My life changed the day I went to college.
For my entire life, I have never been overweight. Nor have I ever been stick thin. I have always been “average”. Up until college, I did not care about my weight because I was happy with myself. I had a boyfriend, an amazing family, and friends that I had gone to school with for over 12 years. This all changed my freshman year of college when I attended IUPUI.
I was so excited to be attending college and starting a brand new chapter in my life. Not to mention, I got to move away from home and make new friends! I knew college was not going to be easy and I would have to be introduced to new obstacles; little did I know, body image would be one. Like I said before, I have never been overweight and I have always been content with myself. I am 5′ 5″ and going into college, I weighed about 120 lbs. After my first year of college, I came out weighing a mere 94 lbs. This is the account of my first, true experience with body image.
I must say, my first year of college was amazing! I finished out both semesters with a 4.0 GPA which gave me a spot on the Dean’s List, I was a founding sister for the Delta Zeta Pi Omicron chapter, I worked as a floor model at Abercrombie & Fitch, I was a member of two academic fraternities, and a member of a couple other groups on my campus. Looking at all my accomplishments, you’d say I had a very successful year, which I would agree with. Though I had many accomplishments through school and my social life, I was neglecting my physical needs. When I first started college I made a self resolution to start eating healthier and working out as often as possible because I thought to myself, “Hey, why not try to better myself because I am starting a new adventure and I do NOT want to gain that dreaded freshman 15”. Sounded good, right? Well, soon enough, I had cut my calories down from 2,500 a day to 1,500 to 1,000 to finally 500 or less. I was eating only 500 calories a day while also working out in the gym over an hour a day which included running 3 miles and lifting weights. I would walk on campus and avoid the bus, I would go downtown with my boyfriend and play ultimate frisbee for an hour, and we would walk there and back which accounted for another mile. I wasn’t overweight to begin with. Everyday, I would workout and walk/run over 5 miles all while consuming under 800 calories. I did this for over a year and I lost over 20 lbs in two short months. I knew that I wasn’t consuming enough calories because my clothes began to look baggy on me, my hair was becoming thin and brittle, my cheeks caved in my face making me look like a skeleton, and finally, everyone around me began to notice my weight loss. My coworkers and friends commented on my weight by saying, “You’re so thin, you need to eat a cheeseburger or something”. I became the talk of every conversation. After awhile, it got on my nerves. I wanted to tell people to shut up and mind their own business because I was happy with how I looked. I would look at myself in the mirror and smile because I thought I looked good being stick thin. Truly, I never planned on losing as much weight as I had, I just wanted to eat healthier and gain lean muscle. However, I was a poor college kid and had no money for food. I ate off of $5 a day and I only worked 15 hours a week and all that money went to gas. I drove over an hour a day to school (which sucked). All of these things began to add up and I soon reached a weight where I lost my period. I lost it for about 6 months until I started to freak myself out. I started eating more again so that I would regain my period and I soon did. I got it back the next couple months during my time being home for the holidays, but as soon as classes began again, I relapsed back into my old habits. My body was not consuming enough calories that I was burning and I lost the weight I gained back, making me lose my period once again. I would starve myself of anything with fat. I ate nothing but salad, fruit, and cereal or oats. Some nights I would just lie in my bed and think to myself if I was happy. I would look at myself and say I loved my body because I am thin, I have a huge thigh gap, and I workout everyday. I was not truly happy, even though I kept trying to tell myself that I was because I loved the compliments I was given from strangers like “body goals” and “how do you look so good”.
Long story short, the next year I transferred to a school much closer to home and I was done being sickly thin. I started eating more and cutting back on my exercise. I told myself everyday that I was beautiful how I look, regardless of weight. I knew that starving myself would not benefit me in the long run and if I were to continue my eating habits, I could permanently damage my body from malnutrition.
It has now been half a year since I weighed 96 lbs and I can proudly say that I weigh 105 lbs. I know that I am still considered “under-weight” but so much has changed. Although I still workout every single day and continue to eat healthy, I no longer strictly count calories. I allow myself to eat foods that contain fat. I allow myself to eat that slice of cake during birthday parties or holidays. I allow myself to skip that extra mile. I allow myself to be healthy.
I write this because I know other women struggle with self image. A lot of young women ask me about health and how they struggle with loving their bodies because they see other women on social media with “perfect” bodies. Whether its by media or a cute guy you sit next to in class, words hurt. I abhor that saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Words will stick with someone for the rest of their life. Sure physically hitting someone will “hurt” them, but bumps and bruises go away with time. Sometimes at the gym I will make a point to go up to other women and compliment them on their body or workout. Although it’s small, I know it makes a world of difference to others because it would have to me when I was 96 pounds. It still scares me thinking about how physically thin and unhealthy I was. I never wanted to be that thin, but when everything around you keeps telling you that you need to be “perfect”, things will keep building up and soon it will be hard to turn back. I am so blessed and forever grateful for the support of my family and friends and for every silent prayer said for me so that I would become healthy again. I just hope that my story will be able to help another men and women struggling with the same issues as I did. I pray and hope more than anything that no one, boy or girl, has to deal with self confidence issues and body image and that they realize how beautiful they are. God made us in his image. He made us exactly how he wanted us to be and because of that, no one should have issues with self-image. Yeah, there will be times in life when you are unhappy with your appearance and you may want to reach a healthier weight. There is nothing wrong with that! Eat healthy, be active, and persevere. You should always want to look your best and try your hardest to achieve it! Just make sure that you remember WHY you are changing your lifestyle: to please YOU and not anyone else.