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Jeans and Genes – On How I Learned To Love My Body

February 12, 2015

It’s been a while since I got heavy around here and opened up about my body image struggles. If I’m being completely honest, it’s probably because they aren’t struggles I think about or face that much anymore. For the first time in my 25 years, I’m finally in a place where I can say I feel 100% comfortable with myself and with my body. I cannot even begin to explain what a relief this is.

Jeans and Genes - my story on how I learned to love my body.My hope with sharing this post is that I might pass on some wisdom or advice to help you get to a better place with your body. It has been one seriously long road for me to get to this here and this journey has been mine and mine alone, but perhaps my story might inspire you to have a healthier relationship with your body and love yourself exactly as you are.

For many, many years I struggled with loving and accepting myself. I wish I could tell you why or that there was some event that instigated it all, but I can’t. It stemmed from a deeper place of self-judgment and doubt. While, my issues were clearly internal it was easier to focus my energies on the external.

Despite always being a healthy weight, an active person and following a relatively healthy diet (minus that one summer I took the McDs tour across Europe…), I spent a lot of time nit-picking the way I looked. I wished for a smaller butt, straight hair, bigger boobs, clearer skin etc…I couldn’t for the life of me see any positives in what was staring back at me in the mirror. And I spent a lot of time staring at that mirror.

Mass media, friend-groups, and a lack of information eventually took its toll and I found myself being completely and utterly obsessed with perfecting the way I looked. It consumed my life and I saw results. But I soon discovered that my quest for the perfect body didn’t bring with it the happiness that I thought it would. It wasn’t until I realized that the problem wasn’t my body at all that I learned how to love myself inside and out.

It was one hell of a ride to arrive at this destination, and I would walk it a million times over to be where I am at today. Not for a second do I wish for a smaller butt, straighter hair, bigger boobs or clearer skin. This is me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

With that, here’s a window into how I learned to love my body.

I accepted my reality. 

I am NOT and will never be a Victoria Secret Model. These are the genes I was born with. I’ve got my father’s afro and my grandfather’s ears. They won’t be walking down a runway any day soon, and I’m okay with that. I don’t intend to spend my life trying to live up to society’s definition of beauty. A) I only have one set of genes that aren’t changing and b) because I know the work that goes into fitting a size 0 jeans and I am SO not interested in going down that road again.

I got injured.

While I would never ever wish injury upon anyone, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I chose not to talk too much about it here, but for over 2 years now I have been dealing with chronic leg and back pain. It started with a run that botched my knee and with a lack of rest and check-outs from a doctor, it got so much worse. Reading back on this post is absolutely terrifying. It was so clear my body needed a break but it took 2 ER visits for me to come to that conclusion. I learned what it was like living with pain and it gave me a whole new appreciation for my body.

Jeans and Genes - my story on how I learned to love my body.I shifted my perspective.

For about 6 months I lived with zero limitations or expectations on my body. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted it and exercised only when I felt like it. From this I learned that just because I can eat ALL THE COOKIES, doesn’t mean I will and that life that doesn’t revolve around food and exercise is kind of awesome. I also didn’t blow up like the oompa loompa I had envisioned in my head.

My passion for health was reinvigorated because I was reminded why I choose to eat healthy and move my body. I feel more energized and present when I do. This shift in perspective is subconscious now. I don’t crave cupcakes because my body just knows I’ll feel better without them but it also knows that they aren’t off limits and without this pressure of scarcity, I am far less inclined to reach for one. I eat healthy and exercise because I love my body, not because I hate it.

I stopped looking in the mirror.

I broke up with my mirror. Cold turkey. Sayonara. I didn’t want to stare at my mirror and tell myself how awesomely perfect I am either. I just wanted the way that I looked to not matter at all. So I minimized the number of mirrors in my home and spent as little time as possible looking into them. Yes, this was a conscious effort and it was very difficult but I now almost never do except on the rare occasion I’m putting makeup on, or while brushing my teeth!

I found my passions.

I finally took the time to deal with the root of the issue, my lack of self-confidence. Much of this stemmed from feeling like I wasn’t good at anything and had no purpose in life. Instead of focusing on how to perfect my body, I took some time to figure out what drove me to be my best self and what made me wake up everyday and kept me motivated until bedtime. I focused on how to turn this blog that I love so much into something I could do every single day. I fell in love with photography and writing and mentoring other bloggers to go after their passions as well. I am so proud of how far I’ve come and my days are filled with so many activities that I love that I honestly don’t have the time or energy to care how my body looks. As corny as it is, once I came to love who I am inside, I actually learned to love myself a whole lot more on the outside.

