Over this spring break, I had the pleasure of visiting the wonderful country of Chile. I was extremely excited for this visit, during which I would see family for the first time in years, attend a wedding, and be in the southern half of the equator to escape the long winter and spend some time in the sun. While preparing for the trip, I eagerly began to pack all of my summer apparel. As I looked at the clothing, figuring out which shorts to bring, I decided on a whim to try on a pair of shorts that I had bought last summer while at my lowest weight of 130 pounds. As I pulled them over my hips, I immediately began to panic. They were tight. The button barely fastened and created quite an impressive muffin top. I stared in horror at the mirror’s depiction of me in the shorts that had fit perfectly last summer, but definitely did not a year later by my standards (I have personally never found muffin tops very appealing.)

All of a sudden, a familiar anxiety began rushing over me, overcoming all rationality. It is a sensation that many who have battled with negative body image, compulsive exercise, and/or eating disorders face. It is the overpowering feeling of and extreme loss of control, of crushing disappointment, of failure. As I stood in front of the mirror, panicking, the thoughts of self-criticism and disappointment that I once knew so well began creeping back into my mind like toxic tendrils.

However, before I could completely sink into my old noxious state of mind, I experienced a startling moment of clarity. I was simultaneously struck by how far I’ve come and filled with the overwhelming desire not to revert to the mental state of obsession that once consumed me. So what if I’m not a size 4 anymore? I’m healthy, I exercise almost daily, and more importantly, I have been truly happy with my body for the first time in as long as I can remember. I may have been skinnier a year ago and able to fit into those shorts, but I was miserable.

Since last year, I have realized that your pant size does not create instant happiness and self-fulfillment, two feelings attained only by cultivating healthy relationships with friends, family, and most essentially, yourself. My old state of mind overpowered every aspect of my being, prohibiting me from enjoying the little things in my life, and distracted me from the things that truly mattered. I did not want to begin my trip to Chile filled with dread, or to allow that dread to divert me from the vacation during which to appreciate loved ones and to make the most of the short week that I had to spend with them. Yes, there would be an abundance of food (Chile is the #2 top consumer of bread in the world, just to give you an idea.) But I had gained enough perspective and rationality in the past year to know that the abundance and temptation wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t handle. Even if I did “over-indulge” every now and then, the world would not come crashing down around me.

With this epiphany, I put my size 4 shorts back in my drawer. They symbolized a period of my past to which I did not wish to return. By living with a healthy lifestyle and mental outlook, my body will find its happy state of being. With this in mind, maybe one day I’ll be able to wear those shorts again. But I am not going to pursue that day with the same manic obsession that once possessed me, leading me on a self-destructive path that I do not want to follow again. With this healthy mental outlook, excitement to get on a plane and spend time with my beautiful, supportive family overcame my self-destructive thoughts, allowing me to have an amazing spring break. It was an unforgettable week filled with many precious memories that I will cherish forever. I ate a huge piece of cake at my cousin’s wedding. It was delicious.

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