I remember exactly when I started worrying about my physical appearance. After many years of ballet dancing five to six hours a day, I stopped pretty abruptly at 16 and went off to college. Between delayed puberty's arrival, the lack of exercise, and the college cafeteria, I gained 15 pounds.
Suddenly my clothes didn't fit.
And that's what started a spiral of weird eating rituals and routines, from dramatic calorie cutting to vegan and macrobiotic diets, all to get me back to the weight I thought I should be.
If only I could press rewind.
Since then, I've pretty much been hyper aware of every single thing that goes in my mouth. And if you've ever been in that position, you know it's completely exhausting.
I actually did pretty well with pregnancy (four times), but losing the weight was quite an arduous task, particularly since I gained a lot during each of mine.
It really wasn't until I decided to start a healthy exercise and eating plan (with reasonable limitations) after having my third child that I lost weight in a way that wasn't unhealthy or obsessive.
But even then, I still never felt quite happy with my body, mostly because I had the image of the 15-year-old ballet dancer's body in my head and I just couldn't get it out of there.
I'm not going to lie: It's still very hard for me. I'm just now getting to a point where I throw caution to the wind when I put a bikini on. I can still be pretty self-conscious about how I'm physically perceived, even though we're all usually our own harshest critics.
I have made sure to keep it an inner battle, so I never talk about "being fat" or unhappy with my body around my kids. In fact, being around them allows me to let loose a bit and enjoy myself because, well, they force you to get out of your own skin.
If I could do it all over again, I would have talked to someone about weight loss rather than taking it into my own hands. I would have gotten support and help from friends and family before deciding that I could just go to extreme measures.
And through it all, I would have done my best to turn a blind eye to the magazines and photographs of celebrities and models who I somehow thought I needed to look like in order to wear a bathing suit comfortably.
The truth is that I wasted so much of my time, energy, and head space thinking about something that didn't deserve it. These days I try to remind myself that life is short. There are plenty of other amazing, important things that need my attention. And if I was my daughter, I'd be devastated that she was doing this to herself.
Guess what? No one else gives one crap about the extra skin on my stomach or the fat on my thighs. So I shouldn't either.
Do you feel comfortable with your body?
Image via Stuart Burns/Flickr