I have lost 80 lbs, and I hate my body.
Don't get me wrong, I feel much healthier and happier than I was 80 lbs ago. At 270 lbs, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs. Now, I can run up a flight of stairs and not be winded at all. I used to eat 2-3 helpings at each meal, and still somehow make room for a bowl of ice cream, peanut butter, and bananas. I have done every kind of workout from weight lifting, to Zumba, to spin class, to CrossFit. Each workout shaped my body and allowed me to find a new kind of strength in me I had never known. I lost down to 190 lbs, and began the muscle bulking phase. Yet, throughout all of this-my failures, my triumphs, the tears, the laughs-I still cringe when I look in the mirror. I have done everything I am "supposed" to do to look like the men portrayed in every media source in America. I should have the six-pack, the large arms, the bouncing pecs, and the tight yet bubbly glutes. But, do I? No. Sadly, not even close.
As I said, I began my journey when, during my freshmen and sophomore years of high school, I realized something had to change. I was so unhappy with myself, and decided I had to become healthier. I started by stepping on the scale to better understand where I was at. 270 pounds. YIKES. I was wearing XXL shirts and size 40 jeans. That's right, XXL and size 40 as a 15-going-on-16-year old. It was during the summer that I began eating healthier, exercising nearly every day, and tracking my progress. Slowly, but surely, I whittled myself down to 215 pounds by graduation. But, I knew I was nowhere near done. When I got to college, I continued my journey, hoping to avoid the dreaded "Freshman 15". Luckily, I did. That following summer, I lost down to 190 lbs. Yet, I still couldn't bear to see myself in the mirror. "What is wrong with me?" I used to think. But, all I read and heard was, "Keep going! You need to change this/Do this/Don't do this/Try this." Ok, seemed easy enough.
Skip forward to now (my junior year at university), and after working as hard as I could during my sophomore year and the summer, I packed on muscle weight to a svelte 220 lbs. I wear a size Medium shirt and a size 32 jean (Lord granted my ASS allows that size over it!) "Awesome!', I thought. I had finally achieved a strong, healthy frame. But...I STILL cannot bring myself to look at myself in the mirror. Why? Why do I still look this way?
The media shows us that if you lose the weight, a sculpted, Grecian body awaits you in the Land of Health. We are bombarded by "Follow these 6 steps to 6-pack abs", "30 minutes to a perfect butt", and "4 weeks to the perfect arms" nearly every place we turn. Stories of people losing large amounts of weight and flaunting their now-perfect bodies inspire us to work for our own little bit of perfect. It seems so simple, right? But what about those of us who have worked our asses off (quite literally) yet do not get to enjoy such benefits? What about those of us who are told by our fit friends, "It's not about how you look, but about how you feel," as they stand there rocking the six-pack and bulging biceps? What about those of us who have been told (by narrow-minded individuals who have NO concept of where we were) that we are "ugly" or "fat" even after all of our hard work? I am here to tell you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Recently, the world was introduced to such a concept when John David Glaude's remarkable video swept social media. Obese to Beast suddenly became a fitness sensation. I know I personally was drawn to this inspirational man's story. He had endured a journey that led to 160 lbs lost. Yet, he is still uncomfortable with his body. Why? He deals with an issue I deal with: my body does not match my health. Despite the healthy way I eat, the 7 days of activity, and the years I have worked, my body still has flaws. Many times, I get discouraged and think, "Woe is me!" But, the more I work towards my health goals, the more I realize one very important thing: EVERYBODY IS BEAUTIFUL. Let me rephrase that, because it's important: EVERY ONE HAS BEAUTY WITHIN THEM. It's that simple phrase that allows me every day to look in the mirror at my imperfect body, and see the strength I have shown in my journey. I understand that all of my efforts will pay off, I just have to be patient enough to let my body adjust.
Now, as I've said, I have flaws in my body still. And ya know what? I'm going to list them all out to give you an idea of what I deal with daily. Let's start with the top and work our way down, shall we?
1. I still have a bit of a double chin. After 80 lbs, you'd think that would be gone, right? Wrong. Now, sure, looking at me it doesn't seem obvious. But wait until I smile and BAM! I suddenly rock a nice turkey gobbler. Hot, right?