I stopped with negative self-talk.

You will never find me saying things like “I feel so fat” or “I wish my ________ was smaller/bigger.” I just full-out stopped saying it. At first it was hard because the thoughts were there and I couldn’t vocalize them. But eventually once I stopped making my thoughts a reality, they went away. Now when I hear people bashing themselves, I get totally irked. Girls, STOP being so damn hard on yourself.

I grew up.

The person who I wish would read this post and take something away from it is me 5 years ago. It’s the young girls (and boys!) in high school and college who get way too wrapped up in the idea that the way you look is the be-all and end-all. Ironically, if you would have sent me this post 5 years ago I probably would not have cared. It seems silly to me now that I spent so much of my time preoccupied with achieving the perfect body, or that I thought other people actually cared about the way I looked (for the record, they don’t.) but it felt very real then. A part of the reason why I came to love my body is because I’ve learned so much about the world that only comes with age and experience. While I have a long way to go, as I navigate my way through the world I am learning what’s truly important and not surprisingly, having flat abs is not on that list. BTW, neither are crop tops…thank god.

All of these things combined are what brought me here today. I’m learning to embrace my genes and rock my jeans, no matter what size they are.

I am proud of who I am, inside and out.

No questions, just your thoughts…

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  • Reply
    Lauren
    February 12, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Davida, this was a beautiful read and it really moved me. We need to get this viral so young girls (and boys) can read this brilliant wisdom and inspiring words. It is amazing how much we grow. I am so happy you have reached this point – amazing stuff 🙂
    Lauren recently posted…6 Ways I Have Found Help Me Reduce Stress Levels

  • Reply
    Jayme
    February 12, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Whooaaa girl. I’ve been there and am still trying to get through it. I’m a perfectionist by nature and as I get older I”m starting to get better at just calming down about trying to be perfect because I was making myself crazy! It’s much more fun that way. Great post!
    Jayme recently posted…Valentine’s Day – To You, From You

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Kelly Runs for Food
    February 12, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Ahhh I loved this! I definitely went through a period of worrying too much about my size. Growing up in a dance studio it was really really hard to not compare my stomach to other girls. Where my arms skinny enough to be a ballerina? Were my legs long enough? Now, there are definitely times when I see another woman’s flat abs or long legs and think how awesome it would be to have that. The difference is I don’t actually feel bad about myself for NOT having that anymore.
    Kelly @ Kelly Runs for Food recently posted…Quickie workout videos

  • Reply
    alex
    February 12, 2015 at 7:51 am

    rarely if ever comment here but i had to just say a major kudos to you. this was so refreshing to read because none of this involved what you typically see in this world… i love my body because i ate this, started exercising like that. loving yourself comes down to acceptance which you have so found and it is seriously beautiful to read.

  • Reply
    Liz @ I Heart Vegetables
    February 12, 2015 at 7:51 am

    I love this!!! I’ve been through a similar journey and I do think part of it has to do with growing up and just realizing that the size of your butt isn’t all that important, haha. For me, it also had to do with marrying this guy who is just so supportive and loving and makes me realize that I’m worthy of love. Such a crazy thing, right?

    Thanks for sharing your story, Davida!
    Liz @ I Heart Vegetables recently posted…[Sun]day in the Life

  • Reply
    Erin @ The Almond Eater
    February 12, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Ahhh yes yes yes–this is a great read and I hope others can learn from it. It’s also made me want to write another post about how you can’t completely change your genes. Awesome post Davs and I’m so happy that you’re so much happier now 🙂
    Erin @ The Almond Eater recently posted…eShakti’s Customizable Clothing

  • Reply
    Emily @ My Healthyish Life
    February 12, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I really enjoyed reading this, Davida! I wish all girls could read this because it’s a really important message. Getting injured a few years ago put things into perspective for me. I learned that life goes on without exercise and there are truly more important things to me.
    Emily @ My Healthyish Life recently posted…Treat Yourself Like Your Valentine

  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment
    February 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Such a beautiful post! I think we all struggle with accepting our body at one point or another. As women, we nitpick some much too. Sometimes I feel like I am my own harshest critic! I totally agree about enjoying fitness because you love your body, not hate it.
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment recently posted…Love Yourself First

  • Reply
    Georgie
    February 12, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Loved all of this. Thank you for being so open and honest about your journey. Clearly you’re not alone in what you went through. It might be growing up, but I find that focusing on what makes me me outside of how I look doing it provides me with so much more joy and names me a better friend, sister, employee, and human. Self love for the win xo

