I started puberty early, had a woman’s figure by the age of twelve, and never felt comfortable in my own skin. I was always active with sports, but by the 8th grade, my soccer coach pulled me aside during a practice and said I was putting on too much weight.
I might have weighed 150. At 5’4” I wasn’t rail thin, but I wasn’t that heavy. Still, I knew I needed to lose weight or I would get benched.
So at age 13, I dieted for the first time.
Fast-forward almost 20 years. I have a great career, wonderful friends and family, but I still struggle with body image.
As an adult, I’ve weighed as little 121 and as much as 194. My confidence wasn’t the only injury suffered along the way; skin was only made to stretch so much.
I noticed my first stretch marks in high school. I had a few on my thighs and hips. They were small but they were there. I chalked them up to a growth spurt although I quit growing years before.
A few years later as a college athlete, the practices kept my weight in check for the most part.
But the stretch marks became more pronounced in my senior year—the year my schedule finally allowed me to catch breakfast before biology class.
During the really stressful years when I would overeat, my body suffered and rebelled by leaving painful, red gaps in my skin where it had been smooth before. I was ashamed to be seen in a bathing suit.
But they slowly faded from red to white, leaving a subtle reminder of what I had put my body through. Sometimes I completely forgot I had them. When I finally made the decision to confront my issues and get help, the woman inside began to heal. Slowly, I felt more comfortable with my body.
Though I am still not where I want to be, I now at least know that health is a work in progress and I can control how I treat this gift of a healthy and able body that I’ve been given.
Better yet, I stopped being embarrassed about my stretch marks.
I had to accept that barring expensive surgery to remove them — which I don’t have the slightest desire to do — they’re part of me for life. I might as well be okay with them. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of my stretch marks.
They’re part of my flesh.
They’re gentle reminders of the struggles that I have overcome. And they remind me that no matter what obstacles I face in the future, I always have a choice about how to react.
I am not seeking a perfect body. I don’t believe such a thing exists. But while I am striving to become healthier every day, I am perfectly okay with where I am right now. And the stretch marks I have grown to love are just part of my story.
CC Photo by TinyTall on Flickr