I Got Strong Instead of Skinny, and I've Never Been Happier

For most of my teenage years and early 20s, I considered a "great body" to be skinny with thin legs and a booty that was on the smaller, flatter end. I thought my bigger bubble butt was too large for my small frame on top, and I desperately wanted to hide my curves that are now much more embraced, even sought after, in today's world. I'd wear larger tops to conceal my butt, and I'd always feel a little self-conscious when I had to wear shorts, a bikini, or tighter dresses. I've always been a pretty confident person, but there was a piece missing: I couldn't overcome my obsession with how my body looked on a daily basis.

Because I wanted to drop those pounds and look like other people at my school who had skinnier bodies, I developed an unhealthy eating style that persisted for a few years. Cycling through various eating disorders, chronic food guilt, and a compulsive need to think so critically before making food choices, I suffered emotionally all the damn time. I'd plan what I would eat from a restaurant menu a day or two before, going back and forth on what I thought had the least number of calories. I'd decide how much of my meal to eat compared to what others were eating around me. And if I did end up eating more than I thought I should, I'd feel like crap and beat myself up over it for hours and even days. So many wasted minutes were spent obsessing over food, how it affected my body and took me away from getting skinnier, and how not to be so hungry.

As I began to feel happier, stronger, and proud of myself when working out and attaining new fitness goals, that emotional despair went away.

Then something changed. I'm honestly not sure when my goals and perception shifted, but I think they did as I became happier. I had entered a relationship, I had more friends, and I just came into myself more. But I also realized that my body was my body, and I had a booty. I learned to like myself a hell of a lot and was so sick of feeling bad all the time. I wanted to become the best version of myself, not someone striving to fit a skinny ideal. I needed to find that missing link because it was a daily battle with my body and emotional well-being. I wanted to get stronger, not skinnier, and start embracing my body's natural figure.

I told myself that if I was going to have a bigger butt, I might as well make it a toned one! Up to this point, I had been working out on the elliptical only. I couldn't run long-distance, do sprints, or lift weights. I began to go to fitness classes where weights, battle ropes, monkey bars, and resistance bands were included, and I was horrible. I passed out the first time I had a personal training session. Embarrassing.

But I kept at it, and I ended up seeing some great progress. I never thought I'd like to see muscle in my arms or want to have a nice, round tush that was firm and visible. I slowly started to ditch the longer shirts and embraced my curves. They actually made me feel sexier — way sexier than when I was more "skinny fat" during my restricted-dieting years. Now, I'll go out in crop tops to show off the abs I've worked so hard for.

As I began to feel happier, stronger, and proud of myself when working out and attaining new fitness goals, that emotional despair went away. After each set of burpees or every additional squat or renegade row, I felt powerful and bold. I knew I was doing something good for my body, my mind, and my health: I was healing. I knew the difference between right and wrong thinking. Realizing that a stronger body, no matter how "skinny" it is (those who are naturally skinnier are just as beautiful!), is well-nourished and strong was spot on, and honestly, that newfound mindset saved me.

Now I love my body. I love it even when I'm PMSing and have gained five pounds of water weight. I love it after a huge meal when it's a little fatigued and full. I love it when it's pushing me through a HIIT circuit. I love it first thing in the morning and when I go to bed. I love it naked. I love how I feel in it. I learned to love it.

All people and figures are unique, and as long as you love yours and treat it well, that's all that matters. There is no "right" body to strive for.

Now I'm strong and healthy. I make a point of eating protein and veggies and indulging in my favorite cocktails, pizza, and fries. When I eat a protein bar before or after a workout, I feel awesome. I know I'm fueling my muscles and metabolism, whereas before, I'd nibble on a protein bar with food guilt. I got back to enjoying food of all types, listening to my body and feeding it when it was hungry, and falling more in love with my body every day. Picking up those weights for the first time was the greatest gift I could've given myself, and it's made me into the woman I am today.