It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I started hating my body. My clothes became too small, my body started to grow and suddenly, seeing myself in photos after a night out would leave me humiliated.
In the months before I moved away to school I had heard from at least a dozen people that I could expect to gain the “freshman fifteen,” and I started going to the campus fitness center five days a week to try and avoid gaining any weight, but I would never have guessed that I would pick up 25 pounds in a few short months.
At the end of my freshman year, I started dreading summer vacation. All of my hard work at the fitness center alongside a semi-strict diet wasn’t helping me lose any weight, and if anything I was continuing to gain weight after starting my diet.
Thinking forward to the upcoming months I was constantly stressing out over buying shorts and bathing suits that would fit me after going from a size 3/4 to a size 7/8.
My image of myself was distorted so badly that I didn’t even want to wear a bathing suit in public because I was afraid of what other people would think of me.
Throughout the month of May my social media was full of people complaining about seeing “thunder thighs,” “cellulite,” “cottage cheese legs,” “spare tires,” “fat stomachs,” and referring to people as “fat,” “disgusting,” “lard,” “repulsive.”
Aside from these and the “don’t wear a crop top or shorts if you weigh more than 100 lbs”type of posts, there was also the occasional “I usually don’t post these kinds of things but I lost 15 lbs and my summer body is finally here!” post.
I desperately wanted to be happy for the people who were proud of their progress and I also tried not to let the insults from others get to me, but I had gone from being content with my body to hating it in less than a year and I just couldn’t.
I spent the first few weeks of summer afraid, jealous, anxious, ashamed… I didn’t want to wear a bathing suit in public because I was ashamed of my thighs and my stomach. I didn’t want to wear shorts and think about people noticing my cellulite, and I hated the way my thighs turned to mush when I sat down while wearing them.
I would go to the beach and notice the girls with toned and fit bodies walking along the water in their bathing suits with confidence, meanwhile, I was hiding in a beach chair still wearing my shorts and shirt, and feeling like crap. It was obviously not an ideal start to my summer and it was starting to harm my mental health.
At about the middle of June, I came across Katie Willcox’s Instagram account (@katiehwillcox) and was immediately inspired. Katie is the founder of Healthy is the New Skinny (@healthyisthenewskinny), which is geared towards creating a healthy body image for the female gender by challenging beauty “norms.”
Multiple times a day I would see posts teaching women about how the media is manipulated in order to create and praise a particular image, and inspiring women to embrace and love their bodies.
One of the main lessons I learned almost instantly from Katie Willcox and HNS is that having a healthy body is more important than having a body that society & the media would find acceptable by their outrageous and unachievable standards.
By the end of the summer, I was still self-conscious of my thighs and my stomach at times, but I had noticed a positive change in the way I saw myself.
It has been almost two years since I came across Katie Willcox and HNS, and looking back now I can’t believe that there was ever a time where I sincerely hated my body and the way I look.
Now it’s the beginning of summer again and the same type of posts are flooding my news feed, the only difference is that this year I’ve noticed a lot more people being dissatisfied that they haven’t reached their goal of achieving their “summer bodies.”
For me, HNS has made me realize that there should be no such thing as a “summer body,” but instead a “year-round” body. You should be celebrating your health and your body every day, all year!
As most of us know, in order to achieve a “summer body” people will start beating themselves up in the gym and put themselves on extremely strict diets, sometimes where they will eat in extremely small quantities or not eat at all, which we already know can be incredibly unhealthy.
HNS teaches us that putting our bodies through this type of battle can be extremely unhealthy physically, and can even hurt your mental health. One of the most important things that you can take away from HNS is that there are dozens of different body types and whether someone is healthy or not simply cannot be determined by what their body looks like on the outside.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being skinny as there are millions of people who are naturally skinny and completely healthy. But rather than conforming to society’s insane standards HNS wants people (especially women) to realize that making sure that your body is healthy is more important than being a size 0 with accentuated curves and big boobs. There are also millions of people who aren’t naturally skinny who are also completely healthy… just because someone is a little bit bigger does not make them “fat” or “overweight.”
Cherish the body that you’ve got, because it’s the only body you’ll ever be given and that body has to last you your entire lifetime. Exercise and diet if you want to, and don’t if you don’t. But don’t stress yourself out over-manipulating your body to fit the ever changing descriptions of “perfection,” because who gets to decide if you’re perfect or not, anyway? Only you. (If it’s any consolation… I think you are.)