For the longest time, I was captured inside a body I hated. I thought I was ugly, fat, not tall enough and, therefore, completely unlovable. I was convinced that most of the horrible things that were happening to me had to do with my appearance.
I desperately longed for a different body. I thought my life would turn around completely once I was leaner, had longer legs and was as thin as a piece of paper.
And at the beginning, my prediction seemed to become a reality. When I lost a few pounds, I received one compliment after the other from teachers, my parents, grandparents and friends. Life seemed a bit better, and I felt like I had accomplished something good.
But the way I saw myself did not change. I still always felt too fat, and all the bad things around me did not stop either. So, I continued to restrict what I was eating, and I intensified my workouts always hoping that my world would be brighter once I reached a new goal.
Unsurprisingly, this was not the case.
During the next 14 years, I would completely disconnect from myself and my body. I would be entangled in anorexia nervosa, hating my body more than ever before.
I’d stand in front of the mirror looking like a skeleton and still only see fat and failure. All I wanted was to eradicate the last inch of fat in order to be happy and fill the hollowness inside.
When I finally committed to recovery, I was terrified of having to gain weight. If I could not love my body when it was hardly there, how could I love my body when I was heavier?
In the first few months, I struggled a lot with these thoughts. I thought I could not live without being skinnier than a model. I thought I had no right living and looking healthy. I believed everybody would judge me for having eaten and instantly think of me as inferior.
As the months went by and I gained pound after pound, I went through many phases of despising myself. I was even more self-conscious than ever before, put on big shirts and pants in order to hide the weight gain. I shed way too many tears and probably strained my husband’s patience during this time of transition.
When I reached a healthy weight, I had to get used to not only a completely new body, but also a completely new me. The face I saw in the mirror was not the gaunt one I had seen for most of my life. The body I looked at was not the one of a girl anymore. I had curves now and was not as flat as a child anymore. I hardly knew the person in that reflection and had a few moments of crisis whenever I saw a picture of the new me. I felt unworthy and undeserving of living a rich and fun life in this body that I could not accept as my own.
Intimacy with my husband decreased drastically. One some days, I could not even let him take my hand or touch my back. I just did not want to feel my new reality. This, of course, let to many arguments and moments of huge fights.
I was at a loss and had no idea what to do. I did not want to relapse, but I also refused to keep on living this way.
I had to make a choice. Would I continue to weigh myself down or would I try something new and drastically improve my life?
I decided to challenge myself, and changed my thoughts and my habits. Instead of looking in the mirror and judging myself, I focused on a body part that I liked. Instead of comparing myself with others, which is one of the worst things a person can do, I focused on myself. I started to say positive messages to my body. I stopped standing in front of the mirror over and over again checking my belly and thighs.
I gave myself the permission to grow into the natural shape that I was supposed to be.
The transformation that has taken place since that day is unbelievable. I am not exaggerating that by simply altering the way I look at myself, I completely changed my life. I can walk taller. I dare to voice my opinion with more confidence than ever before. I feel free. I can look on the bright side much more often than I used to. I can laugh again. I can enjoy being intimate with my husband again without worrying about imaginary flaws, and I fell in love with myself again.
I have become so convinced that we are the only ones who stand in our way of a healthy body image and a love for ourselves that I created The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. In this guide, I explain exactly what I did to transform my body image, and I motivate you to do the same in video form, work books and audio files.
I would like to stress that I did not lose a single pound, nor did I try to.
All I did was redefine what beauty means to me. I allowed myself to think that I am beautiful now, exactly the way I look today. Nobody has the right to tell me otherwise. Not even I.
I want every single person in this world to experience the joy of living in and with a body that we not only accept, but also love. Everybody can do it, and it is easier than you think.
I would never have imagined that I would have the audacity to say that I love my body the way that it is today. The fact that I am doing it should you give tons of hope that you will soon be able to do it too!
Anne – Sophie Reinhardt is a world traveler, anorexia survivor, podcaster, blogger, digital entrepreneur, speaker, wife, lover of books, and aspiring yogi and social media enthusiast. Her blogs My Intercontinental Life and Fighting Anorexia are focused on everybody who wants to live a purposeful, free, healthy and passionate life.