How Physical Fitness & Self-Worth Affected My Relationships

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part V Relationships/ROTC

This piece is Part 5 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face". 

Recently, I decided to take the 5 Love Languages quiz to figure out my love language. The quiz determined my love language is “Words of Affirmation," meaning for me, actions do not speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments, kind/encouraging words are genuinely life-giving, and the opposite can be earth-shattering.

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Understanding this love language brought a lot of things into perspective.

From growing up obsessed with physical appearance, to listening to immature boys call me fat, I started to believe the lies that I am what I weigh. Strangers repeated these words often enough, it consumed me and crushed my spirit.   All throughout college, I unknowingly battled these misperceptions, trying to discover who I was and what my purpose was in life. When I joined ROTC, it exacerbated the belief that I wasn't enough.

Firstly, please realize I am not faulting the Air Force, Ohio State or ROTC for any of my self-esteem problems.  I had fantastic cadre members (the officers/enlisted members in charge) and peers that encouraged and motivated me. My story is more than the four years in ROTC.My struggle is a culmination of my culture, my perceptions, and my individual experiences.

ROTC Experience

From day one in ROTC, I was aware I did not meet standards and would have to lose weight to wear the uniform. I also could not pass a PT test (physical training test) to save my life—another requirement to serve in the Air Force.

Knowing this, I continued on.

I went to mandatory PT twice a week, and watched, as every single person was faster, skinnier, and stronger than me. I was also one of a few cadets who did not meet standards, thus was required to march around campus in civilian clothes.

You can say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Because of this, I regularly had people asking me why I wasn't in uniform and what did I mean by "not meeting standards."

Talk about awkward.

I had to explain to people I was too fat to wear the uniform. I would feel sick to my stomach.

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To make matters worse, we would have PT tests once a quarter where we would get weighed in, tape measured, and then tested on pushups, sit-ups and a mile and a half run.

If I didn't make weight, it was an automatic failure and no more uniform for me.  So instead of fueling my body appropriately to do well on those PT tests, I would starve myself the weak prior and spend hours in the sauna wearing a sweat suit to make sure I could make weight.

You can probably guess my performance during those tests were subpar.

It was a lose-lose situation.

In hindsight, I wish I had reached out for help on how to lose weight the right way. I knew there were standards I needed to uphold, yet every Friday after weigh-ins I would binge on Taco Bell as a reward for surviving another week. When I would go out with friends, I would enjoy massive amounts of food and then force myself to puke it up. Not only would the calories not count, but it also prevented hangovers. Pretty distorted, am I right?

Thankfully, that season is behind me, but there is still more to the story.

Self-worth and Relationships

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” – Robert Holden

Even after I had finally achieved the Air Force's goal weight, I still struggled with self-worth. I was finally wearing the uniform, but I was the slowest person on the track. It wasn't enough to make weight, nor pass the PT test. The next expectation was to get 100 points on the PT test, and I was rarely hitting 90.

I felt like a failure, a big fat failure.

It was during this time I started developing feelings for one of the guys in ROTC, except I tried my hardest to fight those feelings.

See, this guy was white, skinny, and came from the suburbs of Ohio.

I, on the other hand, was Puerto Rican, chubby, and from inner-city Cleveland.

What the heck would people think if they saw a big Hispanic girl with a skinny white boy? 

What would my family say? 

I was not going to allow myself to be embarrassed like that. Plus, why would a thin person want to be with a fat person? I genuinely believed I was too big to be loved. That I needed to find someone bigger than me or else it would never work.

I fixated on these beliefs so much, I pushed this guy away from me, into the arms of another girl.

It wasn’t until I realized the other girl was not interested in him that I decided I could not suppress my feelings any longer.

I had to tell him how I felt, despite feeling unworthy of him or his love.

Lessons Learned

♥ Determine your long-term goals and ensure your short-term goals help you achieve your objective. I  solely focused on making sure the scale moved down, I practiced unhealthy habits that hindered long-term weight loss.

♥ Progress is progress. Celebrate all of your small achievements. Every little achievement adds up to big success.

♥ Ask for help. Don’t allow your pride to get in the way of achieving your goal. I relied heavily on my own strength that it took me longer than it should have to reach my target.

♥ Don’t compare yourself to other people. No one has walked in your shoes. You were uniquely created, and no one in the world matches you. Comparing yourself to other people steals your joy.

