#MyBodyStory is a series of reader submitted pieces about what it’s like to live in your body. Because every body has a story, and every story deserves to be heard.

Do you have a #MyBodyStory to share? Send it to Story@DoTheHotpants.com

And now, here is Edyn’s Body Story:

The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory are the writer’s own.

Trigger Warning: Diet and weight loss discussion

My Body Story is different from most. I didn’t grow up being teased about my size or with a negative view of my body. I did, however, grow up incredibly sheltered.

I’m what I like to call “old fat.” I didn’t gain weight later in life, I’ve been fat since I was 6 years old. I remember vividly when I realized I was the F word. I had visited Texas for the summer and my sweet grandparents gave me all of the snacks that my mother didn’t. And I packed on 20 pounds that summer. When I returned to my mom I knew something had changed by the look on her face. I spent the rest of the night with my ear pressed against the wall, hearing whispers of: What happened? She was thin when she left! and What did you feed her?!

To my surprise that was the last I heard of it, and my mother never spoke a word about my weight again. We went back to eating the way we always had, I went back to my normal activities. I stayed fat but it meant nothing! I never saw myself as fat, to be completely honest, and I still don’t…I mean I know I have fat, but I didn’t think of my size that often. But throughout my childhood, I lived a life doing anything I wanted, never thinking I wasn’t capable.

I was even a competitive level cheerleader at 250 pounds, I was a powerhouse tumbler, and had a toe touch to be rivaled.

On top of that, I couldn’t attend a family event without hearing how pretty I was, how great my last performance was, or how smart I was! I never had a problem dating and I felt attractive. Most of my life, being fat had been an average experience. Sure I heard a negative comment now or then from a family member or school kid, but I can barely remember what was said because the positive in my life always outweighed the negative. I was raised by a single mom who spent a great deal of time building my confidence and teaching me to be strong.

That all changed early into adulthood when I didn’t have sports or my support system. The strength I thought I had was really just the ability to suppress. I found my first job in my new city and the dress code required us to tuck in our shirts. I remember almost crying at the thought of my belly showing until they assured me I would have an apron on as well. I still don’t know how I went from baring my midriff as a child, to wanting to cover-up with an apron.

The worst part was that I had no clue how to deal with the pain. The realization of how unprepared for adulthood I was started to set in. I had been spoiled and coddled all my life and was basically the equivalent of an adult baby at age 19. So I did the best I could in a new city with no one to lean on: I pretended like nothing was wrong and kept up the appearance of someone who had it all figured out.

Being young and confused, I relied on what made me feel special in the past: being the center of attention. I got a job at a radio station where I was constantly reassured. Radio was a male-dominated field, so I was back to hearing how cute I was or having someone pinch my cheeks daily. On club nights I was surrounded by attention because everyone wanted to be on the radio and hang out with the VJ. It was validating.

My radio station was eventually absorbed by another company, but by then I had found who I thought was the love of my life, and that filled the void. But in reality, I was just continuing my habit of depending on outside validation to uplift my self esteem.

Everything was “great” until my big breakup with the aforementioned love of my life. While we were dating, if I had a problem with the relationship I would stress eat. My boyfriend lived in a different city and it was hard for us to communicate effectively. It had been three years of us as a unit, and this unit had become my identity. After the breakup, I found myself alone and with little sense of self worth.  So I made it my goal to get back to my high school weight. I thought that somehow if I lost weight, I would get some sense of self again.

I jumped feet first into my new goal and everyone began telling me that I never looked better and I was glowing. But I didn’t feel like I was glowing…I felt sad, sick and empty.

Working out helped me focus on my muscle pain or the choreography instead of my feelings. I would wake up in the morning and workout for 2 hours before work. And then after work I would workout for another 2-3 hours. That’s at least 4 hours of exercise per day! I would be so tired by the time I got home that I would eat, shower, and then sleep, allowing me to continue avoiding my emotions surrounding my breakup and my body image.

Once the weight loss began to slow, I shifted my mind frame from over exercising to dieting. I started saying: I need to burn more calories than I’m eating. Which eventually became: I need to burn twice as much energy as I eat.

I was miserable.

But I also couldn’t stop.

This obsession was keeping my mind full leaving no space to think about anything else. My body would always hurt, and to stay warm, I would take the hottest shower possible then wrap my self in an electric blanket every night. I would go from being warm after exercising then my body temperature would drop and I would shiver so uncontrollably that my teeth would chatter. I was becoming unable to regulate my body temperature. But again, this all seemed okay because I could avoid everything else.

But then one day, I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger. Not only did I not recognize myself, but I also didn’t feel like myself.

But the most important thing I learned that day, was that I finally realized I had been abusing my body to escape my mind and emotions. It was around this time that I was beginning to build a relationship with God, and I had also begun my veganism journey. I was feeling awakened, and I know that becoming more spiritual and truly understanding compassion is what caused the shift in me. Not only compassion for animals as a new vegan, but most importantly, for myself.

So I backed off of the excessive workouts and took a more loving and enjoyable approach to wellness and my body.

The weight I had lost started to come back pretty rapidly but I didn’t care. I was feeling like me again! Capable regardless of my size, and nothing could hold me back.  

And feeling like myself again was truly my goal at the very beginning of my journey. All of the things that were instilled in me at such a young age came flooding back. But the big difference now, is that I know I’m beautiful and badass! I don’t need someone to tell me it.

I still continue to find ways to stay fit, but fitness is now something I use to enhance my life, not hide from it. I have grown in my faith and found purpose, as well as an understanding of how to overcome challenges. I am in control of my life for the first time. I love my body, I love myself, and I love life. I can finally say that I’m a full person, and I’m happier and better than ever!

The more I tell My Body Story, the more I realize it has nothing to do with my physical body, and has everything to do with knowing who you are as a person. If you end up getting lost like I did, remember that the good thing about getting lost is the beauty of being found. Finding yourself is something I hope you all have the courage to do.

With love,

Edyn


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