Closeup on two forearm tattoos. The first one is black cursive text read quote ; allons-y unquote. The second is image of an evil eye with a red ribbon tied at the top and an open safety pin going through, as if to be used to attach the charm to a pillow.
Being Berrak,  Body Image,  Featured,  Health

The Body Image Epiphany, Part 2

My body is a canvas, and all the scars, imperfections, and wrinkles are just brushstrokes of a life full of beauty, laughter, struggles, pain, and survival.

I wrote these words nearly a decade ago, a year away from turning 30-years-old, was battling lots of demons and focusing on my relationship with my body because I felt that would be the easiest one. It was my first published piece and when it appeared on HelloGiggles, it got a couple of thousand shares on social media. I think I can consider it the moment I first went viral. It was one of the first times I fell in love with helping other people feel seen.

But unfortunately, the realization I had in that essay didn’t fully kick in for a few years. I saw my body as a canvas, appreciating the brushstrokes, but I didn’t suddenly have a healthy body image.

Now, 10 years and a pandemic later, my relationship with my body is even more complicated. 

But one thing remains.

I’m a walking canvas, full of brushstrokes called experience, with plenty of white space to fill by living.

When the world entered lockdown in 2020, I was in the best shape of my life. I truly enjoyed going to Orangetheory 4-5X/week, pushing myself, but I never went on a diet. There were definitely Saturday morning classes I walked into hungover, but I still walked in. 

When I was in Paris summer of 2019, I had no problem walking a few miles in the heat. When I was in Istanbul for the first time in a decade that same summer, I handled those hills like a boss, sending a picture to my OTF trainer: “I’m not in the studio but still crushing those inclines.”

I never got on the scale and focused on non-scale victories, like how I felt and how clothes fit me. I didn’t hide in pictures. I showed up, feeling confident. Not because I was skinnier, but because I *felt* healthy.

Then March 2020 happened. 

I’m still processing that trauma and grief, but here are a few factors that led to approximately 30 pounds of weight gain.

  • Being in lockdown and drinking more.
  • Spending money to keep local restaurants in business, so I was constantly eating out, and also not eating properly.
  • Depression, period.
  • Not moving even though I could have done workouts at home.
  • Not sleeping for days at a time (I would later learn that this was because I was having hypomanic episodes)

When I went to Istanbul that November, I could barely walk down the street, let alone up hills.

“It’s the mask. It’s the humidity.” 

But realistically, it was my body crying out. I moved more in the 2.5 months I was there than the first 6 months of the lockdown in Seattle. Vaccines happened. I found my way back to Orangetheory classes, feeling frustrated because I couldn’t even make it halfway through without wanting to quit.

I sprained my ankle. Stopped working out. Attempted diets. Got frustrated.Went back to unhealthy habits. Repeat. Went back to class but only did the weight floor exercises, avoiding the treadmill that would be the key to my return to health.

The extra pounds I carry around with me are the physical representation of the depression I battled. It’s for every time I was bullied or torn apart verbally. They’re evidence of the nights I found myself at the bottom of a bottle, drowning in insecurities and loneliness. Every curve is a battle wound.

It’s now March 2024. It’s been 4 years and I’m currently struggling with my weight but feeling stronger because I’ve been weight training. Yet, still avoiding the treadmill, but we face off once again this week. 

Through all of this, I remind myself of one thing: this body carried me through a pandemic (that is still ongoing). When I got COVID at the end of 2021, it was honestly a scary experience. The immediate side effects terrified me, but I made it through.

10 years since that first essay, with countless moments of pain, joy, and everything in between, I’ve added more than a few brushstrokes to this canvas, including real tattoos. 

This body is persistent. It’s stubborn. It’s the only one I have.

I’m a walking canvas, full of brushstrokes called experience, with plenty of white space to fill by living.

It’s time to stop looking at our imperfections as failures and see them as elements of a masterpiece.

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