Ever since high school I’ve had a distorted body image. It stems from an innocent incident which ultimately shaped my negative body image for years.
While stretching during Field Hockey practice, one of my “best friends” told me I had cellulite on my thighs. I had no idea what cellulite was… and she showed me how her thighs, when she sat cross legged, were smooth. She told me to sit cross legged, and then pointed out the bumps and dimples all over mine. She said this was cellulite, it was fat on my thighs, and the only way it would go away was exercise and diet.
I was so confused – I played field hockey 5 days a week and danced 6 days a week. I went to the gym during off season for Field Hockey. How could I exercise any more than I already was? And I didn’t eat “bad,” so how could I be fat? From that moment on, I would never think about my body in the same way again.
I hunted my body for cellulite.
I remember studying my legs in the full length mirror in my bedroom. I studied my butt. I then started looking at my stomach and my arms and my hips. I hunted my body for cellulite. I grabbed my inner thighs where they would touch and would pinch them so hard, hoping it would somehow make them smaller, that I would end up with tiny fingerprint bruises. Sure there was some cellulite – and even a few stretch marks – but nothing abnormal on a 14 year old girl. I wasn’t overweight and I wore a size 4-6 in jeans, but I felt fat. I felt disgusting. And when I looked at my body in the mirror, I didn’t see myself. I saw someone else.
I compared myself to everyone I knew. I stared at other girl’s legs every time they sat Indian style and looked for signs of cellulite. I wanted other girls to have it too because if they did, then maybe I was normal. But of course when I would see a girl with it, a girl who didn’t care what her thighs looked like, a girl who wore short shorts and bikini cut bathing suits without any sign of self consciousness, that didn’t change my opinion of myself. I still had fat tree trunk thighs that dimpled and puckered whenever I sat down.
What probably made my distorted body image worse was that my friends suffered just the same.
Misery loves company right? I remember sitting around the lunch table with my best girlfriends discussing how fat we were. We talked about diet pills. We talked about laxatives. We talked about ways to not eat. Some even talked about ways to get rid of what we already ate.
Things worsened in college. I actually developed what was most likely an eating disorder, but I was never diagnosed by a professional. I would count calories, exercise obsessively, and weigh myself multiple times a day. I never got as skinny as I wanted – my clothes didn’t become bigger like I hoped – but the numbers on the scale went down. So I was pleased with myself and with what I was doing. In college, I discovered the obsession with a “thigh gap” and boy did that drive me crazy.
My distorted body image issues continued for years… until I gained 27lbs during pregnancy.
In the beginning of my pregnancy, I felt fat all the time. My clothes felt tight and as the numbers on the scale went up too quickly in the beginning. I became worried that I was going to be miserable my entire pregnancy. Then one day I looked down and saw my belly move. I saw that there was actually someone inside me – someone who needed me to be healthy – and I stopped caring about the numbers on the scale. I embraced the weight gain and the changes that happened to my body. Granted my knees hurt, and it was hard to breathe, and my boobs were ginormous and swollen, I LOVED how my body looked.
After I delivered Annabelle, my baby weight came off quickly. Between breastfeeding and eating dairy free, I was below my pre-pregnancy weight in less than six months. For the first time in my life, I thought I looked too skinny. I still think I look too skinny, but the doctor says I am healthy. I still have cellulite on my thighs, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.
For me, cellulite is just a symbol of my womanhood. It’s a sign that I am a normal woman. The stretch marks on my thighs that I used to wish away? They are no longer my obsession. I’ve been blessed with an amazing daughter and someday I will tell her my story. I don’t want her to spend the many years I did looking in a mirror only to see someone else looking back.