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.
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.
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.
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.
♥ 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.