You stare at the photograph from ten years ago and realize with frustration you don't look the same.
Your skin is looser, your stomach is bigger, your legs are chunkier. Your arms are thicker now, and you wouldn't dare squeeze into an outfit like that. Maybe the scale says you're heavier. Maybe you can't fit in those jeans anymore. You are not the same, and it irks you to the core.
So you do what the media has taught us to do. You say no to the birthday cake when you want to say yes. You cut calories so you go to bed hungry. You make yourself dizzy, all in the sake of calorie deficit. You deny yourself any joy when it comes to food. Maybe you try a diet where you cut out a certain group of foods altogether. Starvation is your new mantra, even though life feels joyless. You are not the same.
Maybe you start counting your steps obsessively, and even when your body screams for rest, you push it anyway. You lift weights until your shoulders ache. You skip fun dates or time with your dog or dinner with friends because you can't miss the gym. You take up running even though you dread that alarm clock every single morning because of it. If you didn't sweat enough, you're not worthy. You have to earn rest. You are not the same.
You cover your body everywhere you go. You change your outfit twenty times because of the way your shirt clings to your stomach pooch or your leg cellulite shows in those shorts. You are not the same--and that is your deepest, darkest secret you hide at all costs.
You worry about what others think as they peruse your social media. You're terrified of being "that girl" who let herself go, who looks bloated and chunky compared to who she was.
You are not the same.
But you know what? You're damned right you're not the same. Because after all these years, you really shouldn't be. You've lived life. You've had successes and failures. You've fallen in love, dealt with heartbreak, lost, loved, lost again. Maybe you've had babies. Maybe you traveled the world. Maybe you learned new skills or took up new hobbies. You've made new friends and taken new jobs. You've survived. You've failed. You've conquered. You've learned.
You've done that thing you never thought you could do. You showed up when you didn't want to. You made life better for others. You saw that sunset that you can't forget about. You got on the stage, you stood up for what was right. You had surprise after surprise, some good and some bad. You lived through countless days of wonder.
You've grown in so many ways in the past ten years that no, you're not the same. You've outgrown that girl you used to be in all the best ways. You are wiser now, smarter, more mature in some ways. You are more open-minded yet also more grounded in who you are and who you want to be. So of course, you are not the same. Isn't it crazy we would expect you to be?
You are not the same--celebrate that, not just emotionally, but physically, too. Stop seeing the changes in your body as something to hide. Celebrate who you are, right now, today. Celebrate every beautiful inch of yourself. Stop hiding. Stop trying to "get back" to the size or shape you used to be. Stop looking back.
I think the sooner you learn to love yourself, to love the skin you're in right now without comparing yourself to yesterday--that's when life opens up. That's when true joy settles into your bones. That's when you can exhale, live your best life, and be truly, 100% healthy.
Stay Safe and Be True,
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USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books