Strong is the New Skinny.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and unfortunately social media provides the perfect platform for it. I admit that I myself am incredibly guilty of this. I spend freetime scrolling through my Instagram feed, which is largely comprised of bikini models looking effortlessly in-shape and flawless, and I think “wow this girl’s life is perfect.”

I love Instagram, and I think it brings so many great opportunities and genuine connections, but I also know that it causes a lot of people to be unhappy with their present lives. No one showcases the messy parts of their life on social media. People post what they want to show to the world, and most of the time, this is nowhere close to their actual lives.

The correlation between social media use and negative body image is undeniable. Girls compare themselves against impossible standards; photoshop, angles, editing, and so much more goes into every photo posted. Not to mention every girl is tall, tan, and incredibly thin.

 

I have always been naturally thin. It’s my genetics. I have always been naturally tan, i’m Mexican and Italian; but for some reason the two most common things i’ve heard growing up are “she gets spray tans,” and “she has an eating disorder.” I hate to be the girl who complains about being too thin, but it’s not all it’s cut out to be.

The first two years of high school I lived a highly active life. I played volleyball, and I trained seven days a week, oftentimes with intense cardio. I was burning more calories than I could eat, and I was always eating. 

 

Even when I stopped playing volleyball, I couldn’t keep weight on. This was due to genetics, a fast metabolism, and my now moderately active lifestyle. People assumed I didn’t eat, when in reality I ate (and still do) more than a growing teenage boy.

At the time, I was confused about what I was doing wrong. I was “skinny” and tan, which is often marketed as the ideal standard of beauty. I essentially looked like the girls I spent time comparing myself to. I was society’s standard of beauty, yet I had never felt so self conscious. 

 

I would complain to my friends about how I felt too thin, and most would reply with “you’re crazy- i’d kill for your body!” Not to mention the fact that I was tired of people assuming I had an eating disorder.

Everyone told me how skinny I was, and I knew I was thin, but I never really comprehended how skinny I really was until stumbling upon the picturues above. I have learned and grown so much mentally, as well as physically the past couple years. A few of the bigger lessons I learned include:

1. Though every model on a bikini company’s feed is under 100 lbs, that doesn’t mean that is a healthy size! Skinny is not a one size fits all. So many of my friends complain about how they aren’t my size, when they are perfectly in shape. Muscle also weighs more than fat. Genetics, height, muscle mass, ethnicity, and so much more go into factoring what your ideal weight should be.

2. Comparing yourself to other girls on Instagram never leads to good self esteem. Trust me, I hardcore stalk other girls pages sometimes- every girl enjoys checking out other girls clothes, hair, makeup, etc. Though doing this on social media may seem to do no harm, using it often inevitably leads to comparison. And the grass is always greener on the other side. Which leads me to my next point:

3. The people who seem the most confident are oftentimes the most insecure. (There’s actually a great Ted Talk on this) I can personally attest to this. I personally believe that I am extremely unphotogenic. I dislike almost every picture of myself, even the ones I post. My friends are always shocked to find this out, “I always figured you were confident because you posted selfies,” but they usually agree that they think the same about themselves.

4. Health is both fitness and diet. I cannot stress this enough. So many people complain about working out and not seeing results when they’re eating all junk food! And vice versa. You can’t just diet and neglect to exercise. Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand.

5. Ditch the cardio. Sometimes I go to the gym with other people and all they do is run on the treadmill for an hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong, cardio and running are great for endurance training and your heart. But doing too much cardio can make you thin, not fit. I used to run a lot along with my regular workouts, but I recently cut my cardio by 75% and started power yoga, weights, and strength training. I went from being 98 lbs to 110 lbs, and though I wasn’t as “skinny,” I finally felt healthy and strong.

 

I aim to be toned and strong rather than skinny. Everyone’s body is different. I think that labelling people as underweight and overweight is ridiculous. Women are held to a narrow standard of beauty that encourages weight loss and body shaming. You can feel, look, and be healthy without being stick thin. 

6. Be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. Whenever I catch myself thinking “I wish I looked like her” or “I wish I had her life” I force myself to take a moment to be thankful for all that I have. While someone else’s life may appear perfect, chances are it’s not. Just think: someone could be wishing for your life as much as you’re wanting someone elses. Focus on what you do have.

Health has been a long and eventful road for me, and my weight will always be something I will struggle with, along with so many other people. I now feel strong, more confident, and healthy. 

I fell in love with writing when I realized that journalism has the power to take individual struggles and prove that they are universal. This blog post, like My Story, was hard for me to write due to how personal it was, but I wanted to share it because I believe many people who read it will relate and have a new understanding of me & of health. 

It is far better to be strong than it is to be skinny. Take it from me.

 

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