This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.
"You're Almost Overweight For Your Height. Are You Eating Okay?"
The doctor looked at my chart, and then back at me with the most patronizing smile and a lecture on eating your veggies, exercising moderately, and the benefits of sacrificing a small child to the ancient gods for the perfect physique (that last one isn't true, but it might as well have been one of his talking points).
I slowly returned to my car, dazed and confused. I started ugly-crying the second I plopped down in the front seat. I cried over every lump, dip, and curve on my body that I've hated since I was 13. I cried over my grandparents asking me if I really needed that much dessert on my plate, and people sexualizing my one-piece lifeguard bathing suit, because I had the curves to “fill it out.” I cried for all the times other girls would say my butt was so big, and not meaning it as a compliment.
I cried and cried because, up until then, I felt healthy. No one ever straight up told me I looked unhealthy. I was curvy, muscular, toned, but never unhealthy. I could run a mile without stopping. I went to the gym when I had the time and needed to sweat it out. I danced regularly and walked everywhere. Even though I ate a combination of veggies and sugary midnight snacks, I never felt like my body became something that signified poor health and gluttony.
Yet, hearing the word “overweight” from the doctor left my mouth with a sour taste and had me questioning: Was I fat? Was this why my ex-boyfriend dumped me? Did this make me unattractive?
I let my doctor's statement control my insecurities. I started to cover up more, trying to hide my "imperfections" under loose clothing and using sarcasm to make fun of myself and my body. Even though I didn't necessarily change my diet, eating became a chore, rather than something I enjoyed.
Dancing is what lifted me off this edge I was dangling on. Through dance and the supportive friends I made, eating became something social, a time to bond with other human beings that loved both dance and food. Dancing removed the power food had over me. I needed the food to be able to dance, to have the energy to practice late into the night, and to make it through four-hour rehearsals, extra practices and whole-day competitions.
I still have those days where nothing looks right, and my body makes me question my health. Other days, I realize how amazing my body is. It can dance, swim, run, jump, surf, stretch, and flip. It's a fighter.
So what if my weight isn't within the limits of a doctor's chart? So what if I'm not the size 2 everyone expects? I am beautiful. I am strong. And, most importantly, I am healthy
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.