I've Lost 100 Pounds & Still Have Issues With Body Image

The part of weight loss no one tells you about.

Her Voice

"Lose the weight and you'll be great," they said. "It's all about getting physically healthy and feeling better."

While shedding the pounds would bring a healthier me and a wardrobe that I had dreamed so long to have, what they didn't tell me about was the constant mental battles that I would encounter. Even 10 years later.

You see, I was overweight all of my life. As a child, I was constantly teased for being heavier than most of my peers. While the teasing hurt, I chalked it up to kids being kids. After all, I teased a few people myself. Kids would ask things like why is your stomach like that? Or they would point out and even pinch my chubby cheeks.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

My weight was mostly due to eating lots of fast food and quick-fix meals. It's not that I necessarily overate, but I was never taught how to eat healthily and I wasn't the most active kid. As early as elementary, I took notice of my size in comparison to my peers; it was even more evident when they would come to school with new outfits from Limited Too. I begged and begged for the chance to buy clothes from there, but as reality would have it, they didn't fit me.

Things got worse as I got to high school. Not only were kids teasing me, but I also had my mother constantly pointing out that I was bigger than most girls in my class and for that reason, boys would never like me. It hurt like hell. But, I didn't know what to do to change it.

Fast forward to undergrad.

During my junior year, I went through a pretty bad breakup that sent me into one of the worst bouts of depression I've ever faced. The pounds packed on mostly due to not getting out of bed and emotional eating. At only 5 foot 4, I found myself weighing around 230 pounds. I was the heaviest I'd ever been and at that point, I was convinced I would be heavy forever.

The desire to get healthier didn't come for another 3 years, during my second year of law school. Surprisingly, my first thought wasn't to get in the gym to lose the weight, but to first get a breast reduction. I was convinced that the bulk of my weight came from my breasts being too big for my frame. Little did I know, the consultation would be the wakeup call I needed to get my health in check. It was there, at the age of 22 that I learned I was morbidly obese and for insurance to cover my surgery, I would need to lose at least 70 pounds first.

I thought the doctor was out of her mind. It wouldn't be until a year later that I'd take the advice to heart and start to take my health seriously.

In early 2010, I began incorporating regular exercise into my everyday routine. I learned to start making better food choices and even cooking at home. By the end of that summer, I had lost nearly 40 pounds and was determined to keep going. And well, keep going I did.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

Seeing my body change week by week, month by month kept me going. Going into clothing stores and walking away with jeans a size smaller than my last visit was the exact push I needed to not let all my hard work go down the drain.

Over the next few years, I would lose around 80 pounds. But, unlike many who lose a significant amount of weight, I was also able to tone up and eliminate a lot of loose skin. In addition to steady cardio 4-5 times per week, I was incorporating strength training alongside it that helped me to build muscle as well.

After reaching what I thought was a plateau, I knew I wanted to push myself even further. A friend suggested that I try my hand at fitness competitions and being the overachiever that I was, I was more than up for the challenge.

I put my body and mind through 12 intense weeks of training and dieting to get in the best shape ever. A few days before the competition, I learned that I had officially dropped 100 pounds total since the start of my journey. I felt unstoppable and went into the competition with the confidence of a winner. I came away with a 3rd place finish and couldn't have been happier, at least in that moment.

What I didn't understand was that a competition body wasn't something that was meant to be achieved for everyday life. Sure, I looked amazing and had rock hard abs. But the regimented food schedule, missing events with friends, taking all kinds of crazy supplements, and spending hours in the gym daily were an extremity.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

After going on to do a second competition and bombing due to exhaustion, I decided that the stress that comes along with maintaining a competition-ready body was no longer for me.

That's when the battle started.

Once the strict dieting stopped, my body began to fill out a little. Sure, it may have only been 5 pounds at most and mostly water weight, but I would constantly compare myself to my "stage body". Even though I was nowhere near what I used to be, I was self-conscious to no end. In my mind, I was slowly turning back into who I was before I set out on my journey. So much so, that despite losing all the weight, I was afraid to wear certain clothing. I was embarrassed by my loose skin and my stretch marks started looking more visible than normal to me. All of this was playing with my mind, despite working my ass off to get in the best shape of my life.

For that reason in April 2014, I walked away from my last stage competition and I'm never going back.

I've decided to live life to the fullest these days by traveling and experiencing new things. This includes eating lots of new foods. My happiness isn't rooted in my weight, but in how much life I've lived. Since I've stopped competing, I've gained about 30 of the 100 pounds back and some days, it's mentally tough to accept. There's this closeted fear that people are looking at me like, "Dang she fell off." I get it, people's opinions shouldn't matter, but let's keep it one hundred. I'm human and social media is real.

While people tell me that I look great, it still doesn't feel right. I'm working out regularly and trying to eat decent, but it's hard to come to terms with the fact that I may never see that competition body that I once achieved.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

It's an everyday battle to accept the body I see in the mirror now. I'm in no way saying I hate myself, but there's just a certain pressure that looms to get back to where I once was.

I'm still figuring it all out and what works for me in the lifestyle that I live today. It's almost like starting over, just with a different canvas. What worked then doesn't necessarily work now and that's ok. It's all a part of the process. I did it then and I'm sure I can do it again. I just have to practice the same patience I did the first go-around.

I'm finally learning to do this thing for me. Not for the approval of my peers, my mother, or anyone else for that matter and that's the most beautiful part of it all.

If you've experienced something similar, how did you overcome the battle?

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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