I used to hate my body.
Not because I wasn’t thin or pretty or whatever, but because of my muscles. I grew up with an older brother, and I always wanted to be like him. I was athletic and a tomboy and I loved kicking all the boys asses in P.E. everyday. But then I went to High school and the cute boys liked dainty girls with twiggy legs and no thirst for competition. Boys didn’t like being beat by a girl, and I just wanted them to like me.
My muscles which were once my pride became my enemy. I retired from a lifelong career of soccer, just so my legs muscles would wane away . Just to look “pretty.” Just to look “feminine.”
My first year of college heightened my anxiety to an indescribable place. It is all a blur of restriction and obsession, and led me to become 20 pounds lighter. Although I didn’t really choose to lose that weight, I had become the teeny little stick that so many praise as the ideal feminine body type. All the muscles I worked so hard to gain throughout my life, simply disappeared. and I liked it. It seemed as though overnight I became a model – someone people aspired to look like… but in reality I was extremely unhealthy. I had no appetite and what I could force myself to eat left me feeling extremely nauseous.
I felt really shitty and weak and tired all the time and truthfully I didn’t even know I had lost all that weight until I had come home for summer after my freshman year. Once it became clear to me, through comments from my friends and family, and even my doctor, I knew I had to change to help myself. I felt sick all the time and although I enjoyed being skinny, I knew it was right to be healthy. Everyone I cared about was worried and shared their worry and would help me/motivate me to gain weight. Smoking weed actually helped me a lot – to gain an appetite and to subside nausea, so not only would my brother suggest we smoke a bowl before dinner, but my parents became completely open to my usage of weed as a medication.
Although it was hard to gain weight, I knew it was right for my body and health, and so I worked everyday towards gaining weight. Luckily, my experience with losing so much weight revolved around my anxiety and not an eating disorder, so making efforts to change and heal were a lot easier than they could’ve been.
No one talks about gaining weight and how hard it can be – its almost taboo. Why would anyone want to gain weight in this society? and how could it really be all that hard? – well, it is. Not only does your stomach reject food and have no appetite, it’s hard mentally- you have to watch your body grow.
Gaining weight threw me back into a place of self-loathing. My overnight modeling career began to fade, and I had to watch every part of my body grow plumper. I didn’t know how to deal with everything. On one hand I was becoming healthier, but on the other I was losing my “ideal body”. This contradiction rattled in my head constantly.
It took me a year to find comfort in my new body. Through many tears and a constant cycle of binging and restricting until I found my vice. What I lost so many years ago to become an ideal, would now lead me to be a new ideal, my ideal.
A few months ago I got a membership at a yoga studio to motivate me to go more often (which it did). I began to go multiple times a week, not really in search of losing weight or getting toned, but because it felt good. I wanted to treat my body right, and give it love, not necessarily change it, but soon I saw myself toning out and strengthening the muscles I had once lost. What was once my biggest insecurity, became my pride again. Becoming stronger let me to become better at yoga and yoga is so goddamn beautiful.
I now go to yoga four to five times a week – again, not in search of changing my body but as a practice of self-love, because my body deserves to be strengthen, and stretched, and detoxed. Doing yoga makes me feel beautiful. It makes me feel good on the inside and out. It has taught me patience, in my practice, with my body, and in life. It reminds me that strong is beautiful, even in a world which deems is to be “masculine.”
My arms are now stronger than they have ever been, and I have met muscles in my body I didn’t know existed. My body may not be seen as “feminine” to some, but it is feminine and beautiful to me. Strength is not gendered. Strength is not only external. Strength comes from openness, commitment, and patience. And this experience with my body has made me strong in so many ways.