Sara Garcia, 24San Antonio, TX
For most of my life, I have lived with serious feelings of discomfort with my own body. I remember looking in the mirror at eight years old thinking to myself, with tears in my little eyes, “Why am I so fat?” How bizarre is that? Something is extremely wrong with our society if an eight-year-old girl thinks anything negative about her young body. These feelings of disconnectedness and self-hate continued throughout my teenage years and into my early twenties. I was constantly dieting, leafing through women’s sports magazines, and hating my body, and consequently myself because I wasn’t pretty/thin/sexy enough. Never enough.
Finally, after a one-year fling with an eating disorder, I decided that I was no longer going to diet and journeyed to the opposite end of the spectrum. I stopped eating nutrient-rich food, stopped exercising, and became a pack a day smoker because “Fuck their stereotypical ideas of beauty.” For months I continued on this path but something was still not quite right. I felt miserable, had no energy, and, ironically, hated my body even more.
Life is very different for me now. My outlook on my body has changed dramatically; I look at my body as something that needs to be treated with kindness, compassion, and utmost respect. I feed my body nutrient-rich food because I feel like that’s what it wants, I exercise for energy, and I’m currently in the process of quitting smoking. I do these things because I care about my body and not because I’m trying to fit into someone elses’s idea of what “beautiful” is. I don’t give “them” the satisfaction of making me feel like I’m not enough, ever.
Some other habits I’ve picked up that have helped me tremendously are to put away the fitness magazines, stop reading articles about getting rid of arm “jiggle” (like it’s such a bad thing. Really? Come on), toning thighs, etc. Any piece of literature that is going to body shame anyone is not worth reading, I don’t believe in paying my hard-earned dollars simply to feel bad about myself.
To say it is not a battle would be a huge, barefaced lie. Some days, body love comes naturally to me and others, it does not. But on those days where body love is challenging, I make sure to look at my naked self in the mirror and say, “You are perfect.”
The moment I realized how truly powerful and awe-inspiring my body is, the moment that I felt truly connected with myself, was actually not too long ago. Although it may not seem like a grand moment to some, it was very special to me and I will carry the memory with me always. I was on my third day of my smoking cessation program, on the treadmill of all places, when I realized I had been running for 45 minutes straight without having to stop due to chest pains from heavy smoking. I felt elated, proud, and developed a new respect for my body's healing abilities, and in fact, for my body in general. I had been a heavy smoker for eight years and since it was a huge part of my identity, I refused to believe or even acknowledge that my smoking had any effect on my body’s capabilities…I was so fucking wrong.
Body love and self-acceptance will manifest itself in different ways for different people. So just do what you love, ladies, and don’t ever stop loving yourself because you’re perfect.