Guest Writer Wednesday: How Salina overcame hating her body
Guest writer, Salina, went from a gym-owning, body-obsessed Cross Fit coach to an intuitive-eating, body-accepting woman who hopes to help others by sharing her story. Her writing is honest and real. I totally connected with her story - she helped me feel less alone in my healing journey. Please welcome the vibrant Salina to the Unicorn Mission!
The earliest memory I have of hating my body was when I was eight years old. I remember walking around the pool in my bikini. I felt bigger than all the girls. I hated the way my thighs touched and jiggled when I walked. You see, even though I grew up in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area, my origin is of Puerto Rican descent. I got the genes of wide hips and a developed body at a young age. By the time I was twelve years old, I had the body of an 18 year old. The girls I grew up with didn’t look like me. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who looked like me, other than my mother. Later on, when I would visit the island of Puerto Rico, I would soon feel at home because most of the women there looked like me.
I already despised the fat pockets that my legs so naturally stored, but it wasn’t until I was fifteen years old when a boy told me that I was unattractive because of them. That was when I made it my goal to do my best to fight my genetics as much as I could.
Growing up, I learned how to starve myself in order to have the smallest body I could attain. I even learned how to throw up food to be thin. What I saw in music videos and commercials was that in order to be beautiful, you had to be thin.
I grew up believing that the way you looked meant everything. I figured an easy way to make my appearance my main goal would be to make my profession and passion all about health. I now realize that it had nothing to do with health. It had everything to do with under-eating, being consumed with calories in and calories out, over-exercising and appearing to have it all together. The reality was that I was a scared, insecure little girl inside and thought changing my body would change all of that.
I majored in nutrition in school. I could tell you how many calories you should consume. What kind of exercise burns the most calories, and how to get your body to turn into a calorie burning machine! I owned the language of diet culture. My daily thoughts were so brutal to myself. I believed that if I could hate my body enough, that I would have the motivation to stay on track with my diet. I even drew targets with a black marker on my hips so that when I looked in the mirror, I would hate the fat so much that nothing could get in the way of having lean legs. I even had a consult with a plastic surgeon but I thankfully didn’t go through with it.
My behavior continued to spiral with each year that passed. In my 20s, I went on any diet that sounded like it could make my body shrink. I went on a juice diet, eat one meal a day diet, vegetarian diet, vegan diet, raw vegan diet, protein powder diet, soup diet, organic foods diet, paleo diet, ketogenic diet, the hunger fullness diet, Whole 30 and eat what you want as long as it’s only a few bites diet.
I did all the diets and I would get smaller, but I’d always gain the weight back because I couldn’t sustain my smaller size. I was the best at being a perfectionist and at following the rules but when I’d achieve my goal, I would lose control and “fall off the wagon." After each diet, I would fall into the restriction/binge cycle of hating my body and myself even more because I felt so unworthy.
It wasn’t until age 34 that I fell hard. I saw a girl at the gym with the shredded body I wanted. I asked her what meal plans she followed and she directed me to a coach who could make anyone look good enough to walk across the stage in a two piece. This was the body building/fitness modeling world that I never dipped my feet into before. He became my coach for months and created meal plans for me. Meal plans that looked like your typical rice, chicken and broccoli dish. I was allowed one “cheat meal” a week. This had me obsessing over food like no other! I knew I had to change something so I did. It was then time for the next diet, counting macronutrients or aka, “Counting Macros.” During this diet, you weigh every single thing you put in your mouth.
What led to counting macros was during that time I became a gym owner and a Level 2 CrossFit Coach. I thought that I needed to be an example if I was a coach so it was time to have that low fat body I dreamed of having. I would dedicate hours to working out daily, I’d wake up every day to weigh myself and to put my body weight into a spreadsheet to ensure that I was losing the pounds I needed to. When people in the gym saw my transformation, they wanted to know how I achieved it. I would then sit with people and tell them how they could shrink their body too. I no longer saw people for who they were, I saw the fat they were carrying. I have learned that when you are the biggest judge of your body, you will be a critical judge to everyone else’s body.
It wasn’t until I lost my period that it made me realize that I had to make a change. You see, I have never been pregnant and now that I was 35, I had to make a decision on whether I would continue with this body I worked so hard on or would work on healing my body in order to conceive. I decided that being a mother was more important to me than having a body that people would admire.
This moment in my life was one of the hardest to grow through. I went to doctors to get my period back and while doing that, I also learned that I had adrenal fatigue. All the under-eating and over-training taxed my adrenals. I had no energy for anything. I worked so hard to get small thinking that I attained health when in actuality, I attained a body that screamed fitness but I sacrificed my health for it. I was in the best shape of my life but I was the unhealthiest. How could this be? I was told that if I wanted to heal my adrenal fatigue, I wouldn’t be able to do high impact exercises anymore. It was that moment that I knew I had to walk away from CrossFit. I had to change my mindset and in order to do that, I had to start over.
As I gained the fat back, I cried daily. I told my husband that I hated my body and didn’t know what to do. The book titled Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch changed everything for me. This was not something that was learned over night. It took a lot of daily affirmations and following women on Instagram who had similar stories. I threw away my scale and stopped checking my body in the mirror every time I walked by it. I would say it took about a year until I truly started loving myself for who I was and not what I looked like. It was the most difficult thing to gain all the fat back and some. My body was starving before but happier after gaining fat back. I learned that as you diet, you change your natural set point. This means that my body is bigger now than it would’ve been if I never dieted before. That was when I vowed to never diet again. I would learn to accept my body. I would learn to accept my fatty thighs, and even though I don’t love them, I do accept them.
I am a better person because of all this. I am not the superficial and shallow person I once was. I no longer look through the lens that focuses on what bodies look like rather a lens that focuses on who the person actually is. I now look forward to having deeper conversations rather than diet talk. I have learned what health really looks like. I’ve learned what moving your body every day to satisfaction feels like. Food no longer controls me and I feel the most free than I ever have.
I realize now that the insecure girl I once was always felt like her body wasn’t good enough. Even at my smallest, I still wasn’t small enough. It was an inner battle that only got worse with each diet. I am more confident today at my biggest size, than I ever have been.
My wish for all women is to not be sucked into the diet culture mentality. The idea that thinner is beautiful and the thinking that if your thighs touch, you’re less than. I want every woman to see past the lies of diet culture and learn to accept their body. That you are of value and worth no matter what you look like. I dream that women will believe they are enough and don’t have to fit into anyone’s mold. I never ever thought I could reach this point, but I sure am glad I did and I wouldn’t change hitting rock bottom for anything.
Bio: Salina resides in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband and Old English Bull Dog. Her and her husband of 9 years have been battling with infertility but are in the midst of in vitro fertilization. It’s because of infertility that has helped her be vulnerable to the issues of body acceptance, self-image and overcoming diet culture mentality. She is driven to share her story to help women understand that they are not alone, and to encourage women to share their story to others. You can find her on YouTube at by clicking here and Instagram @LetsMakeLemonade_Salina.