The above picture was taken on my wedding day in 2016. It was one of the happiest days in my life. To me, this picture is a great allegory for self-love. This is how it should ideally be: You look into the mirror and your reflection is smiling back at you. But I know it’s not always like this.
„You have beautiful eyes, but the rest of you looks disgusting.“
When I used to look into the mirror a few years back, I would not smile. I would frown and critically scrutinise my face. I would see my right eyebrow, which suddenly turned white at age 20 due to vitiligo, a skin condition where parts of the skin lose their pigments. I am dying it now, but to me, my eyebrows do never look equal and I used to feel very self-conscious about that. I would see that one of my incisors has a crown after a little accident which happened a week before I was supposed to get rid of my braces at age 16. It took me ages to smile freely after that because I thought this blemish was too obvious.
And I would rarely dare to look deeper down to the rest of my body. I was always okay with my shoulders down to the waist area. But I absolutely detested my butt and my upper legs. I thought they were fat and ugly. At age 19, a random guy told me during a train ride: „You have beautiful eyes, but the rest of you looks disgusting.“ I thought he had only vocalised what everyone else was thinking. Also, he confirmed my theory that the only „logical“ explanation for my unsuccessful love life was my appearance. I thought I was physically unappealing to guys.
What that guy couldn’t see was that I was suffering from a stress-related eating disorder at that time. It not only made me worry about my look even more; It also made me afraid of recovery because I had inevitably linked it to weight gain (excuse me for my wording, but what a „bullshit“ if you ask me now…!).
..at some point, we have to think about ourselves and our wellbeing.
Then I got diagnosed with a thyroid disease, which made me gain more than 15 kg of extra weight in only a few months, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. It was one of the biggest challenges I had faced until then. To stop myself from going mad, I decided to shift focus and work on my eating disorder recovery instead of breeding over my weight.
So I did plenty of things that made me happy, moved to a place where I felt home and spent much time with people I loved. A more painful but somewhat necessary part of this was also to separate from people who did make me feel negatively about myself. I am sure most of this was not intended and I don’t blame any of them, but at some point, we have to think about ourselves and our wellbeing. Step by step, I worked toward a more positive relationship to myself and my body.
To my own surprise, men seemed to finally start noticing me at the time when I weighed the most. And slowly I realised that this had absolutely nothing to do with my weight, but with my mindset.
It was around the same time that I met my husband and we fell in love with each other.
Shortly after, my illness turned worse again. This time, I lost all the weight that I had gained. Many people kept on complimenting on my weight loss and I most certainly would have felt absolutely flattered and encouraged to lose even more weight a few years earlier. But at that time, I’d happily accepted all my old weight in exchange for health. My weight suddenly meant so little to me.
I heard countless of stories of people who had engaged into self-loathing and suffered from disordered eating or obsessive exercising behaviour.
Throughout this entire period, I used to talk very openly about my eating disorder, my negative body image, and my attempt to increase self-love and body positivity. What others responded was shocking and encouraging at the same time. I heard countless of stories of people who had engaged into self-loathing and suffered from disordered eating or obsessive exercising behaviour.
One thing became very clear to me: I wanted to help and prevent others from suffering. I wanted to inspire everyone to live a happy life and to stop being at war with their bodies. Life is too precious and too short for that!
When a marketing professor introduced me to body image research in 2012, I knew instantly that I had found my true passion. This was what I wanted to do. And the fire that started burning within me back then is still vividly alive. I cannot possibly imagine any other subject that fills me with more energy, power and passion.
Now us a mother, I am even more determined to contribute to sustainable change. Our kids should not grow up in a culture where body dissatisfaction, dieting, fat-shaming and the obsession to self-optimise seem normal. I am trying to raise awareness through my website, on social media, but also and most importantly, in face-to-face conversations. These ripple effects can be the strongest.
Finally, I am sure we all have our stories. They make us who we are. If you asked me about my turning point from body loather to body lover, I’d say that there have been many. It was not that one day I woke up and loved my body. Rather, it was a process. My body image journey has never been easy or straight. I have gone through many ups and downs, and I certainly do not love every part of my body equally every day. But that doesn’t matter as long as we don’t lose target and learn to forgive ourselves and others who may have hurt us along the way. In fact, I believe that being kind to yourself is one central aspect in making peace with yourself and life.
It might not always been easy. But it is all doable because I know what I am fighting for and feeling at ease with the body you live in is the greatest gift and a crucial step toward a happy, satisfied life.
I am convinced that everybody can love their body (plus we all deserve this!!) and if you would like to exchange, I’ll be more than happy to listen and give advice wherever I can.