Todays' guest post comes to us from Katie Smith, a senior at the University of Maryland. I'm excited to have Katie share because she brings a unique perspective to No Fat Talk Tuesday, since she is still in college and dealing with her own set of stressors and pressures. Growing up with divorced parents, I can relate to the struggles that Katie dealt with growing up, and am happy to have her post today. - Madison
Hey everyone! My name is Katie and I'm 22 years old, finishing my senior year at the University of Maryland. When Madison reached out for stories relating to 'No Fat Talk," I felt compelled to share my experience. Even after my tumultuous teenage years ended, I struggled with my weight and self-acceptance throughout college. On the brink of graduation, I finally feel like I have reached a turning point. But it took some time getting here.
Everyone experiences pain in their life. As teenagers, minute heartbreaks can seem like the end of the world. However, through my adolescence, I experienced both the divorce of my parents and a string of bad relationships. I feel like I transferred the pain of each experience into the next and, also, onto myself. Midway through college, this manifested itself into a lot of partying and heavy drinking, in part to avoid truly dealing with the emotions. For the most part, these behaviors didn't negatively influence other areas of my life, like my schoolwork or my friendships. I continued to make great grades, hold down internships and part-time jobs, and make and maintain amazing connections with the people around me. To be honest, for a time my destructive behavior didn't sink in because so many others around me were doing what I did. I go to a state school where people drink all nights of the week, so saying no to a drink stands out more than saying yes.
However, I was treating my body like trash and it was affecting me physically and mentally. My weight would fluctuate depending on how much I was exercising and how vigilantly I was watching what I ate. But on the days or weeks that I felt heavy or ugly or undesirable because of my weight, I couldn't brush it off. It would bring back old feelings of rejection and sadness and I would be absolutely miserable. Sometimes, I would withdraw. I would avoid people because to me, seeing people meant drinking which meant gaining more weight. When I returned from studying abroad in Australia, I was at my heaviest, and unhealthiest. I remember sobbing, flat on the floor, crying to my mother that I was too embarrassed to be seen. A moment so raw, so low and so real that it sparked a resolve in me to change. I was too young to waste any more time hiding myself from the world and I was too old to be behaving like there was anyone to blame but myself. In order to become happy with myself, my behaviors needed to change and my body would follow.
I made slow changes. I practiced a lot more moderation. The nights I did go out drinking with friends, I found I enjoyed a lot more when I could remember the details of the conversations we had. People are funny and fascinating and have a lot to share. Where they come from, where they're going, what they want to achieve and who they want to become. The memories you make together are a lot better if your head doesn't pound the next day.
I also started to cook more for myself. I found that I love cooking (and blogs like Espresso & Cream are amazing inspirations--cooking can be easy, healthy and fun... and MUCH better for you than that $7 takeout meal every night of the week). I now also exercise regularly--which I had always done but not accompanied with the right lifestyle choices, which made it futile and much, much harder. I exercise because it makes me feel strong and powerful and the endorphins are irreplaceable. A positive hour at the gym with some great music is a form of therapy unto itself.
Being a journalism major, I hold a certain reverence for the quintessential bad boy of our trade, Hunter S. Thompson. Amidst his hard-drinking, drug-induced writings (this is the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas guy, after all), he once said, "I don't see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.” A brief, to-the-point reminder that only you can make you happy.
Making healthy choices breeds a self-respect that can't be replicated by anything else. When you have made the choices that allow you to feel healthy, happy and free, you show that to the world. Since I've changed my lifestyle, I've felt more confident in myself and my future. It sounds like a cheesy PSA, but I can assure you, I couldn't have said this six months ago. Negative talk and negative choices won't get you anywhere; an active choice to change will. Life is meant to be experienced, enjoyed and exhilarating and we all owe it to ourselves to love ourselves, inside and out, every step of the way.