Sitting at the top of the stairs on a Friday night, tears streaming down my face, my mother sat next to me, her arm around me as I sobbed. I was 14 years old and I'd already told her what happened, though I no longer remember exactly what it was. Something about being made fun of at a party for being fat. She gave my shoulder a squeeze and said, "Would you like to go to a spa camp?"
MY BODY STORY
A few months before my first summer at camp, 14 years old
She then explained that a spa camp (more commonly referred to as weight loss camp) was a place where kids could go to exercise, learn how to eat "healthy", and lose weight. Sounded like a dream to me! I enthusiastically said yes and spent the next six months writing in my journal about how excited I was for the new life that would be waiting for me when I got home from six weeks at Camp Shane. I would be a completely different person; "in both looks and personality."
I spent the summer going into my freshman year of high school exercising for hours a day, eating a limited, predetermined diet over which I had no choice or control, and I lost a lot of weight. I returned home to accolades and compliments, I got a new wardrobe (finally able to shop at Urban Outfitters for the first time!), and I felt amazing. This was just the beginning. I was sure that I'd only get thinner from there.
Over the course of the school year, my body responded to the extreme caloric deprivation it had withstood over the summer by replenishing its reserves, thwarting my attempts at continued weight loss or even maintenance, and I regained half of the weight I had lost. I worked hard to implement what I had learned at camp, but my schoolwork, play rehearsals, and social life got in the way of exercising for hours a day. Plus my body's survival instinct kicked in. Of course, at the time, I assumed it was my fault.
The next summer, I went back to camp. This cycle repeated itself for five summers between the ages of 14 and 22, going to camp as both camper and staff. It was always the same story, except that each time I lost weight, I was convinced I knew what to do - THIS TIME - to keep it off. And each time I gained it back, I felt even more humiliated than ever.
Throughout my 20s, I repeated the weight loss/gain cycle with diets, cleanses, and trips to yoga ashrams. My body was my biggest project in life, and it was torture. I was constantly evaluating it, comparing it to former versions of myself, and frequently in tears over my struggle with it.
When I hit 31, i did some soul searching and realized that I was tired. I realized that I believed I was only lovable and worthy if my body was on the thinner end of the spectrum. I knew that this wasn't true, but I recognized that it was a thought pattern that needed to change. I decided that it was time to stop fighting my body, stop trying to shape it, and just let it be what it was.
The fall after my last summer at camp,
22 years old
I decided to give up dieting.
I couldn't imagine how it would work. Everyone in my life, it seemed, was dieting, talking about what they were and weren't eating, and complaining about their bodies. It was a fundamental aspect of how we related to each other. I knew I needed to find other people who were pursuing the non-diet lifestyle, so I turned to the internet.
There, I discovered The Body Positive and a month later, I found myself at a workshop in Berkeley, CA with the co-founder, Connie Sobczak. Everything changed that day in October of 2014. My Body Positive education had begun.
Over the course of the last several years I've learned about Health at Every Size, the famine response, and Intuitive Eating, and I've been rebuilding a trusting, loving connection with my body. I've been practicing the five Competencies of the Be Body Positive Model and with the support of a therapist, I've incorporated all of these philosophies into my life. I've transformed not only my relationship with my body, but with my whole self. The increase in self-compassion and kindness for myself has had a profound impact on the quality of my life. And believe me; it has all been put to the test.
I have always been a very active yoga practitioner, rollerblader, and dancer and I became a yoga instructor in 2009. Throughout my life, I’ve also struggled with pain in my legs that used to be triggered by certain types of exercise. In 2015, this pain became an everyday occurrence and I’ve spent the last several years learning how to manage it while staying committed to a body positive lifestyle.
My body has changed. I’ve gained weight and lost strength and flexibility. My relationship with movement is more complicated than it used to be. However, I can't begin to express how empowered I feel, having stayed true to myself through this process. I’ve worked through a lot, adapted, and I'm proud to say I’ve learned more about myself and my body over the last 5 years than I did during my first 30. My self-care is better than it's ever been, and I honor, respect, and love myself and my body, even when it's difficult.