These days, you hear a lot of talk about the "body-positive movement," of people finding the courage to say that they are perfectly comfortable with the way their body is, whether they are thin or heavy. Let's face it, society's standards of what is beautiful or desirable, are incredibly skewed and result in many people losing faith in their own beauty and focusing on all the things that are -- according to the media -- wrong with their bodies. You hear this talked about predominantly in female circles, but don't forget that us guys struggle with body image as well. Trust me, I was one of them.
When I was younger, I was "the fat kid." Okay, to be fair, I wasn't morbidly obese or anything like that, but I definitely wasn't in good standing, health-wise. I was constantly picked on because of my weight, belittled because I wasn't a stellar performer in PE class, and treated like dirt, overall. I felt worthless. I hated myself and my weight, but I felt like there was nothing I could do. Food was a comfort, and my younger self often turned to eating to numb the sadness.
By the time I started high school, bullying wasn't a problem for me anymore, but I still carried the scars. My confidence was low, I was still overweight, and increasingly self-conscious of the way I looked. Despite this, I still had a good circle of friends and was becoming incredibly involved in school. What I lacked in physicality I made up for in my studies. I followed my passion for music by joining marching band, and achieved excellent grades. I always had an interest in the military, so I enrolled in my school's Junior ROTC program. There was some PT involved, but not nearly enough for me to get in any real shape. By my junior year of high school, I weighed between 205 and 210 pounds.
I became serious about wanting to pursue the military after high school, and realized that I needed to do something about my body and my health. I began working out with my close friend from school, Rob, who is in the Army Reserves. Starting that spring, he began training me, and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest things I've done in my life. Every day was some new drill or routine: logging miles on the track, calisthenics, interval training, the works. I began to see results, and once that happened I couldn't stop. By the end of the summer, I had lost 50 pounds, was down to around 150 pounds and was running five miles almost daily. Yet, despite my success in losing all that weight, people said I was getting "too skinny" and I admit, now, they were right. I was obsessed with my body image and went to extremes to lose more weight when I didn't have much more to lose.
It wasn't until college that I started lifting weights regularly, and the PT sessions in Army ROTC definitely challenged me strength-wise, at first, but I kept working at it day after day. Since freshman year I've gained about 30 pounds, almost all of it in muscle, and stand at around 180 pounds. I find myself more comfortable with myself than ever before. My confidence has risen exponentially, and I don't much care anymore how people view my body because I am proud of myself and the road I have traveled to get to this point.
The point I want to make by writing this article is that it doesn't matter how you look because you have it in yourself to love yourself for what you are. Whether you're thick or thin, don't let society tell you you're not good enough. However, I want to add that anyone is capable of changing their lives and taking command of their image. Even the smallest changes to your diet, or simple exercise routines, can have a profound effect and -- let's be honest -- it makes you feel really good. I'll be the first to admit I don't have a perfect, chiseled, rock-hard body and I'm cool with that because I've put in the work to get where I'm at today. That's all I've ever wanted since I was that little boy getting picked on for being chubby.