Ione Stevens obtained her bachelor's degree in English in 2016. She is now a library assistant for Stratford University.
As women, we are way too hard on ourselves sometimes. Yes, I believe that it is important to take care of our body, but it can be a challenge to mentally accept our bodies as they are. Our society constantly paints a picture of the "perfect" woman and how she should look to be attractive and acceptable. Be it on social media, in movies, through music, or in general observations by others, women will always be judged by their outward appearance.
Ultimately, why should we even care? We really shouldn't, because that negativity can only tear you down if you allow it to! Women tend to forget that there is a magical word in the phrase, "my body image".
The keyword is my.
That's right! It is your body image and it is only your responsibility to care for it as you please!
My feelings about my body goes all the way back to high school. By sharing my experiences, I hope to prove that self-love is more important than stressing over your idea of the perfect body.
The Teenage Years
Being a teenage girl is rough. I'm not dismissing the male population, but I can only speak for myself. For me, my struggle with my weight began in my freshman year. I had returned from a summer spent in El Paso, Texas with family. Before my first day of school, I bought new clothes and I was gloriously tan. So I was ready to start new!
Right away, I started comparing myself to other girls. The majority of them, in my class, were (in my opinion) perfect. They were thin and tan. They had on designer clothes and handbags. They wore the best makeup products. Their hair was flawless too! The list goes on and on and ON!
No matter what I wore or how I did my hair/makeup, I couldn't seem to be on their level of perfection. I started to pinpoint the flaws on my body. I was too curvy; my hips stuck out and my arms were too fat. Then I noticed my stomach and how flabby it was. So I began wearing tight clothes that forced me to suck in. If I needed a break to breathe, I'd put on a jacket to disguise my love-handles and my lower gut.
I kept this up throughout high school, but the distaste for my weight only grew. In my junior year, I was skipping breakfast. This caused my stomach to make uncontrollable whale noises in my Environmental Science class. I always covered it with a fake cough or pretended my phone vibrated. I would eat very little at lunch and even less for dinner. My family would continuously say that I ate like a bird because I could never finish my meal. I had managed to train my body into eating less and it felt good for a while.
As my senior year approached, I felt positive about the changes I made and how my body got used to not eating much. I was losing a little weight here and there, but nothing drastic or highly noticeable. On my graduation day, I walked the stage, received my Academic Diploma, and looked out into the crowd. As I exited the stage to get back to my seat, it dawned on me that I STILL didn't know the majority of the people in my graduating class. I only knew the he said, she said stuff. I only knew a handful of people outside of school. To be completely honest, I sat there waiting to throw my cap in the air and wondered, "Why did I even care?"
Some of the people I knew well, I didn't even like that much. The majority of the people I wanted to fit in with didn't really show interest in me. So I, basically, starved myself and tried to change for the approval of others. All that time I could have stayed healthy and embraced what the good Lord gave me. It's not a blame game; I blame no one but myself.
The Early 20s
Upon realizing that my health and self-love was meant for ME, I left my graduation with an entirely new perspective on body image. For the first two years, I spent time off from school. My best friend and I were inseparable. I found it easier to be myself, to love my body, and to take care of it. The fact that there was no one around to compare my body to made it 10 times easier to be happy. I learned that surrounding myself with people who loved me for my personality were the ones I needed most.
My self-love gave me the courage to try new things. I cut all ties with my high school boyfriend, tried dating, went to parties, traveled with my best friend, etc. All this time, I found that I loved to LIVE instead of constantly worrying about how I looked. Don't get me wrong, I didn't let myself go! I started going to the gym 3 days a week and eating healthier meals. The reason for this life change wasn't because others thought I should or that everyone else was doing it.
I did it for me and because I wanted to.
After a few years, I met my other half. We fell in love almost immediately. Throughout our time dating, he was very attentive and treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. He soon became my boyfriend and our relationship continued to grow stronger. My weight during this time was up and down, but I never once criticized myself for it. He loved my body the way it was and never indicated that it required some changes.
The Weight of Pregnancy
After only four months together, we found out that I was pregnant. It was exciting news for us and we shortly moved into our first home. Throughout my pregnancy I never appeared to have gained a lot weight. In fact, you couldn't even tell I was pregnant from my backside! The first trimester was a nightmare because of all the morning sickness. But the second trimester came too soon and my appetite was back! I was eating everything! There was just not enough food in the world to satisfy all my cravings. Our little bundle of joy was turning me into a pig, but I didn't mind. My fiance (at the time) thought it was cute and found it hilarious how quick I could inhale a bag of chips.
I never really worried about my weight until after giving birth to my son. Thirty-one hours later, he popped out 6 lbs, 9 oz. and 21 inches long. The relief I felt was amazing, but the recovery of childbirth was no joke. I was sore for about 6 weeks, experienced postpartum depression, and couldn't seem to get rid of the cravings. I was an emotional wreck with the inability to stop eating! Everything on my body went south; boobs, belly, arms, you name it! It was infuriating to witness such a drastic change on my body and I hated it.
Naturally, I began going to the gym again. I started eating right, drinking protein smoothies, and minimizing the junk I would daydream about. All this would last for a month, but then I'd slip. I'd fall so far behind that I could vaguely hear our bathroom scale laugh at me every time I stood on it.
My (then) fiance never once told me I needed to get healthy again. He's always loved my body, despite the changes after childbirth. He knew I was struggling internally and beating myself up for not being...thin. It would take me hours to get dressed to go out because nothing would fit right. We'd make plans two weeks in advance, but then back out at the last minute. All because I'd end up crying, half-naked on the bed, and furious at myself for being fat. My emotions were just all over the place.
The Way I Feel Now
To be perfectly honest, I don't think we ever stop criticizing our weight. Right now, I'm the heaviest I've ever been. Not many people would be willing to admit that about themselves, but I'm not one to hide anything. I have days where I love my body. I have days where I wish I didn't have to go out into the public. But overall, I am thankful for the people I have in my life, especially my husband. He has been by my side since day one and he continues to love me, even on the days where I don't love myself.
Our bodies deserve to be treated with love, respect, and care. I believe once we start doing this on a daily basis, we start to see a positive change. It doesn't matter what other people look like compared to you. What matters is how you see yourself. We all have this awesome ability to change WHENEVER we want to! The only person who can keep you from being happy in your skin is YOU. It's a struggle, I know this because sometimes I still do. But it's important to know that your body image doesn't define who you are. Learn to make yourself happy and watch what happens!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 IoneLynne
IoneLynne (author) from Virginia on November 28, 2017:
Thank you so much! Many women struggle with their weight after giving birth. It's a hard challenge to take on and no matter how difficult it may be, we have to accept our bodies and love them before we can even begin to make changes. I learned this the hard way and I just hope other women understand this too.
Maggie Stevens on November 26, 2017:
You have a great deal of courage to write about yourself the way you have. Most young women wouldn't open up and share their story and talke about struggling with weight. I'm so very proud of you, Ione.