Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Bullying, Body Image
This piece is extremely personal to me as my body has been scrutinized for years. I have never had a petite body by any means. I was always over the 95th percentile in height and for the last 10 years, I have stood at 5’9 1/2” or 176.5cm. I was also in the 80th percentile in weight up until the last few years where I have exceeded that and hit my all-time highest weight in January 2019.
I have loved sports and loved being active from a young age. I started playing soccer when I was 4 years old. It was a part of my identity. I also remember the summer of 2007, when I was 12 years old, I would spend hours doing laps in the pool at the end of the street and supplemented my activity with healthy meals. My days were filled with activity and my evenings, well I would play MapleStory (yes, totally not related). I was at a “healthy” weight of 145 pounds and I was 5’6 1/2” tall. Yes, I was not thin by any means so people used to make fun of me. I vividly recall the time when we had beach day at school and I brought a towel and wrapped it about my full outfit and boys in the hallway would call me a towel-wrapped elephant. These words and the many others I heard echoed in my mind for years.
Middle school was extremely tough for me and my body image. I was growing extremely fast and despite mostly eating healthy, I would binge eat then try to vomit up my food later on. I remember looking in the mirror and wishing I could be a size 2 not a size 10 that I was then. My struggle with my body continued on into high school. I went through a deep depression from grades 9 to 11. Despite being active for the most part, I was eating non-stop to cope with my grief of losing my grandmother, my anxiety and my sorrow. I tore my ACL and meniscus twice in one year while playing soccer which meant I was immobile for a long period of time. I kept gaining weight through grades 9-11 that I ended up hitting 230 pounds.
I found out my weight when I was in the hospital for issues with my VP shunt and as always, the doctor urged me to lose weight. In the beginning of grade 12, I decided to dedicate myself to a strict regimen; 3 hours of working out per day, 6 days a week and restricting myself to 600-850 calories a day. Yes, I did lose the weight but in hindsight, it damaged my self-image far beyond explanation. It was a part of the yo-yo effect that my weight would have for years to come.
University came and so did the pounds. All the weight I had lost in grade 12 came back with a vengeance. That was party due to the fact I was eating out a lot and barely sleeping but also the fact that I started taking anti-depressants that slowed down my already slow metabolism. I was always known as fat Mariam. Whenever people asked which Mariam they were talking about, the fat adjective was used for me.
I lost 50 pounds in 2015 due to severe IBS and was hospitalized for 14 days as I had C.Difficile. While I look at my pictures from then and say I wish I looked like that now, I know I was not healthy by any means.
Fast forward to today. While I am not anywhere close to my fitness goals and level of positive self-image I’d like for myself, I am happy with the way things are going. I am not focused on the number no the scale rather the feeling I get when I do cardio, the way I feel after sleeping and how I don’t feel sluggish. I have embraced a plant-based diet and have committed myself to healthy living so I can treat myself with the love and care I need. My purpose for taking care of myself is to please Allah as He gifted me with this body, to start loving myself more tenderly and to be the best example I can be to my future kids (if I am blessed with any, insha’Allah).