In honor of Love Your Body Day on October 19th, my group at Brenau University organized a Love Your Body Week, the week after. We had a lot of fun, but what was the real point of this week? Why is it so important? Well, it was important for me, and hopefully many girls like me.

For the majority of my life, I hated my body. I remember being in the first grade and planning a somewhat extreme diet because I already hated my looks so much. I remember thinking my legs and waist were too big. My hair was too fluffy. My freckles were too...well, freckly. In my mind, I was either too much or not enough of everything. Puberty only exacerbated the problem. During 8th grade, I began starving myself. I only "ate" in front of people, so they would think I was eating enough. I mostly just cut my food up and moved it around, and ate maybe three bites. I spit the rest in a napkin. None of my friends knew about it (minus one, whom I still regret telling my secrets, because they took it to heart and used them), and it drove us apart. I stopped hanging out with them. I isolated myself and avoided any situation that involved food (going out to eat) or showing off any part of my body that couldn't be covered by jeans and hoodie (school dances, pool parties, etc.) I became really ill and started feeling faint in gym class. I even did faint at school once, hidden away in the bathroom stall. I was anxious. I was depressed. I knew the calories in everything I ate, and if I didn't know the calories in something, I didn't eat that. My life was defined by numbers; x amount of calories and y amount of pounds. I thought I was awful to look at, an eyesore that burdened everyone around me. Entering college, I found out I have a chronic illness, and then I began to hate my body for all of the things it couldn't do, for all of the physical pain it caused me.

Only recently did I realize that my health, both physical and mental, are more important than trying to obtain a size 0. I realized that I am a valuable person, regardless of the inches around my waist. Sure, I've gained the proverbial weight that college brings. I also gained weight from developing a thyroid condition linked to my chronic illness. However, I've also gained a healthier understanding of my body, and my life. I love my body because it can do things for me, more than just look pretty. I can run a mile without stopping. I couldn't do that when I was starving myself. I could hardly walk across the room without feeling faint. I can dance. I would have never known that if I had kept hiding in shame. I would've never tried it. Even more importantly, I've learned to love my body with all of it's "imperfections" just as much as all of it's good qualities. I now see my freckles as beautiful, simply because they're mine.

What does this have to do with Love Your Body Week? I hope that we could show even one person that their body deserves to be loved. Whatever loving your body means to you, I encourage you to do it. There is not one body type that you have to be in order to be a good person. If you have big thighs, love them. If you have a tummy, love it. If you have freckles, birthmarks, moles, or vitiligo, or scars; love them. If you're flat chested, love it. If you have a prominent nose, love it. If you're very tall, or very short, love it. If you have some unique characteristic, love it. This is the only body you've got. Embrace your body the way it is, because it's the only one you've got. Maybe you're trying to change your body (gain weight, lose weight, gain muscle, diminish scars), and that's your choice. But please remember to be healthy, because your health is more important than your looks. Your body deserves to be loved, and that love should start with you.