♥ Love is not dependent on weight. I was so afraid to date someone because I thought I weighed too much, I almost missed out on the best relationship of my life.

Happily Ever After . . . 

Thankfully, I learned how to stifle the negative opinions I had for myself long enough to enter into the best relationship of my life—my marriage. I wish I could tell you that I learned how to love myself before we said our vows, but that would not be true.

I entered my marriage thinking; finally, I would be happy since I had someone who loved me for me.

But that was just not the case.

Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, and my relationship with myself was not the best.

It was in marriage and motherhood where I learned how to “love” myself.

If you would like to read more, feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or email. Next week I will explore the beginning of my relationship and marriage, and how I learned that I needed to love myself before I could truly accept my husbands love.

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Not Good Enough - Self-Worth in College

This is Part 4 of a 9 Part Series "I Am Not Defined By My Weight" inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT – Part IV College

If you have kept up the series, you are amazing! If you haven’t, but would like to start at the beginning, feel free to check it out here.

Recap

What inspired the series “I Am Not Defined By My Weight” was Rachel Hollis’ book “Girl, wash your face”. The premise of the book was to uncover a bunch of hurtful lies Rachel believed and one truth that set her free. The part that inspired me was not about fad diets or loving every single flaw, but instead, about putting work into finding out why self-love was an issue in the first place (p. 183).  

This meant I had to go way back, 20-something years, to hopefully find out the truth behind the struggle. In the first post, I discussed the Puerto Rican culture I grew up in and how that created an obsession with physical weight and appearance. Then, I covered those dreaded high school years and highlighted 6 things I wish I would have known. I had such little respect for myself that I was willing to be the other woman in a relationship. This lasted through my senior year of high school and well into my sophomore year in college.

The College Years

“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.”
― Roy T. Bennett

College is when things really got interesting.  Remember, Paul was the guy who had another girlfriend and initially lied about it. When I finally knew the truth, I continued the relationship because I figured it was better to be the girl he cheated with than the girl he cheated on.  At the time, I saw nothing wrong with our actions.  My immature brain and heart believed that he really wanted to be with me but didn’t want to hurt the other girl. I thought that if I waited long enough, he would realize I was the better choice.

I needed to win.

I needed to be the girl he chose, especially since I had compromised who I was, to be who he wanted.

Hindsight is 20:20

In hindsight, I regret being that girl. I can't imagine the pain I helped create. I was so naïve and lost, nothing could help me see the truth. I had some friends who would try to talk to me, but it was always in a judging manner. It felt as if they stood on the moral high ground judging my actions and thinking I was stupid for believing Paul could be a good person. 

It took way too long for me to realize I was worth more than being the "side piece". The straw that broke the camels back was when Paul broke up with his high-school sweetheart and started dating someone else. His excuse – long distance wouldn't work and my favorite—he didn't want to follow me in the military.

The light bulb finally clicked and I was over it. Done. Finito.

After Paul, I really started to define my self-worth by how many guys were interested in me.  If someone hit on me, my self-esteem skyrocketed.

If a guy bought me a drink or took me out on a date, I felt like hot sh*t. 

I "talked" to a couple of different guys throughout my college years. All very different yet always the same outcome. These guys did not want commitment. They wanted to reap all of the benefits of a relationship without any of the work and commitment.

I tried to trick myself into believing that I didn't want a commitment either. I didn't want to be tied down. I wanted to enjoy college. These were the mantras I held on to in order to keep myself together. I struggled with my identity so much, that it ruined friendships and left lasting scars that I am still dealing with to this day.

Encouragement

  • Do not tie your self-worth to things of this world - When your worth is tied to the things of this world, then it is easily defeated. That leaves you unstable and dependent on things outside of your control. You cannot control how others see or feel for you but you can control how you see yourself and feel about yourself. When your worth is tied to your good morals and beliefs, you will be resilient despite the trials you will experience.
  • Do not settle - Do not compromise your beliefs for the sake of a relationship. I was so hungry for a relationship, I settled for “talking” to guys even though my heart yearned for traditional boyfriend/girlfriend dating. There is nothing wrong with getting to know someone before committing to them, but there is a fine line between getting to know someone and getting all the benefits without any of the commitment. You are worth the commitment.
  • Be a good friend- If you have a friend who has fallen into the same trap I described above, love on her. You might not be able to talk her into seeing her true value, but you can be the example she needs. Sometimes, a girl just needs a friend who is honest, loving, but turns her in the right direction.
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Believer Not A Follower

Eventually, I decided to swear off all guys. College was just a hot mess of trying to figure out who would become my husband.  It took multiple heartbreaks and hitting rock bottom for me to realize that maybe God just wanted me to be alone and figure out how to love myself first. 

