“Hello, darling ones! I prefer to act like we’re already friends.. .and that’s typically how I address my friends when I’m messaging them! I am so excited to share my message on this beautiful platform, so I won’t keep you waiting! My name is Emilee, and I have struggled with loving my body since I was 8 years old—nearly 20 YEARS!
I remember the first moments I started to be more aware of my body. I started comparing the size of my stomach to other girls. I would see how my thighs stood up to theirs and started worrying about how others perceived me. Then, one dreadful day, my insecurities and unease about myself came crashing down on my 8-year-old self-confidence. I went swimming with a bunch of my friends and someone called out the game I have hated to this day: ‘Chicken fights!’ The girls each took turns sitting on the boys’ shoulders and tried knocking the other teams into the water… I was a panicked MESS. Even now, my heart starts to race and my soul fills with absolute anguish for the poor blonde girl whose confidence was sinking with every step closer to her turn.
Then, it came. I. Was. Terrified. I sat on the boy’s shoulders and as he stood up, he struggled. I fell off. And the first thing he said to me when my head resurfaced was, ‘You’re heavy!’ I wished I could have just drowned in that moment. Since then, my relationship with my body has never been the same. On top of a new struggle with appreciating my body, I had also started struggling with food addiction/obsession, which led to binge-eating. Growing up from this point on, I was always placing my value on my weight and how I looked. Especially because I felt like I was getting constant reminders of how ‘unworthy’ I was. I remember being told, ‘Boys only like tiny girls,’ meaning boys would never like me.
I remember being the only cheerleader on the squad who was over 120 pounds. In fact, I was about 150. I remember hearing other cheerleaders lamenting and crying over weighing more than 100 pounds, and I remember thinking, ‘Uh… I hit that like, 5 years ago.’ I remember analyzing my body in EVERY reflective surface. No joke! A dark window? I checked. The glass you break in front of a fire extinguisher box? I checked. Even checking out my shadow? Yep. And I didn’t get better in college. I gained the Freshman 15 and then lost it with exercise. And then I gained some more, and then I lost some. I was convinced no man would ever want me, so I didn’t even bother approaching guys because I was convinced they would just turn me away. I compared and I struggled, struggled, and compared.
Miraculously, I found a man who loved me even though I wasn’t ‘tiny.’ It made me nervous that someday he would ‘realize what he’d done’ and then leave me for someone ‘better.’ As time went on, I felt a lot more secure in our marriage. We had two beautiful children and we were living a great life! But those things didn’t stop the struggle with my body image and with binge-eating. In the summer of 2019, I did a triathlon (sprint). I got in the best shape of my life and I looked good! I mean, looking back, I looked good. At the time? I still didn’t feel like I was enough. So you know what I did? I self-sabotaged and stopped exercising and started eating terribly. I gained so much weight. It was the most I had ever weighed outside of being pregnant.
Then one day, I was scrolling through my past pictures, and I came across the summer when I was in the best shape of my life, and I was SHOCKED. I look so good! So, why did I hate myself at the time? It’s then when I had the biggest realization of my entire life: IF I DON’T LOVE MYSELF AS I AM, RIGHT NOW, I NEVER WILL. I mean, if I got into the best physical shape of my life and I STILL wasn’t enough for myself, then the problem had NOTHING to do with my outer appearance, but with my inner perception of myself. So what did I do? First, I went to the nearest mirror and lifted up my shirt, and looked at my body. My first thought was to be disgusted and cruel to myself.
Then, I looked in the eyes of the girl in the mirror. I started to cry. Rather than give myself hate, all I said was, ‘I’m so sorry I haven’t been kind to you. I’m so sorry I have treated you less than you deserve. I promise… I am going to do better.’ I needed to find a solution to my food addiction/obsession. I remember, after a difficult day of eating and hating myself, I burst into tears and yelled, ‘This CAN’T be how the rest of my life is going to be!’ I started looking for answers, and I started paying attention to things that talked about intuitive eating and listening to your body. No diets. No counting calories. Just listening to and obeying my body’s signals, and let me tell you… it has made a WORLD of a difference.
To be honest, I have always struggled with diet culture, and I never understood why until recently. It’s because, to me, diet culture says, ‘I’m not good enough the way I am.’ Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being as healthy as I can be. Physical health is one of my biggest passions! But not to the detriment of my mental and emotional health. I have done the whole dieting thing. I’ve eliminated foods, counted calories, tried Keto, the works… and because I couldn’t be ‘perfect’ at it, I was constantly shrouded by shame, sadness, low self-esteem, feeling like I was a failure, and every other negative emotion.