  • Reply
    GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth
    February 12, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Beautiful, inspirational and very true for so many people. I used to go through cycles of working out way too much and eating way too little and doing all sorts of unhealthy things in the name of ‘health’ when I was really just searching for self-acceptance. It’s so HARD to be a young female trying to navigate this whole self-confidence thing and we invariably geo wrong somewhere along the way because we’re taught to value the completely wrong things. So glad you managed to break your cycle 😀 <3
    GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth recently posted…18 Partner Workouts for you and your Valentine

  • Reply
    Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves
    February 12, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Slow clap…faster clap…standing freaking ovation for YOU. Although I obviously cannot say I’ve experienced the same things as you, I can say that college has opened me up to a vast and beautiful world so far outside of myself that “the perfect body” seems so petty and unfulfilling. There is indeed more to life than small jeans and abs. There’s joy in friendship, aspirations, charity, knowledge, conversation, and passion. One I got out of my own head and realized how wonderful these things are, I’ve decided to chase those things rather than what I believed to be an “ideal” body. We have spirits and minds, and our bodies are there to cooperate with them.
    Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves recently posted…Virtual Breakfast Date

  • Reply
    She Rocks Fitness
    February 12, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Oh I LOVE this and I can honestly say that this is something I REALLY need to work on STILL…I want to do all of this…The fitness industry is exhausting and it takes a toll on us in so many ways. I wish I could take a 6 month hiatus and just BE…now when can I do that? And can it be someplace where the ocean is right outside my door? Again, thank you for being real and sharing this…LOVE IT! XOXO
    She Rocks Fitness recently posted…Statements GIVEAWAY + Another WIAW

  • Reply
    Ang @ Nutty for Life
    February 12, 2015 at 11:49 am

    This post is so. good. I’m not in a place that I can say I 100% love my body, but I’ve made a lot of progress over the last year. I’m so happy that you finally have some body peace and are using that to inspire others. I know you inspire me in everything that you do. xo
    Ang @ Nutty for Life recently posted…Natural Chocolate Caramel Candies & Caramel Soft Rounds

  • Reply
    Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run
    February 12, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    needed this today after having an “episode” with the scale last night. amen, sista.

  • Reply
    hayley @healthyregards
    February 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I love your recipes, but these posts….. I really really love.
    hayley @healthyregards recently posted…Fried Rice Recipe AND Triathlete –> Cyclist?

  • Reply
    Em @ Love A Latte
    February 12, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Beautiful post. It’s amazing the space I have free in my mind now opposed to when all I thought about was calories/being skinny/etc. I look back on that time and I’m grateful to have struggled through and come out finding (and appreciating) me!
    Em @ Love A Latte recently posted…Sage: Month Six Baby Update

  • Reply
    Pip {Cherries & Chisme}
    February 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    This is beautiful, and so amazing to see how far you have come. The sentence about having flat abs not being one of life’s important things in life really hit home to me. It’s 100% true, even if hard to believe at moments.
    Whilst I don’t feel I am where you are yet I’m definitely wayyyy better than I used to be (and bigger too, but I can lift heavier weights now 😉 ). Today I bought my first proper pair of jeans in years AND smiled in the changing room be chase for once I didn’t hate my body, progress! (Although if someone could please make changing rooms lights a little more flattering that’d be lovely thanks)
    My mum has MS and so is in a wheelchair, to me that’s a constant reminded to appreciate my body for all the things it CAN do 🙂

  • Reply
    Kim
    February 12, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    So awesome to read this and know that you are happy with your body now!! It is hard to get to that point because of all the images we see everyday!!
    I knew years ago that I would never be a skinny person and I’m perfectly happy with that. Most days I’m 100% happy with my body. (I have some days that it is more like 70% but thankfully those aren’t the norm!!)
    Kim recently posted…Taking Action

  • Reply
    Alysia @ Slim Sanity
    February 12, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Oi. So much of this rings true loud and clear for me. Building up my own confidence has been key to helping me get through it. I still relapse into my ‘food binging’ some days…and it’s hard not to fall back in the same patterns of self loathing. But those days come around less and less, so I know that I am going in the right direction!
    Alysia @ Slim Sanity recently posted…Rosemary Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Pine Nuts

  • Reply
    Hayley
    February 12, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Wow this was an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I congratulate you on finding this out and becoming who you are today. I can relate to all of this. One thing that I really can relate to is your injury. I have been dealing with hamstring issues for about a year now and I have not been able to run. I was college runner so my life has change dramatically. I do agree with you that this injury is a blessing in disguise…It is helped me so much with recovery. I would love to be able to talk to you more about the injury and how you have come to deal with it. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Kaitlin
    February 12, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    This is absolutely amazing. I think it hits home when you say you didn’t think that you had a purpose. We strive to be perfect at something and control something. Realizing that each person is unique and that’s what is amazing about life – along with the potential of every day, the world really is our oyster 🙂 definitely plan to share this post!