2. My arms STILL have flab on them. Now sure, "lots of people have arm flab!" But guess what? It's still a bothersome outcome. No matter how many curls, dips, rows, pushups, or handstands I do, that little bit o' jiggle ain't going no where. Just redeem your frequent flyer miles here, folks! These wings can get ya there safe and sound!
3. I have larger boobs than half my female friends. Yes, yes, I know, men's chest are large and can probably fill out a decent sized bra. But these bad boys (girls?) are not just muscle. They have, for lack of a better term, some Bo Derek bounce going on. If that lovely layer of lard were gone, you betcha I'd have a sweet GQ-esque chest. But, as it turns out, I don't have that luxury. So, bring on the titty jokes! I can still out-shimmy any of you, guaranteed.
4. Here's the hardest part for me to talk about-my midsection. Though I strive for the rock hard abs, they slip right past me (or are hidden; not quite for sure yet). As of right now, I have some tummy pudge (mostly loose skin) and two wonderful love handles. (WHY they are called those, I'll never know. Who feels any kind of love for those jiggly bastards?) I always tell myself, "If only these were gone, I'd be alright with my body." The truth is, why should the absence of these "problems" lead me to believe I would feel any more handsome than with them? Why do I put such pressure on myself? Sure, they suck, but they are evidence of where I have been and where I have yet to go.
5. Now, this next one is a love/hate relationship that I harbor. My hips and butt. I love them because my mama certainly gifted me with her voluptuous derrière. But (pun intended) I hate it because, well, it's not as shapely as I'd like. When you think of guys' butts, you tend to think of toned yet bubbly. And believe me, that's what I want...well, more bubbly I'd say. What I am rocking, however, is not quite either of those manly qualities. It's a very jiggly, very large rump and hips. In fact, it has been mistaken as a woman's lower half on more occasions than I'd probably care to admit. (I'm still unsure if that's a good thing for me, or a bad thing for women.) Like I said earlier, I wear a size 32 waist...waist. My ass and thighs, however, have nasty habits of stopping the forward progression of my jeans. As much as I look forward to the day that someone secretly SnapChats a pic of my tukhus with the hearty-eyed emoji as the caption, I can still rock a dance like no one's business. Nicki Minaj, eat your heart out.
6. The last area that makes it painfully obvious that I have lost a large amount of weight is probably the most common issue faced by ANY person who loses weight, lifts weight, or gives birth: stretch marks. Now, sure, these are very unsightly "scars" that plague my body, screaming for attention any time I take off my shirt. But guess what? Those screams have turned from wretched, haunting jabs to some of the most beautiful, joyous shouts I have heard. "Wait, what? I thought you said you hated this about your body?" Sure, I used to. Used. To. Now, when I see those pink little marks running along my belly, my back, my shoulders, and my arms, I see scars of beauty. Tattoos of strength. Mother fucking tiger stripes. I have been given numerous tips on how to get rid of stretch marks. But guess what? I don't want to. Those little marks are a daily reminder that at one point I couldn't even look down and see my feet. That my "exercise" consisted of walking to the fridge and curling candy to my mouth. That my life was controlled by my weight. Now, I am in control.
Sure, I am not happy with the way my body looks. I'll be the first to tell you. I wish I could rip off my shirt and grate cheese on my rippling abs. I wish I could crack coconuts with my biceps. But you know what I wouldn't trade for any of that? The numerous times I have been told, "Oh my god! You look so good," by old teachers/friends or people who discover old photos of me. The number of times I have heard that I motivated someone to change their lifestyle and begin to lead a healthier life. You see, we as humans tend to focus on the negatives about ourselves. When you've lost weight, your mind likes to remind you of how much you have left, not how far you've come. You tack on extra skin or stubborn areas of fat, and your mind has a plethora of self-hating ammo to choose from. But what you must do is silence it. Quiet those lies you tell yourself and begin to look at the truths. You've done something a majority of people will never/could never do. You've added years to your life. You've pushed your body past limits you had previously set. You have molded your beauty, and no one can take that from you.
So the next time you look in the mirror and see the sagging skin, the small pouches of fat, the things that bring you to the verge of tears, just remember: you are more than a number on a scale; stronger than you were; and beautiful beyond compare.