I was twelve years old when I begged my mom to enroll me in a workout program. Even though I hadn’t started seventh grade, people from school, my friends, my family had all been telling me I needed to lose weight for years. I wasn’t even a teenager yet, but I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw.
When you’re an overweight pre-teen, people like to point it out to you in back-handed compliments. They would start by saying all of these really flattering things about me. That I was intelligent, smart, funny, outgoing, that I could be beautiful. They said losing weight would be for my own good. That it would be for my health.
My mom was supportive of me through it all. She built me up even when I felt my lowest. And so, I decided to go for a change. For the whole summer, I went to the gym at five in the morning. I watched the scale. I went on a diet. The weight dropped fast. By the end of the summer, people were suddenly complimenting me about how great I looked. They were proud. Guys, who had never looked at me before, were staring. People told me I was beautiful and there were no “buts” included.
I figured once I looked better, I would feel better too. But, I didn’t.
My weight was lower and so was my size but I still saw myself as fat. I literally looked in the mirror and saw the same person from before even though, to everyone else, I looked completely different. I remember crying about it to my parents and trying to explain but they couldn’t understand. I still thought I wasn’t good enough.
My whole seventh-grade year is kind of a blur to me now. I stopped going to the gym when school started. When I stopped working out so hard, I started gaining weight. I remember having good days and bad ones but it wasn’t until after the school year ended that things started to change for the better.
The turning point came when I found out that my mom and I would be moving from Florida to California. It was an opportunity for a new start. I was excited. Once we moved, I noticed the changes in myself and in the people around me. They no longer said negative things to me pertaining to my weight or my looks in general. And now, I see more people who look like me in real life as well as in the media.
The world is starting to realize that beauty doesn’t only come in one size or shape. Society is building up people who are different rather than tearing them down. It’s becoming a little easier for people to be proud of who they are even if it isn’t what people originally thought was “normal” or “attractive.” We’re changing what those words mean and I think that’s a move in the right direction.