This is one of those blogs I’ve resisted writing for a long time, but sometimes God gives me little nudges to write, and today I decided to listen.
I deleted my TimeHop app today, because I do what I can to avoid looking at photos from 2014. Looking back on the year, it’d be confusing why I’d do such a thing, because from the outside it looked incredibly successful; the throwbacks from my social media accounts and camera roll show daily runs and trips to the gym, multiple internships, a series of modeling jobs, the third year of a relationship, glowing report cards, and clean recipes made by my own hands.
But despite this glimmering facade, 2014 was the year I compromised my own health and happiness in pursuit of perfection.
2014 was a year I became obsessed with my own self-image. That October, my modeling agent invited me to meet with an agent from New York City. Another girl from my agency had been offered a contract, and the NYC agent wanted to meet other girls from the agency to check if he could use any of us in New York.
I was flattered and excited by the invitation to meet with a big city agent, so I put on a tank top, skinny jeans, and heels (as instructed), and drove down to the agency and waited in the lobby. I picked at my nails and fiddled with my hair until I was called into the back room, where I met with the agent. He smiled a charming smile with bleach-white teeth and snapped head shots on his iPhone. He asked me to walk, to 360, and finally, he took measurements.
After measuring around my butt and my hips, he asked me if I was a runner. I told him that I was, and he explained that if I would want to be considered for runway, I would have to stop running, squatting, and using the elliptical so I wouldn’t build my glute and thigh muscles, which were currently too big for sample sizes.
The man told me that I had potential, but would have a better chance if I could go down about 10 pounds. With that, he handed me his business card and assured me I’d receive a call from him soon.
I never did.
That’s when the seed planted: “You’re not good enough.”
This thought process began to spiral into a constant internal war of comparison and pushing my body harder than healthy.
I woke up early every morning to do Pilates, ran to my classes, survived off salads without dressing, and went to the gym until it was dark outside, or I saw at least 800 calories burned off on the elliptical; whichever came first.
Within a few months, my clothes were baggy, my eyes hollow, and ribs visible.
But I couldn’t stop. Or maybe I just didn’t want to. When a couple of my close friends or family members expressed concern over my disappearing body, I blamed my shrinking weight on my ADD medication, “It kills my appetite.”
But it was so much more than that. It was a pattern of obsessing over getting smaller. Smaller. And smaller.
I couldn’t control how giddy I felt when I looked in the mirror and saw a thigh gap for the fist time since middle school, and I felt a rush each time I stepped on the scale and saw the numbers in rapid descent. By the time the spring rolled around, I hadn’t lost 10 pounds, I’d lost almost 30. Take that NYC talent agent.
At least, that’s what I thought.
I knew my mindset wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t want to admit it.
I may have been afraid of eating bread, but I got more “You look great!” comments on my Instagram photos.
I may have felt panic if a single day passed without an intense work out, but more girls asked me about my fitness secrets.
I may have cried after treating myself to a couple scoops of ice cream, but I was getting more modeling jobs, making more money off of my appearance.
I may have almost skipped dorm events out of fear for whether a dress made me look heavier than I had wanted to look, but I had a doctor ask me not to lose anymore weight, and at the time, I interpreted that as the sincerest of compliments.
I may have had a BMI that rested decimals above the danger zone, but I was leaving Express with a pair of size 0 shorts in my bag, and that was what I considered the ultimate achievement.
But one morning, it all changed. I woke up to make some oatmeal before my morning workout, when the dorm coffee kitchen started spinning. I felt nauseous and stumbled into my room, finding my bed and leaning over my mattress before I passed out.
Not too long after, I awoke to a concerned roommate who found it unusual for me, an early bird, to be sleeping past when my alarm would have typically gone off. I told her that I’d passed out, and she quickly advised me to eat something and take it easy, handing me a box of Cheerios. I stuck my fist into the box and started eating, only to appease her, but what I didn’t tell her was that I was terrified of the idea of eating a “processed” cereal and taking a day off of exercising.
It was this very moment that I was able to realize that the way I was living WAS NOT HEALTHY. It began to hit me that the exercise and eating which I had always claimed to be “clean,” and “healthy” was harming my body and my soul so much more than it was helping them.
I lived for the compliments and the comments from others on how “thin” and “skinny” and “toned” I looked, and I realized that I was compromising my own health and happiness to gain this response from others.
It dawned on me that at even my smallest, I had stood in front of the mirror pinching back the skin on my thighs, my arms, and my stomach, thinking how much better I would look if that “excess” could vanish. And that made me feel sicker than the thought of facing my fear of eating ice cream.
So I got help. I talked to a nutritionist at school, and she helped me develop a meal plan to make sure I got the nutrients I needed. I opened up to a friend about my fears of weight gain, and I faced those fears as I started fueling my body again. I leaned on prayers and time spent in scripture to remind me that my worth does not come from my appearance, but from my identity as a child of God. And I started, slowly, to realize that less of me did not make me more valuable.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that a few visits to a nutritionist, a couple chats with some friends, and a handful of prayers cured every insecurity and brought me more confidence than ever before, but I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to heal. It’s possible to take the baby steps.
Baby steps like calling your boyfriend after stepping on the scale and saying, “I weighed myself for the first time in a year. It was more than I thought, but I didn’t cry.”
Baby steps like learning that putting on weight is sometimes in your favor rather than against it (spring 2014, summer 2016).
Baby steps like going up a jean size at your favorite store, and not tearing yourself apart in the dressing room.
Baby steps like seeing an unflattering photo on Facebook and choosing not to untag yourself because of the way your body looks.
Baby steps to treat yourself with the same graciousness, gentleness, kindness, and respect that you would give to your closest and dearest friend.
You are more than a number on the scale. You are more than the size of your jeans. You are more than the number of compliments you receive on your social media feed. You are more than the food you eat or the workout you complete. You are more.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4:7
Ps, this was not a blog I wanted to write, but a blog I felt that I had to write, in the hopes that even just one person will be comforted, encouraged, or positively impacted. Whether this blog is a message of hope to someone who finds themselves fighting a similar battle, or a message of caution to those who might be struggling with body image and see similar warning signs, please know that I am here for you. Feel free to reach out if you need any prayers, encouragement, resources, or accountability.
P.S.S, please keep in mind that the best resource is to speak with a friend, a family member, or a doctor. This is something I wish I would have done a lot sooner, and would highly recommend.