Do you remember the first time you thought your body wasn’t good enough? In 4th grade, I remember a boy calling me chubby. In 5th grade, I remember sitting out of a pool party with my friends (at my own house) because I didn’t want anyone to see me in a bathing suit. All the kids thought I had gotten my period. I hadn’t, but I would have rather them think that than to be in a bathing suit in front of them. I wasn’t overweight. My mom didn’t tell me I needed to lose weight. Somehow between the boy in 4th grade calling me chubby and comparing myself to other girls on my soccer team, I developed a negative body image.
My body image continued a downward spiral throughout high school and college. In high school, I constantly compared myself to the girls on my sports teams and never felt I looked as good as they did (or performed as well as they did on the field). The comparison and poor body image lead me down a long road of fad diets and an exercise addiction.
After years of exercising for hours a day, trying every new diet that came out, and feeling drained and even more uncomfortable in my own body, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep dieting, constantly thinking about food I wanted but shouldn’t eat, and still feeling miserable about my body at the end of the day. I told myself I was done dieting. I was scared. I didn’t know if I would gain more weight and feel worse but I had to try. The path of dieting and killing myself in the gym for so many years wasn’t a life I wanted to live anymore.
That decision six years ago was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Living a life not worried about what foods I should or shouldn’t eat and not worrying about what others think of my body everywhere I go has given me life! Honestly, I didn’t think there would ever be a day I could eat pizza or ice cream without promising myself to work it off later or a day where I could throw on clothes without wondering what others would think of how my body looked.
If you learned to hate your body, know that it’s not your fault and you aren’t to blame. You aren’t alone. We grew up seeing ads in magazines, new diets on tv commercials, our moms drinking SlimFast shakes, and only certain bodies in movies. The bad news is that we learned to shame our own bodies with the media we were surrounded with. The good news is we have the power to change our own thoughts about our bodies. Our thoughts shape our actions. Our actions shape our lives.
We are more than our bodies. We weren’t born to be eye candy for anyone. We weren’t put on this planet to eat as little as possible and meet society’s standards of what beauty is. By the way, have you noticed how society’s view of beauty is always changing? How silly of us to try to even fit into that made-up beauty mold anyway?! The more we individually realize that, the more we can focus our energy on things in life that bring us happiness.
The next time you look in the mirror and have a negative thought about the body you see, I encourage you to ask yourself if that thought is serving you in a positive way. Is that thought going to make you have a more positive outlook on your body? Is that thought improving the way you see yourself? Is that thought only because of what society has told you about how your body should look? Then remind yourself you don’t have time for that negative thought because you have a day to live and it sure as heck isn’t going to be a great day when you start it off with that negative thought about your body!
You are more than your body. You always have been and always will be. It’s time you start realizing that.
About the Author
Monica Byron is the founder of Positive Looks Good on You, LLC where she helps women stop hating their bodies and start living a positive life. Originally from upstate New York, she settled in Jacksonville with her husband and stepson in 2017. After overcoming years of struggling with her own body image and disordered eating, she knew she had to help other women by sharing her story. She has always been an athlete and fitness lover. When she isn’t working as a paralegal or changing the way women view their bodies, you can find her on the sidelines at her stepson’s soccer games, enjoying a chai latte, lifting weights, or organizing something in her home! Follow her on Instagram @monicarosebyron for positivity, a little bit of stepmom life, some fitness, a little simple fashion (as she likes to call it), and some laughs!