I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a school night, but I was spinning like a top, overjoyed about my weekend plans. I was organizing my first slumber party, and I wanted to invite a new friend. I skipped into my parents' bedroom in my nightshirt to ask if I could add to the guest list. I stood at the foot of their bed when my dad interrupted me, "Are you getting a little chunky there?" He pointed to my stomach. I looked down sheepishly and said, "No, I am just standing funny." I wondered what he meant. I was only eight years old.
I would like to say that this comment went unnoticed, but it planted an insecurity seed deep in my gut. I started to question my size. I began to compare myself to my friends. I felt different. I doubted my beauty. I was consistently insecure about my weight.
I grew up in Florida, the land of the living Barbie doll, beaches and barbecues. Bathing suits were our uniform. But I wore t-shirts in the water at the beach. The mall was our hangout, but I hated trying on clothing. Physical education class was our outlet, but I despised it. It was normal for the teachers to post our weekly weight for the class to see.
In middle school, I made the cheerleading squad, but the uniform dimmed my happiness. My mom wasn't happy with how the uniform fit me, so even in the 80-degree Florida heat I'd wear a sweatshirt.
I grew up ashamed of my body, but I never discussed it. My reaction was to hide, wear layers and judge myself harshly.
My confidence started to change in college. I was physically active and worked out regularly. My focus was less external and more internal. I filled up on classes that challenged my mind, friends that supported me and a life that felt balanced. My body seemed to respond in kind. I even dated a man who constantly told me how beautiful my body was -- not because I asked for that reassurance, but I truly believe it was a reflection of my new internal confidence.
After college I went through a tumultuous time. I grappled with the next step in life. My career choice felt like an enigma, a distant goal I just couldn't seem to reach. My once balanced footing seemed unsteady, and my body responded to my internal instability. I started gaining weight with little to no change in my diet or activity level. Once again, I was back to looking at a reflection that I wished wasn't my own. How did this happen again?
Five years, and what felt like nine lives later, I regained my footing. I took what I learned about my own struggle and turned it into a career. I had a better understanding of what my body needed physically, but I was still missing the emotional understanding. I had found a profession I loved but was massively insecure about. I worried about being a holistic nutritionist and not having the "perfect body." I was offered a media opportunity and I worried that people would disregard me because I wasn't a size 2. I was holding myself back because I felt I wasn't "perfect" enough to educate others about their own bodies.
My insecurities reached their peak when I dated "Mr. Six Pack," a trainer who was obsessed with his own reflection. He participated in Iron Man competitions and modeled for fitness magazines. I wondered why he chose to date me? Did he think he could change my body? Force me into some Iron Woman triathlon? The irony is, he was perfectly happy with my body, but I wasn't. Relationships are like mirrors, and this one forced me to officially work on my own inner dialogue. I spent the next several years doing energy work, emotional digging and finding inner peace.
I realized these "flaws" I carried were not defects, they are part of our signature: what makes us human, relatable and unique. It's how we display these distinct markers that make us beautiful. I finally understood that struggling to reach perfection was endless, and I was much happier striving for peace.
The final piece of this journey came with my newfound yoga practice. I started with little ability to do a single pose, but in learning to trust my body, I connected to myself in a new way. The poses came not because of my new physical strength, but because of new emotional muscles. I finally felt grounded. I lost weight, but not because I was trying. I was self-aware and resilient in a new way.
Recently someone I care about said to me, "Maybe it would be good for you to mix up your routine and work out with a trainer?" For a moment, an old tape resurfaced and I thought, does he think I am fat? But miraculously, an inner calm surfaced, and I realized I didn't really care. I am finally free.