During this time, I believed that if my heart was in the right place and if I was a good person, then I was a good Christian as well. I believed in God but was not a follower. I didn’t even know there was a difference!* 

I remember thinking that the next person I would date would be my husband. I also decided that I would start being honest with myself. I wanted a real relationship. I wanted the official title of “girlfriend” and the next guy would have to be okay with that.

What I didn’t realize was that I still struggled with how to love myself. I thought that making this commitment of honesty was enough, but it wasn’t. In order to have a healthy relationship, I would have to learn how to love myself. During these years, I did not love myself. I grew up learning I was chubby and that idea was reinforced throughout middle school and highschool. Then, when I started dating, guys also reinforced the notion that I was not enough. I attributed the lack of commitment and insensitive comments to my weight. I was too big to deserve better.

In some ways, ROTC also exacerbated the self-loath and made it really difficult to understand what a healthy relationship looked like.  Not only did I believe I was unattractive and fat, I was reminded of it day in and day out for ROTC.

In the next post, I focus on my time in ROTC and how physical fitness/weight-loss affected my relationships and self-worth. It was during my senior year of college when I realized that I had tied my worth to my weight and it almost cost me my marriage.

* If you don’t know there is a difference between being a believer and a follower of Christ, don’t feel bad. I promise that I will dive more into that topic in the near future.*

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Why I Serve

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Back in 2008, I sat in a large auditorium on Ohio State campus scheduling my first set of university classes. I knew I was going to be a Psychology major and pursue Pre-Med but what I didn’t know was that a desire to learn more about my father would eventually lead me to Active Duty.

In the course catalog, I saw the university had an “Intro To Air Science” class, which taught you about the history of the Air Force.

Introduces the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Topics include mission and organization of the Air Force, officership and professionalism, military customs and courtesies, Air Force officer opportunities and benefits, and communication skills.

I remember the guidance counselor signed me up for this Intro To Air Science (AS 100) class and didn’t mention anything else since she had no idea what the class was actually about.

This was the perfect class for me to learn more about my father’s journey in the Air Force. My father had enlisted in the Air Force years before I was born. He served our country for a few years and got to travel the world. He eventually left active duty and settled in Cleveland where he met my mother. They married and then had three kids. I was the eldest and only girl, so like any daddy’s girl, my dad was my hero.  Growing up I would hear some stories, or see some pictures or currency from the places he had traveled too. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. Besides my father, no one in my family had served our country.

A few days before classes started, I received an email about New Cadet Orientation for my AS 100 class. I was to report the day before classes began for some sort of orientation.

Scared out of my mind and not knowing what to expect I showed up and was shocked to find out what I had signed up for.  They gave us a brief introduction to the program. PT (Physical Training was 0500) Tuesdays and Thursdays, Leadership Lab (LLAB) was every Thursday for approximately 2 hours, Air Science class, uniforms, marching….

Did I just enlist in the Air Force? What the heck did I get myself into?!

They marshaled us through a couple of rooms where I had to get undressed in front of other women to try on uniforms. This felt like the real deal. By this point it was too late to turn back. I had already signed up, so I would try it out for the next 10 weeks. I could have dis-enrolled if I wanted to, but I was not a quitter. I would finish the quarter.

One quarter turned into two, which turned into a year and then four years. Before I knew it, I was taking the oath and commissioning into the United States Air Force. What started off as a journey to get to know more about my father turned into something more. It turned into a desire to finish what I started. A desire to lead the best and brightest in whatever capacity the Air Force needed.But it wasn’t always hearts and rainbows.

To be honest, I absolutely hated my first year. I struggled to lose weight. I struggled to pass my PT test. I struggled every single day and would cry myself to sleep most nights. I really don’t know why I didn’t quit.

Maybe I was afraid to disappoint my dad? Or maybe I was afraid to lose all of my friends? ROTC was my life and without it I was afraid I was nothing. The camaraderie was what kept me going. Some people thought I would quit, but that fueled my passion to show the world I was capable of finishing.

June 10th 2012 I graduated from The Ohio State University and commissioned into the best Air Force in the world.