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
    February 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing this girl! You’re amazing. 🙂 I’m happy for you that you’ve found peace with your body – it’s something I wish all women will achieve!
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted…Vegan Jamoca Almond Fudge Cookies

  • Reply
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles
    February 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    Beautiful post, my friend! I definitely agree with all your points here. I love how you talk about finding your passion, too. I found the same thing – once I knew what I really, really liked to do and was passionate about, I found that the time and energy I used to spend thinking about my body was spent on that instead – non-profit work and helping people become their best selves, whether that’s through developing a better body image or battling drug/alcohol addictions. It’s nice to have something waaay more important to focus on rather than my looks!
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted…Becoming Lost (And Found).

  • Reply
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious
    February 12, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Such a wonderful post lady. I was injured badly last year and really gave me a new perspective on things. I’m still trying to find my way. This gives me personally a ton of inspiration. Everyday I’m beating myself up for not being as fit as I was before my injury. This was a much needed reminder for me.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Why Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Is A Healthy Habit

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    Nikki @ Quest for Balance
    February 13, 2015 at 11:41 am

    i LOVE this post so much! Thanks for having the courage to be open, honest and share your story. It’s post like these that have a profound impact on the people who need to read them most. You are a talented lady Davida! Learning to fully love my body is something I work on all the time. It’s definitely a long road but I am way further down the right path now than I have ever been. Your wisdom completely inspired me.
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    Whitney
    February 13, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Love this! You must first like yourself on the inside before you can ever like yourself on the outside. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Whitney recently posted…What’s on my heart + truffle recipe

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    Lindsay
    February 16, 2015 at 7:01 am

    amen sista! I couldn’t not agree more about injury. I think the same about my parasites (s). While it wwas awful, it forced me to appreciate the body and heal. SLOWLY. No exercise could beat it. Or food for that matter.

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    Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli
    February 16, 2015 at 9:02 am

    I’m late to the commenting party, but great post Davida!
    Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli recently posted…BarreAmped Cardio Fat Burn DVD Review

  • Reply
    Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets
    February 16, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    What a lovely post. I always like when you open up and tell a little bit of your story. Don’t get me wrong, I like your Brussels sprouts too.

    If I could make one suggestion, instead of being irked by people who express their body image issues, share yours and tell them why it isn’t important any more. You could be a source of inspiration for them.

    P.S. Also, you should try brushing your hair without a mirror sometime. It could be a wild ride.

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      February 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      that would require me to brush my hair LOL Thanks lover xoxo

  • Reply
    Faith VanderMolen
    February 16, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Loved this post!! Thanks so much for sharing! I so wish all girls (and guys) felt this way. We are so much more than our outer appearance.
    Faith VanderMolen recently posted…Vegan Corn Chowder

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    Brittany @ Barr & Table
    February 17, 2015 at 1:02 am

    First things first, hot damn those jeans are amazing on you! And thank you so, so much for sharing this. I’m so happy for you that you’ve reached this point in your life. I think you’re an amazing and talented lady. xoxo
    Brittany @ Barr & Table recently posted…A Love-ly Weekend

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    Shira
    February 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Beautiful post and the way I try to live! It is absolutely a struggle to stop the negative thoughts and embrace my body the way it was made but as long as I feel healthy, happy, and strong enough to engage in the activities I enjoy than I feel like I am doing a good job. Thanks so much for sharing your journey!

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    Nora (A Clean Bake)
    February 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I love this post more than I can even tell you. And I totally sympathize! I look back at the way I used to work out like a crazy person and feel guilty when I ate too many cookies and I cringe hard. Health issues over the last few years have forced (and I mean forced) me to slow down, quit working out as much or as intensely, and appreciate my body for what it is. I don’t need to look like a model, I just want to be happy and healthy!
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    EnglishGirl
    March 1, 2015 at 8:40 am

    You are awesome and so inspirational. Words to live by. Thank you.

    EnglishGirl

    http://www.englishgirlturningparisian.com

  • Reply
    Erin
    January 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I loved this entire post but the part where you talked about finding your passion…THAT…THAT right there is where I am in my life…Confused and just trying to refocus and find my passion…I love soooo many different things and have tons of interests but I want to start really focusing on a few…This was a wonderful read and I think you are right that when your young you don’t really stop to look at things this way until one day…Things just start changing in your mind and you start to look at yourself and everything differently…
    Thank you again for this post, it was such a relief to know I am not alone! 🙂

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