I want to preface this by saying that I discuss a lot of heavy and personal things about body image and disordered eating in this post. Please be careful with yourself, and please seek out help if you are struggling with your physical health or self-perception.
I hate my body and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t.
As a kid I was always the fat friend, I never felt like I really fit in (literally) with any of my friends because of it. In my head,”skinny” always the best and worst thing someone could be. (The best because everyone likes skinny people, and the worst because I would never be it.) And it was all I could think about.
What if I like a boy and he’s smaller than me? What if I’m never as pretty or popular as the skinny girls? What if I don’t make friends in college because I don’t look good enough? What if I hate how I look in my wedding photos?
((All important things for 13- and 15- and 17- and 22-year-old Jacklyn.))
After my freshman year of college, I started working out. I hated every second of it and I felt like it wasn’t doing a single thing. Every time I went for a run I thought about all of the great things that would happen for me once I was skinny. People will want to hang out with me more, I’ll like the way I look in photos, I’ll be able to wear all the cutest clothes, I’ll never get cheated on because no one cheats on a skinny person.
I remember the first time someone told me I was smaller than I thought I was, it was an employee at Lululemon (of all places). She was about my height, but probably half my size, her blonde hair was in a ponytail and she was wearing bright blue Lulus –– a color, I thought, that I could never pull off.
She asked what size I needed and I was embarrassed, I didn’t want to tell her I was a 12. But I did, and she said,
“Oh no, I think you’re a 4, you’re about my size.”
I looked at her like she was crazy, but agreed to try on a 6 as a compromise. The leggings fit, but I didn’t feel like I always thought I would in size 6 Lululemons. I just felt like a size 12 in a store with a size chart I wasn’t used to.
But then it happened again when I was bra shopping. I asked to be re-sized because none of my bras fit right anymore, but I had always been a 38DD so I didn’t know where to start. The girl measured me and told me I was a 34C. She grabbed some in my size, I put one on and looked in the mirror. She asked to see how it fit, so I opened the door.
“What’s wrong girl? Why do you look so disappointed?”
I didn’t know why I was disappointed. It fit great, and I always joked about wanting a reduction, so I couldn’t be upset that my chest was smaller. But something just didn’t sit right.
In my head, I knew I was smaller (and in better shape) than I had ever been, but I still hated my body. And not only did I hate it, but it didn’t even seem like it was different than before. I felt like all of my work was for nothing, nothing in my eyes had changed.
So I started cutting back how much I was eating, I started counting my calories and I started envying people who could make themselves throw up because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t.
And it started to feel like it was working. But I still couldn’t get rid of my hip dips, my arms were never toned enough, and I never knew how to get an Instagram ass like everyone else.
My body had just as many –– if not more –– imperfections than when I was 40 pounds heavier. My skin still rolls when I lean over and my stomach relaxes when I sleep and my thighs are covered in cellulite and acne scars.
I always thought if I just got down to my goal weight, that’s when everything would be perfect. But every time I hit my goal weight I lowered it again.
And I was hungry.
Hungry for food and self-acceptance and a glimpse at the version of myself that everyone else saw but I never could.
Now I wish I could tell you this story had a single, happy ending, but it just doesn’t. I still struggle with my self-image and my weight and fitness every day (and let me tell you quarantine has really put a damper on my workout regime). But I have learned a few things along the way that I’ll leave you with today.
First is that I may not always love my body, but even on the days that I hate it I’ve learned to appreciate it. When I go for runs, I don’t think about how much people will love me for my size, or how badly I want to stop. I think about how strong my body is, and how lucky I am to have legs strong enough to carry me, and arms to pull me through, and lungs to support me, and a heart that perseveres even when it feels like it might stop.
The other thing I’ve learned is that no matter who you are or who you’re surrounded by, the people around you are watching and they’re learning from you. If you’re a parent, or an older sibling, or even a friend, people hear how you talk to yourself, and that can shape their self-perception in ways you could never imagine. And that’s because you’re important and you’re powerful and your influence extends far beyond your expectations.
So yes, today I’m the smallest I’ve ever been, but “small” was never what I actually wanted to be, what I wanted was to be someone else. Some days are great and some days suck, but even on my worst days I know that my body is just that –– mine. And even when I did everything I could to destroy it, my body has never given up on me, and I owe it the same resilience and dedication in return.