When I was 19, going to Jack in the Box to get a snack at midnight with my friends wasn’t a bad idea. And 10 times out of 10, it was because we were really high and full of energy and probably did not eat 3 square meals that day and had burnt a lot of calories from laughing and talking, so Jack in the Box was a regular stop on nights like those, thanks to being open 24 hours a day. Being on my own for the first time, living in the college dorm and with the generosity of youth on my side, I never considered how my lifestyle choices were affecting my health.
What I wasn’t conscious about at the time was how little I cared for my body, which was a reflection of how little self-respect I had. It just had never crossed my mind that eating junk food at 2am after inhaling copious amounts of smoke was actually bad for me because I was having so much fun. The question is, why was doing those activities so much fun for me?
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realized that I was looking and feeling less than optimal. My face and stomach were always bloated, I constantly had heavy under-eye bags and dark circles, my energy levels were low and I generally did not feel very positive. I had a lot of anxiety and dealt with stress by drinking. All of these factors pointed to one thing: I had to change some things in order to improve myself, because I was not happy with where I was at. The knowing that there was more to life than feeling stressed, tired and anxious was what caused me to come face to face with where I was.
Sure, I had to grapple with the fact that I was less than perfect at that time. And having been raised to be responsible and mature, it was difficult to confront my flaws. At around the same time, my mother was diagnosed with melanoma, and I took on the responsibility of being her primary caretaker. Together, we focused on being the healthiest that we can be which turned my life around in more ways than one. Together we adapted a whole food, plant-based diet, which means that everything we ate was made from whole foods. We ate a lot of brown rice, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices and everything was organic. I started running a couple miles a couple times a week and doing yoga at home. I meditated and/or journaled almost every night and homed my focus on positive thoughts. And did I mention that I did not drink alcohol for a whole month?
I started liking what I saw in the mirror for the first time in years. The inflammation in my face and stomach toned down. Even my hair and nails looked lustrous. I saw the old me, but also simultaneously a new me.
Having had low self-esteem without being very conscious about it for so many years, this increased level of self-esteem felt like a cloud being lifted. Always having been a perfectionist, I was the kind of person who could list more things that I did not like about myself than the things that I did like about myself. In addition to this increased level of confidence from accomplishing my goals of healing my bloated body, my energy levels increased and therefore I felt a lot happier than before. Happy for no reason. But there was a reason – and that was the knowing that I had done something really good for myself. Treating myself well by eating healthy foods, exercising and thinking positive thoughts was both a result of self-love and the practice of self-love. I ate, exercised and treated myself well because it’s how you love yourself, but it’s also because you love yourself. Being so proactive at self-love was a first for me, and the benefit I gained from it was increased self-confidence.