it never seems good enough.

That’s why you have to start loving your body right now.

Seriously, right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to class, just got out of the shower or if you’re lounging on the couch. You’ve got to love everything that your body can do — as is — right now. It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s really hard. I still struggle to see my beauty and all that I am daily. But I don’t want to be ruled by food, my jean size or the number on a scale, so I strive for health and happiness instead. 

Truth is, you could reach your goal weight, fit into that outfit by your big event and still be unhappy. Your accomplishments and the goals you are working toward are more important than your weight. I challenge anybody struggling with body issues to look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’re beautiful. Name the things that you love about yourself out loud – shout them if you need to. If you don’t appreciate and love the body you have now, you won’t know how to do it as it changes. Do this every day, smile when you do it, flip your hair, and, eventually you’ll notice a change. And it won’t have a thing to do with your weight.