It’s Not the Number on the Scale: Madison’s True and Relatable Journey Towards Body Positivity and Self-Love

*Written by Madison Ernst*

Weight loss is difficult to achieve. There is no perfect way to lose weight because everyone’s body types are different. For my fifteen-year-old self, my world revolved around losing weight. It took me a very long time to develop a healthy relationship with my body.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was overweight. According to my doctor, I was 30 pounds overweight to be exact. I gained this weight over the course of two years. I had recently quit all my sports activities, so I was no longer active in my daily routine. On top of this, I was definitely an over eater. I had no relationship with healthy foods or exercise. Chips, cookies, pizza, and ice cream became part of my everyday diet. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, especially when I looked at myself in pictures next to my friends who were all at a healthy weight. I was also in denial of what I needed to do in order to change my body. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy myself if I couldn’t snack around with my friends on a Friday after school. 

Fast forward to my junior year. I unknowingly started losing weight by walking to meet my friends in town. I had no time to think about food between the heavy loads of school work and ACT prep. By December 2016, I had lost 15 pounds, and I had no idea why. I knew whatever I was doing, I should keep up with it. This began my relationship with intermittent fasting. By the end of the school year , I lost 45 pounds–15 pounds more than I needed to lose. 

Credit: Madison Ernst

During my senior year of high school, I felt confident and wore a size 0. I thought nothing could get better than this. Looking back on my dieting habits now, I realize that I was not listening to my body’s needs. I weighed myself every morning, and I shamed myself for even a one pound fluctuation. I would tell myself to “eat less” that day because I was “getting fat again.” I treated myself with criticism and judgment. 

Going to college was a huge adjustment for me. All-you-can-eat dining halls, Insomnia Cookies, and ‘late night drunk eats’ got the best of me. I thought just because I ate whatever I wanted during senior year and stayed skinny, the same would apply for college. Boy was I wrong! 

I gained 20 pounds during just the first semester of college. In retrospect, I really had 15 pounds to gain, from the 45 I previously lost. But this wasn’t the good kind of gain though- it was pure fat. I started intermittent fasting during my second semester, which definitely helped me maintain my weight. For the most part, I mostly ate what I wanted, but I had a cautious mindset about portion control. 

When I returned home at the end of my freshman year, I did not feel good in my own skin. I was determined to lose the college weight and be a size 0 again, so I joined Orangetheory Fitness, and began exercising regularly. I also reevaluated my diet by adding more protein, and established accountability for myself by becoming an ambassador for F* The Freshman 15. By eating right and exercising, I felt my body transforming – but the number on the scale was not going down. This confused me because it was so “easy” to lose weight the first time. 

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Credit: Madison Ernst

After a summer of fitness, I realized how important exercise and a balanced diet are for a healthy lifestyle. While I didn’t lose any weight, I gained muscle and lost inches on my body. I ate the foods I wanted to, like pizza – in moderation. Even though I was still 20 pounds heavier than my lowest weight, I realized this is the healthiest I have ever been. 

Listen to your body. If you are full, the extra food is not worth it in the long run. If you are hungry, do not deprive yourself. What I have come to realize is the number on the scale is not what really matters. What matters is how you feel looking at yourself in the mirror and in your own skin. 

*Written by Madison Ernst*

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