MY BODY IS NOT THE PROBLEM: my mindset is the solution to my own problems.

Imagine a snowball, tumbling through the fresh white snow, growing with each and every turn. With every layer of fluffy cloudlike crystals added to it, the snowball gets bigger and stronger. You try to pick it up, but it gets too heavy to carry and you drop it on the ground. You notice it doesn’t even crack, its layers of protection acting like its shield. This snowball has now established a sense of permanence. This snowball is like your self-image. When you hear people comment on your body image based on society’s standards again and again, it starts to feel like reality. Every comment adds a layer of insecurity, and it starts to permanently reside in your brain. It makes you believe that this is your reality. 

Growing up, I was always considered to be tall compared to my peers; I was always back and center in all of my class photos. But I was petite, some may even call me skinny. I was okay with being skinny since I was told that this is normal in my family line; everyone had a high metabolism growing up and I’d gain more weight with age. 22 years passed by and that saying had not held up its end of the bargain. 

When society sets certain standards of beauty, repeated exposure to them on social media makes us believe that a certain body image is what is considered “beautiful”, and we consciously or subconsciously start to judge other people based on this standard. I stopped growing tall at 5 ft 3 but my weight always remained between 90-95 lbs. I was considered underweight, but I felt healthy. I ate whenever I was hungry. I maintained a healthy lifestyle. I never felt like my weight was compromising my health in any way. Yet, this standard of beauty set by society welcomed comments into my life such as being called “anorexic”. 

This picture was taken in 2019 when I felt most insecure about my body image. I was called skinny several times to the point that it stung. My smile through my pain is not an invitation to people’s opinions.

At a certain point, these comments added layers of insecurity to my own self-image, which grew bigger and bigger with each comment made. And sooner or later, I’d convinced myself that maybe there was a problem with my weight that was beyond my control. I have been doing everything right for my health, but everyone else kept noticing something that I wasn’t noticing myself. As time went by, I felt more and more discontent with my body image, and more self-conscious about how skinny I looked to others. I even consulted a doctor with a fear of something being wrong with my health and was told I had a clean bill of health. The stress from this made my appetite shrink, making me truly concerned for my health. 

Over the years, the comments changed from “are you anorexic” to “you should be grateful you’re that skinny” which made talking about having a negative body image taboo. I was told I was ungrateful for not appreciating the way I looked by half of society, while the other half told me there was something wrong with it. Imagine what it feels like to not feel comfortable in your own skin and not be able to talk about it to others because of a fear of being judged. That was until I told myself enough is enough. This is my life and I need to work on building up my own self-confidence without listening to comments being made by others.

Changing your lifestyle after years of consistent habits is tough. The first thing I had to do was understand my personal goals. I did not want a standard of beauty to affect how I see myself but I had to be realistic with what I wanted for myself, for my self-confidence to grow. So I created a list of goals for myself, with goals based on how I wanted to feel rather than solely how I wanted to look. One of the things I wanted to work on was feeling stronger both mentally and physically. I wanted to have a healthy BMI as I was currently considered underweight, but I wanted to gain that weight in the form of muscle. In order to attain this goal, I had to learn how my body works, and understand what fast metabolism meant for me. 

I tried to do my own research on how to attain a healthy BMI but at this point, my appetite was bad due to stress and my constant working out was working against me. I felt like I was not making any positive progress toward my goals which made it even harder to break out of this cycle of negativity. So, I took the most difficult next step: I reached out for help because I was not sure what measures I needed to take to reach this goal.

A resource I reached out to was Coach Rajan from Level “Upp” Performance. I spoke to him about my goals and went through a program with him that required me to perform strength training 3-4x a week and consume 3000+ calories a day. By working with a personal trainer, I became more aware of what is necessary to become stronger: understanding how macros matter in your diet, what types of exercise work with my personal goals, and the power of consistency. Even though I know society creates an unrealistic standard of beauty, I went on my own fitness journey to restore my self-confidence, purely for myself and for no one else. Even if I continued to look skinny by the end of my journey, I wanted to feel stronger and in turn, happier with myself. 

Whenever I feel unmotivated to work on myself, I remember the girl that was torn down by her surroundings and the words that cut through her like a knife. I remember how I felt at one of my lowest points when I was struggling with body image, and I remind myself of how I felt at my strongest mental health point. To keep myself in check with my goals, I started an Instagram page @alys_goals for accountability of my goals and to track my progress along the way. It is so easy to fall out of a pattern with your goals when other parts of your life take over but reminding yourself of why you started working on yourself is your strongest motivator to keep you going.

These pictures were taken 1 year apart. I’m smiling in both pictures but I can tell you that the picture on the left shows a version of me that was conscious of how I looked because of how skinny I appeared to the public eye in a saree. I am “skinny” in both pictures but the picture on the right shows a more positive version of myself, still progressing towards restoring her self-confidence but feeling more confident in wearing a saree.

It has now been 2 years of consistently working out and maintaining proper calorie intake to sustain my lifestyle. I understand how my body works, what exercises I need to do for my personal goals, and the power of self-confidence that keeps me going every day. I now have a BMI of 19.5 and feel strong in my own skin. I have broken my big snowball and have learned to accept the beauty in the pieces that follow. I was able to reach out to resources I identified would help me best at a time when I was at my all-time low. But that doesn’t mean this is a one size fits all model. You know yourself best, your motivators, your barriers and you know what can work best for you to reach your goals. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of how you look, but what matters is what you think of yourself. You set your own standard of beauty. You have the power to restore your self-confidence. It’s only one step away. 

*Disclaimer: All of the information, opinions, and views provided in this post are based on my personal experiences. Reader’s discretion is advised related to any of the views presented.



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