At the youngest age of six children start to become dissatisfied with their body due to social and cultural factors. The constant cycle of weight loss ads, conversations overheard by older authoritative figures about negative conversations about bodies and diet, and parental comments have a lasting effect on kids that are more aware than people think.
I remember the first time I realize that my body had value due to society based on my looks and weight when I was eight years old at summer camp in my swimsuit and was comparing myself to other girls. I didn't feel comfortable and didn't realize this was the start of a lifelong battle of loving my body.
Around puberty, boys self-esteem stays constant while a girl's self-esteem may plummet due to body changes and more outward societal pressures that are apparent. Girls can even start giving fewer opinions, dress differently, and stop participating in certain activities because they feel bad about how they look. I remember wearing baggy clothes and strapping down my chest until maybe high school when I started regaining confidence in myself. I would hear comments from important people in my family that for a man to respect me I had to stay a certain weight or that bigger individual was not as respected. I would even be monitored to the point of how much I ate at times. As much as I knew that wasn't true and did not listen to those remarks they still had a conscious effect on me.
As I got older and was becoming more self-educated on my body and nutrition, I gained confidence. I became interested in eating healthy and working out. I did not let others opinion deter me to become unhealthy. I felt safe in my body. As I was becoming my own, I still noticed other friends were still battling to find theirs. I would often have conversations on being skinny and dangerous diets such as juice cleanses or working out three hours a day. This can be due to the pressure of thinking being skinnier would somehow fix other problems and that although knowing that emphasis on appearance isn't healthy, the behavior isn't going to change. It was disheartening that my friends and I did not feel that although we knew what we were doing was wrong, we felt it was still okay because it was being enforced everywhere we went. That your image is part of your identity.
Then I entered university, and this was my oasis. I struggled with binge eating and moments of being healthy. I would start to lose weight but then gain back the weight and more and constantly hearing the comments about my body from family members. I did not know how to feel about it although I had a great love for the body that I was given. This capsule of life was here to nourish and let me create and support myself and others around me. We treat food as a religion that it should be used as a punishment or a reward when it really is just fuel for our body. And we treat our body more than just a vessel for our soul. If you are able to your body is capable of allowing you to breathe, walk around, see our surroundings, talk to the people we love, create things we care about. We give more importance to objects than our bodies at a time, then what does that say about us and our culture?
I began eating nutritional food to nourish my body and feeling good about myself inside and out. I began going on walks outside to see nature and going to the gym. I fueled my energy with passions that I loved again such as writing, painting, poetry. I took care of my mental health by being prescribed the right medication for me and seeing a therapist regularly and meditating. I realized that at the end of the day my body is going to carry me through this life so I should treat it with a respect that it deserves. It takes time and patience to learn to love your body and that's the important message.