Growing up, I was always aware that I was the biggest of all the girls at school. I have never been obese, but I have never been thin either, not even as baby or a toddler, so when puberty hit and I became bigger, I quickly assumed that I was biologically meant to be round.

It was not a problem. I had many good friends, I was doing well in school, my family was loving and caring. Even if I was aware of being different from my girlfriends, being overweight did not make me sad or prevent me to enjoy my teenage years.

That is until some of my male friends made fun of my figure in front of me, thinking that I would not hear or connect the dots in their conversation. I was the only one of my group of friends who was not thin and apparently I was not the only one who had noticed. I was 15 and this is when my self-esteem shattered.

After that event, for most of my time in high school, I felt deep shame about what I looked like. I convinced myself that I would never find someone who would love me, that my disgusting body repulsed others.

My parents took me to a dietitian for me to lose the weight that was mentally dragging me down. I thought that with some efforts, I could be just like the other girls: wear size 6 jeans and have a boyfriend who would love me.

I went on a 1700 calories per day diet for 12 months. I lost 55 pounds.

The people around me congratulated my efforts; they said that I looked great. I was 17 years old and 136 lbs. I felt proud and beautiful.

I was comfortable in my own skin and started meeting guys who seemed to like me.

At age 19, while having a steamy make-out session with a new boyfriend, he told me: “It’s nice to be with a bigger girl, there’s more to touch.”

It’s a terrible thing to have people whom you care about notice and throw in your face the things that you are the most self-conscious about. My world went crashing down once again. After that day, I decided to shed more weight to be prettier. Nothing would stand in my way.

For years I analyzed the fattening potential of every single piece of food I put in my mouth and I exercised at every occasion possible. I would regularly pass out from low blood sugar because I did not eat enough. I also used to weigh myself every day, several times a day, to make sure I was not getting fat again.

At age 22, I finally reached my goal, I was 126 lbs.

At the time, I skipped meals, ran 10k every day, and kept obsessing about the width of my waist and the size of my thighs. I was far from being healthy, but men thought I was attractive, so that was all that mattered.

Slenderness is the main beauty standard is our western culture and body shaming is the expected consequence of it. We have all internalized what a beautiful female figure is supposed to look like and those who don’t fit the bill need to be told to do everything possible to straighten themselves up.

Body shaming me at age 15 has entirely altered the way I live my life. Even now, after being in a relationship for 7 years, I still believe that if I had been heavier when we met, my partner would not even have glanced at me. I also secretly resent my childhood friend who is now a mother of two toddlers, but who is slimmer than me and displays fewer stretchmarks. It’s gone so far that I when my schedule did not allow me to travel to Costa Rica to meet all my co workers, I felt a deep relief — I would not have to show myself in a bathing suit or in shorts.

I’m a 30-year-old woman with a serious body image disorder. I’m still fighting to accept my body the way it is and not judge others’ for the way they look. If you see yourself in my story, please know that you’re not alone.

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