My Struggle With Body Image and How My Ten Year Old Self Helped Me

IMG_3144Welcome back. You belong here.

I remember being a size 33 pants back in 2008, I had never been that size, even in high school I was a size 34. Man, that was only 8 years ago, I can do it again – No! In fact, that’s been my problem for the last few years.

I’ve never been thin or have an athletic build, my body type is (like for many Latinos) more round, cuddly and soft (must be all that pan dulce!) and I used to not care until recently.

In my mid to late 30’s, I began to get into shape and it was the best and worst decision of my life because it’s haunted me ever since.

I used to work out 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day and my results were amazing.

My eating was super strict, tuna, protein, low carbs, no fats and I began to lose a ton of weight and gain lean muscle, I even thought of entering natural body building competitions, my body was awesome and I loved it.

But then we moved to Colorado and working out became secondary to me, I still ran and lifted, but not the way I used to. Turning 40 definitely slowed me down, my knee began to hurt and things really changed.

Then over the last 5 years, I gained 10-15lbs that I’ve struggled to lose. I still exercise 5-6x/week, 20 minutes a day and my eating is pretty good.

But that’s not my problem.

The problem is not accepting my body for what it is and feeling horrible about it every day for the past 5 years.

It’s something that often makes me feel insecure, ugly, unattractive and unmotivated. It’s affected my sense of self-worth, my physical strength and at times my mental health.

For example, the other day, Rachelle bought me a pair of size 38 pants and a size L shirt, even some XL and I cringed. I felt horrible about myself, like a failure.

But wearing those size 38 pants (they are lose though I tell myself!), has been the best thing that’s happened to me.

Not because I’m throwing in the towel or giving up, I will always be into fitness and health, but because it was a moment of acceptance and self-care. It was as if to say, it doesn’t matter what the scale or my pants size says, I’m still me.

The other thing that helped was a silly picture of my ten year old self.

It’s a picture of my cousins and I standing around my grandmother who raised me and guess who was the chubbiest kid of all? Yeap, the kid with the green hat standing behind my abuelita. 

As my mom tells me all the time (in a nice way) – you’ve always been a chubby kid.

So why this obsession with weight and body image?

I’m not sure, perhaps it’s my way to try to stay young and attractive, maybe it’s a way to drown out other concerns (financial, education, vocational), maybe it’s my way to re-live the glory years of 2008.

But it hasn’t helped, in fact, it’s made things worst for me.

But looking at my ten year old self, smiling, loving life, without a care in the world reminded me of my true worth. And most of all, my cousins didn’t care that I was the chubby kid in the back, in fact, to this day, we remain the best cousins ever, no matter how big or small we are.

So I’m beginning to accept myself once again in a good way, not as big or small, in perfect shape or not, but as a happy kid who loves life, people and God.

Because the problem is not what size dress or pants we fit into (and yes I am an advocate for movement and nutrition), but what really matters is to be a person of joy, peace, love and grace.

The rest are details.

Accept yourself, smile often, take out old pictures not to hate on yourself, but to laugh at that goofy green hat and those wonderful happy days and live again. Oh, and don’t forget to go for a quick 20 minute run or power walk while saying no to pan dulce.

I hope this helps you as much as it’s helped me. Don’t lose heart, love your body, God loves you and accepts you as you are. And if anyone hates on you, ignore them, most people are on your team, cheering you on. I know I am.

Your #GOZO! friend,

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