I think a small part of me will always want to have my high school body… don’t we all wish that. But how far was I willing to go to try and get it back? I used to freak out if I gained a pound. I was eating only eggs, chicken, vegetables, fruits, and all with no seasoning. I didn’t let myself have sweets and if I did, I’d skip the next meal. The version of me now… I’m fuller in a nice way. I look healthy and I let  myself have that piece of cake or scoop of ice cream. I get down somedays but all I knows is that I wants to keep away from being the version of myself who says “screw it” and let’s it all go.

LOSING WEIGHT SUCKS AND GAINING IT IS SO FUN. Why is that?! Something feels unfair here. Losing weight is a journey, man. I feel exhausted just thinking about it. It’s extremely difficult to wake up and make yourself go to the gym, it’s difficult to be consistent, it’s difficult to not get angry and want to quit when you don’t lose 20 pounds in a month. It is ROUGH and anyone else going through it, I FEEL YOU.

The worst part is that it doesn’t matter how others feel about you. It matters how you feel about yourself! I could care less that my friends, or Nenad, or my family thinks I look great. I want to FEEL great… for ME! I hate when people are like, “No you didn’t get fat! You look great!” Okay thank you for the lie, but I did. I got fat and it’s fine, it’s my fault, and now I need to lose it.

I think after high school was when I became pretty obsessed with how I look physically, regarding my weight. My ex dumped me and working out pretty much became my coping mechanism, as it does for a lot of people. I was working out 5 days a week at Sac State and eating like a bird. I was the skinniest I’ll probably ever be, with great abs, strong arms and toned legs. It was fantastic but completely unrealistic for me. I go through phases where I love working out, like anybody, but 5 days a week is just never going to stick for me and when it started to slip and I gained even a POUND back, I felt such disgust when I looked in the mirror. I was constantly stepping on the scale and checking my reflection to see if I was living up to my unrealistic expectations for my body.

One of the things I love most about living in Europe is that I find myself less conscious of my physical appearance. I didn’t notice that I was gaining weight when I was living in Spain. I can’t remember if I had any acne or anything like that. I really didn’t pay much attention to it! The people I was surrounded by didn’t pay much attention to it and I’ve always found that to be so freeing for me.

I didn’t realize just how much weight I’d gained until I got home from Spain. I stepped on the scale and found out that I had put on about TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS LOL (11.3 kg), which is a pretty good amount if we’re being honest. I felt like it just snuck up on me! I became so self-conscious and just outright sad. I hated the way I looked, I hated how I let myself get there, and I was genuinely confused about how I didn’t notice. As I was seeing my friends again I had this habit of just pointing it out so that it was in the open and the elephant in the room was being addressed. Looking back it was extra and weird but I was super uncomfortable in my own skin! Now people can say that there’s nothing wrong with being thicker, and I know that’s a hot topic right now, but it’s not about being “thick”, it’s about being HEALTHY, and those are two very different things. If you want to be thick by all means, but if you want to be thick and can’t climb a few flights of stairs or run a mile then you should probably do a check. You can be curvy and in shape.

Eventually, I did the Weight Watchers program with my mom and I can honestly say it was a game-changer. I loved how easy it was to be on the right track. It didn’t feel like a diet, it felt like a life-style change and that was really important for me. But like anyone who gained weight, I was desperate to lose it as quickly as possible. I’d skip meals and be hungry just to lose a few pounds. It didn’t help that the woman close to me look absolutely AMAZING.

My mother is in her mid 50’s and runs a few miles every morning. She has a flat tummy, strong arms, long slim legs, she’s tan – my goodness if I can be half that at her age I’d be doing okay! My sister has the tiniest little waist I’ve ever seen. She is extremely curvy and absolutely beautiful. She has the body others are trying to get, even when she feels like she’s gained a few. My sister-in-law is also small, but in a different way. She has these beautiful toned, thin legs, a flat stomach, toned arms, pale complexion to match her dark features… she’s lovely.

After about 6 months of Weight Watchers I lost the weight and was back to being HAPPY and HEALTHY. I love being fit! It’s not because I love to be skinny (I mean yes of course) but it’s because I love feeling strong. Working out is empowering and anyone can do it. I came to Serbia happy, healthy, and smaller than they all saw me the summer prior. But let me tell you, food in the Balkan region is just sooooo yummy and it’s all homemade, unprocessed deliciousness. Fast forward 9 months and I gained it all back dammit!!! I was standing in the mirror taking a good look at myself and absolutely hating what I saw… all over again. I would go shopping and cry in the dressing room as I tried clothes on, but I was doing NOTHING to fix it. I mean I knew it was happening. It didn’t sneak up on me this time I saw my body changing and I was kinda like, “eff it, I’ve lost it all before I’ll do it again.” BAD. THAT WAS BAD.

So, after letting myself go YET AGAIN for 9 months I knew it was time to get my body back. I’ve been working out for two months now, four times a week, about an hour and a half per session. I feel amazing. I feel like I’m looking healthy again. I feel like I have my confidence back. I feel like I look strong and I feel GOOD. Staying off the scale is the most difficult thing for me. I’m never satisfied with the number I see, even if I’m loving what my reflection is showing me. I’ve decided that I’m done with the scale and I’m only going to go off of how I look and how I feel, both mentally and physically. It doesn’t do anything but bring me down and I can’t expect to lose all the weight I gained in 9 months after just 2 of working out. It’s a process and although I’d like to fast-track myself there, I’d realistically like to step on the scale in three months from now.

Body image in this modern-day is a terrible struggle. I’m never going to look like the skinny and tan models on Instagram. I’m never going to look like my sister or my sister-in-law. I’m only ever going to look like me, Michelle, and if I can’t start accepting that I’m going to have a dangerous problem on my hands. If you don’t like how you look, do something about it. Do what you want to – whether it’s changing your eating habits or working out or both, and keep doing it until you look in the mirror and feel good.

Social media has created an impossible standard and the notion that the rest of the world looks better than you. I feel it every time I see the new bikini summer photos popping up all over my explore feed. So my goal for this next summer is to find a swimsuit that flatters my body shape and to eat in a way where I feel good and I’m healthy, not really skinny and not overweight, but healthy. It’s not an easy goal and you’ll always see someone who has what you want!

I always see these posts about being beautiful the way you are and when you tell someone you don’t like how you look they give you that same speech. Well that’s fine, but I want to feel it myself, not hear it. I want to look in the mirror and think damn I look good, not damn I look skinny. A difficult but not impossible feat, self-love is an ever-changing roller coaster.