Learning to love myself as I am and listening to my body has given me a new sense of freedom. I’m NOT constantly worried about what I’m eating. I’m not obsessed with food. I actually forget when I have chocolate in the house (sometimes). I’ve learned to just live my LIFE! You see, at the end of my days, when everyone is at my funeral and they’re all talking about me, they’re not going to be talking about how much I weighed or how in shape I was. They’re going to be telling stories of our time together and, hopefully, how I brought joy into their lives. From another perspective, my children are not going to grow up wishing I had a flatter stomach or a more toned body. They’re going to be cherishing the memories of cuddling with their mom or making cookies on a rainy day.
In short, I’ve learned my life’s purpose is not to lose weight, it’s to live my life’s purpose. And yes, this includes taking care of my body in a loving way. And today? I have the best relationship with myself than I ever have. I learned to not be my own toxic relationship. I’ve learned to talk kindly to myself and to see myself as someone more than what she looks like. Do I have days where I struggle? Absolutely! But I don’t strive for perfection anymore. I strive for PROGRESSION. Every day, I still lift up my shirt and look in the mirror (because it’s a habit I’ve been trying to overcome for over 10 years) but now, I try to push away the negative thoughts and speak to my body as if it’s my friend.
Do I have a six-pack now? Not at all, my friend. I’ve got lumps, sags, stretch marks, and rolls… but learning to love myself, AS I AM RIGHT NOW, has made all the difference for me. Aas I said before, if I don’t love myself as I am right now, I never will. I could have six-pack abs and find something wrong with my nose. I could have beautiful legs and still hate something about my freckles. Self-love is really just self-acceptance and seeing yourself as being worthy as you are right now. My dear, darling friend, if you are struggling with loving your body, you are so not alone. It is a rough thing to go through and it can affect everything about yourself, from being afraid to talk to new people to avoiding outings with friends because you feel so uncomfortable.
You are worthy, as you are, right now. It’s up to you as to whether you believe this or not. If you are struggling with loving your own body, try practicing a few of these things:
Body Neutrality/Gratitude: Sometimes, it’s hard to just straight-up love yourself! So, if you can’t love yourself, be neutral about yourself. For example, if it’s hard to say, ‘I love my arms,’ say a neutral statement like, ‘I have arms.’ Then think of ways to be grateful for your arms. What do they do for you? How do they allow you to live, to embrace, to work, to play, etc.?
Positive Self-Talk: This doesn’t have to even be about your body! Because you know what? You ARE so much more than your body! You have a beautiful soul, a wonderful mind, and an incredible heart. So, start talking to yourself as you would a friend. Let’s be honest, you would NEVER talk to a friend how you talk to yourself.
Clean Up Your Social Media Feed: You probably weren’t expecting this, right? I truly believe we create our existence, and if every time I jump on social media I see body-shaming, ‘amazing transformations,’ or anything to invoke a negative emotion in myself, how is it going to reflect in my real life? For me, it resulted in low self-esteem, terrible self-talk, and feeling like I wasn’t enough. Put things in front of you which bring you joy, goodness, and light.
Get rid of the clothes you don’t fit into anymore. Oh goodness, I HAD to do this. I kept those jeans around I wanted to fit back into. They were my ‘motivation.’ But in all actuality, they were just something that brought me despair every time I looked at them. So I donated them and got myself pants that FIT, and look and feel great! There is much more I can say on this topic, but the last thing I will say is this: look around. I’ll bet you will find more bodies that look like YOU rather than a supermodel.
It’s time to normalize normal bodies: the cellulite, the acne, the stretch marks, the spider veins, the rolls, the ‘pooch,’ the wrinkles. It’s ALL beautiful! It’s all UNIQUE! It’s what makes us individual and different! I wish I could have told myself this YEARS ago. But you know what I can do now? Tell my daughter and let her know she is capable, beautiful, worthy, and her purpose in life has little to do with what she looks like and EVERYTHING with who she chooses to be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emilee Stansfield of Provo, Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Download her guide to intuitive eating here. Listen to Emilee’s podcast, ‘Intuitive Worth,’ out in January. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more about body positivity:
‘I was attracted to you before you put on weight.’ It broke me. Now he’s dating a woman half my size and 15 years his junior.’: Woman works to be body positive after being fat-shamed, urges ‘You matter and you are enough’
‘My mom would say I was ‘ballooning.’ I was in 4th grade. She’d implement some new weird food rule for my ‘health.’: Woman is ‘blown away’ by body positive community, ‘I learned to love myself, heal my relationship with my body and soul’
‘Curvy women welcome, but ONLY if the curves are in the bust or butt.’ I would wear t-shirts over bathing suits out of fear someone would see my stomach and die of disgust on the spot.’: Mother advocates for body positivity, ‘You are perfectly imperfect’
Give other women strength and courage to love themselves. SHARE this story on Facebook.